In research and preservation settings, diaries provide a wealth of historical, cultural, and sociological information to scholars. Especially in the diaries of book authors, personal writing has the potential to display new insights about the authors’ creative public work. However, a diary differs from other personal writing genres such as essays, memoirs, or commonplace books. In Western culture, diaries are usually associated with female subjects and are defined by their private nature. When a diary is given to an archive, often after the subject’s death, the consequences may range from a distortion of the subject’s public image to a breach of privacy on those still living. As defenders of privacy, preservation, and intellectual freedom, information professionals have a moral responsibility to be invested in this issue.
To fully understand ethical implications of keeping diaries in an archive, we must first be aware of the social and scientific functions of diaries, and how diaries fit into the context of archives. In this study, I investigate the privacy of the diary subjects, the stakes of those potentially affected by the content of the diary, and ethics in the archival profession. By using different philosophical groundings, I apply an ethical framework to examine if radical empathy is the best method for keeping diaries in archives. My findings reveal that, like many relevant moral problems of today, holding diaries in an archival setting requires unambiguous consent.
Alexander, J., M. McAllister, and D. L. Brien. “Exploring the Diary as a Recovery‐oriented Therapeutic Tool.” International Journal of Mental Health Nursing 25.1 (2016): 19-26.
Autrey, K. “Toward a Rhetoric of Journal Writing.” Rhetoric Review 10.1 (1991): 74-90.
Barger, R N. “The Ethical Decision-Making Process.” Computer Ethics: A Case Based Approach. Cambridge University Press, 2008: 70–79.
Beattie, H. “Where narratives meet: Archival description, provenance, and women’s diaries.” Libraries & the Cultural Record 44.1 (2009): 82-100.
Card, C. “Caring and Evil.” Hypatia 5.1 (1990): 101-108.
Caswell, M., and M. Cifor. “From Human Rights to Feminist Ethics: Radical Empathy in Archives.” Archivaria 81 (2016): 23-43.
Chang, J. H., C. L. Huang, and Y. C. Lin. “The Psychological Displacement Paradigm in Diary-Writing (PDPD) and Its Psychological Benefits.” Journal of Happiness Studies 14.1 (2013): 155-167.
Cifor, M., and S. Wood. “Critical Feminism in the Archives.” Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 1.2 (2017): 1-27.
Cooper, J. E. “Shaping Meaning: Women’s Diaries, Journals, and Letters—The Old and the New.” In Women’s Studies International Forum 10.1 (1987): 95-99.
Cox, R. “Lester J. Cappon and the Creation of Records: The Diary and the Diarist.” Archivaria 75 (2013): 115-144.
Douglas, J. “The Archiving “I”: A Closer Look in the Archives of Writers.” Archivaria 79 (2015): 53-89.
Fargher, M. “Journal Writing about Literature: A Journey towards Selfhood.” Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature 50.1 (2012): 62-68.
Flynn, E. A. “Composing as a Woman.” College Composition and Communication 39.4 (1988): 423-435.
Frontain, R. J. “Sexual Privacy and Literary Biography.” The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide 16.3 (2009): 22-24.
Goodman, D. “Letter Writing and the Emergence of Gendered Subjectivity in Eighteenth-Century France.” Journal of Women’s History 17.2 (2005): 9-37.
Hellbeck, J. “Forging the Revolutionary Self.” In Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary Under Stalin. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Hoffman, A “Do Tell: Recovering GLBT History.” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide 20.1 (2013): 22.
Holbrook, T. L. “Document Analysis: The Contrast Between Official Case Records and the Journal of a Woman on Welfare.” Marriage & Family Review 24.1-2 (1997): 41-56.
Kuhn-Osius, K. E. “Making Loose Ends Meet: Private Journals in the Public Realm.” The German Quarterly 54.2 (1981): 166-176.
Lambert-Hurley, S. “Life/History/Archive: Identifying Autobiographical Writing by Muslim Women in South Asia.” Journal of Women’s History 25.2 (2013): 61-84.
Lor, P. J., and J. J. Britz. “An Ethical Perspective on Political‐Economic Issues in the Long‐Term Preservation of Digital Heritage.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 63.11 (2012): 2153-2164.
Milani, F. “Iranian Women’s Life Narratives.” Journal of Women’s History 25.2 (2013): 130-152.
Paperno, I. “What Can Be Done with Diaries?” Russian Review 63.4 (2004): 561-573.
Rose, J. “The Archive.” In The Haunting of Sylvia Plath. London: Virago, 1992.
Ross, E. “The Problem of Anonymity in Archives: A Literature Review.” Information World/Bilgi Dunyasi 14.2 (2013): 240-250.
Sheridan, D. “Writing to the Archive: Mass-Observation as Autobiography.” Sociology 27.1 (1993): 27-40.
Wilson, S. “Turning Train Travel to Account: Locomotion, Femininity, and Diary-Writing in the Journal of Marie Bashkirtseff.” French Studies 71.2 (2017): 179-195.
Yale, E. “The History of Archives: The State of the Discipline.” Book History 18.1 (2015): 332-359.
Yale, E. “With Slips and Scraps: How Early Modern Naturalists Invented the Archive.” Book History 12.1 (2009): 1-36.
Special thanks to: my rockstar advisor Iulian Vamanu; Nikki White and Alyssa Varner at The Studio; the smart and lovely Katie Hassman; Janet Weaver at IWA and David McCartney at Special Collections; media genius Lindsay Mattock; superstar alumnae Bekah Walker and Kery Lawson; and to my favorite editors: Chris Willauer, Jill O’Neill, and Luther Moss. I couldn’t have done it without you.