Archives and Historical Accountability: Toward a Moral Theology of Archives

  • James O'Toole


This essay explores the idea that there is such a thing as "archival theology." After drawing a parallel between the academic discipline of theology on the one hand and archival theory and practice on the other, it focuses special attention on archival moral theology, that branch of the subject which examines moral and ethical behaviour. While professional codes of ethics are useful and necessary, the essay argues that a broader moral vision is necessary. In particular, it adds to familiar discussions of the use of archival records for accountability, a consideration of a long-term, historical accountability for human actions.

Cet article explore l'idée qu'il existerait une "théologie archivistique." Après avoir tracé un parallèle entre la discipline universitaire de la théologie d'un côté et la théorie et la pratique archivistique de l'autre, l'auteur porte une attention particulière à la théologie morale des archives, cette section qui examine le comportement moral et éthique. Bien que les codes d'éthique professionnels soient utiles et nécessaires, cet article allègue qu'une vision morale plus large est nécessaire. Il ajoute notamment aux discussions sur l'utilisation des documents d'archives aux fins d'imputabilité, la question de l'imputabilité historique et à long terme des actions humaines.

Author Biography

James O'Toole
James M. O’Toole is Professor of History at Boston College. He has worked as an archivist for the New England Historic Genealogical Society, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. For fifteen years, he directed the M.A. program in history and archives at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He is a fellow of the Society of American Archivists and a former member of its governing Council. His current teaching and research concentrate on the history of religion in the United States, with particular interest in popular devotional and religious practice. He is presently writing a history of the American Catholic laity.
How to Cite
O’Toole, James. 2004. “Archives and Historical Accountability: Toward a Moral Theology of Archives”. Archivaria 58 (August), 3-19.