Spotlight on "Provenance"

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I learned many things at the Georgia Archives Institute in 2010, but one of the most important was the value of professional journals.  Our instructor, Tim Ericson, former Director of Archival Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee School of Information Studies, was clear about the importance of keeping up with current issues in the profession, and off the top of his head, he could list the state and local organizations that produced their own journals.  First on the list, of course, was the Society of Georgia Archivists’ Provenance.  In 1972, Provenance became the first professional archival journal published by a state or regional organization.  It was founded and first edited by David B. Gracy II, and today has a circulation of over 300 internationally.  The current editor is Brian Wilson, Reference Archivist at the Georgia State Archives, and he was kind enough to explain what they are looking for in a submission.

According to the SGA website, “The journal’s primary focus concerns the archival profession in the theory and practice of archival management.” Recent issues have included:
  • archival education
  • electronic records
  • automation 
  • imaging
  • appraisal of university records
  • moving archives
  • management of audiovisual, photograph, oral history, and map materials
  • military archives
  • documentary editing
  • research use of archives
  • case studies in appraising congressional papers
  • ethics
  • descriptive standards
While this is a pretty extensive list of topics, Wilson explains that “Provenance … should balance practical, every day issues with more scholarly, academic articles” and notes that he would like to see more submissions that deal with how archivists work with researchers.  “I’d love to see more articles that deal with practical issues that archivists see and deal with everyday.  I’d like to see something written about reference work or about dealing with a customer base that is no longer coming into archives ‘physically.’” He continues that it doesn’t matter to him what level the author holds in the profession, be it student, professional or retiree since they all offer interesting views.  Students (or recent students), he explains, come at the profession with questions that many of us don’t think to ask, but older professionals tend to have more insight to practical applications to archival theory.  

When asked about his favorite submission, Wilson replies with a number of responses. First, he discusses an article on Amelia Earhart’s poems; then there’s his own coup of getting the new Archivist of the United States to write a short “acknowledgement” of SGA’s 40th anniversary last year; and finally, “I think the most important article that now gets published is the keynote address presented at the SGA annual meeting each year, as I think that reflects (for posterity) precisely where our interest as an organization is each year. It was the idea of Suzanne Durham (archivist at West Georgia) to print that and I think it was an excellent idea.”

While Provenance is the journal for the Society of Georgia Archivists, Wilson says he doesn’t feel the need to be strict about the geography.  “I’ve seen past issues deal with collections in Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Louisiana.”  While he does try to keep submissions geared to the state, he doesn’t want to dissuade submissions involving archival records or ideas from another state.  He would also like to see Provenance published in alternate formats to reach a wider audience.  

The deadline for submissions to Provenance is the end of July to allow the editorial staff four or five months to edit the submissions, peer review, and deal with the publishing side of things.  Wilson adds that while he doesn’t want to dismiss outlines or ideas for articles, it is impractical and time consuming to work those into a full Provenance article.  

“The Provenance editorial board actively seeks articles, case studies, and review essays which increase understanding of archival issues, highlight new topics, or that broadens the scope of knowledge for people working with archival collections in the state of Georgia. Articles written for publication in Provenance should be original works and authors should keep in mind the following guidelines and rules of structure….”

For more information on Provenance and submitting an article, please see

*Contributed by Laura Starratt, Atlanta History Center.

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