School of Information Management & Systems.
142  Access to American Cultural Heritages. Spring 2000.

Why is the topic of access to American cultural heritages worth studying?

1. Cultural heritage is a significant ingredient in individuals' self-identity and self-esteem, thereby affecting both individual and the individual's relationship with others.
2. Cultural heritage is a significant ingredient in the development of social groups.
3. Cultural heritage is a significant ingredient in how individuals and social groups are perceived by others and, thereby, affects relationships between social groups.
4. Perceptions of cultural heritage are used by those who wish to influence individuals and groups.
5. Individuals and institutions can be in a position to influence both cultural heritages and perceptions of cultural heritage in a variety of ways by influencing accessibility: preservation, supression (concealing, destruction), creation, presentation, interpretation,...
-- Individuals and institutions involved in transmitting knowledge (Individuals, teachers, museum-keepers, librarians, archivists, archaeologists, historians, researchers,... )
-- Those who influence cultural heritage by by setting policies, by making laws, and by allocating resources (funding, space, opportunities)
-- Everyone eslse, because we are all affected.

6. It opens up studies of information management to a broader, more general view of the conceptual and practical aspects of the field because it complements traditional emphases in information system design by:
(i) Requiring a more extensive view of the scope of information studies: What is a "document"? Books in libraries, artefacts in museums, historic objects,... What else?
(ii) Extending the range of bibliographic description well beyond customary library objects to less conventional objects.
(iii) Requiring greater attention to the how meaning and significance is constructed from documents by users.
(iv) Shifting the environment of information system design from practical manipulation of well-defined objects in operational contexts (e.g. Management Information Systems, data retrieval systems) into areas that are more socially sensitive, more politicized.
(v) An integrative approach to hitherto rather isolated areas, notably museum studies, bibliography, cultural policy, anthropology, rhetoric, education, historiography,...

What is meant by "access"?
Each of the following aspects constitutes a type of barrier to meaningful access.

0. Existence / creation / preservation. Documents and objects need to exist in the first place.]
1. Identification. A suitable source needs to be identified. This "indicative" access is the realm of bibliography, documentation, classification, and indexing, -- of information retrieval.
2. Availability. One needs physical access to whatever it is. Logistics and technology.
3. Price to The User. The effort and expense accessing something.
4. Cost to The Provider. The effort and expense of providing access.
5. Cognitive Access. Is the document understood? Explanation. Education.
6. Acceptability. Credible? Acceptable?