Jennifer Meehan

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Jennifer Meehan
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  • Bachelor's in English and Film Studies
  • Master's in Archival Studies
Alma mater
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of British Columbia
  • Author
  • Archivist
  • Librarian

Jennifer Meehan is an author, archivist and librarian. She has published articles and essays on archives and their importance in researching history. She has served the institutions of Smithsonian, Yale University, Emory University and Penn State University in a career spanning over two decades.


Meehan attended the University of California at Berkeley for her Bachelor's in English and Film Studies and she graduated in 1997.[1] She later attended the University of British Columbia for her Master's in Archival Studies and graduated in 2003.[1]

Archival Profession

In her own words, Meehan describes the work of the archivist: "In identifying the external and internal relationships of a body of records and communicating them to users through arrangement and description, the archivist is both protecting and representing the context of the records."[2] In her career, Meehan has focused on expanding researcher discovery, access, and engagement of students and the community.[3] Although she didn't study archives in her undergraduate career, she discovered it in her master's as “ the heart of archives, and storytelling is at the heart of archival research and discovery."[3]

Meehan began her archives career at Virginia Tech, where she worked as as Manuscript Archivist from 2003-2004.[3] While at Virginia Tech, she composed the Annual Report for the International Archive of Women in Architecture. In 2004, Meehan began work at the Smithsonian Archives of Art where she served until 2007.[3] In 2007, she moved to Yale University where she worked in the roles of Accessioning Archivist of the Manuscript Unit, Interim Head of Digital Projects and Metadata and Head of Processing in the Manuscript Unit, all within the Beinecke Rare Book And Manuscript Library.[3] In 2013, Meehan moved to Emory University and served as Associate Director and Interim Director for the Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives, & Rare Book Library.[1] Meehan moved to Penn State University in 2019 where she currently serves as Head of Special Collections.[1][4]


Meehan has been involved for many years with the Society of American Archivists and served at many levels. Most notably, she has served as Chair of the newsletter of the Description Section and member of the American Archivist Editorial Board since 2011. She has been part of conferences and panels to speak on the importance of archives.[5]


In many of her writings Meehan argues, like in "Rethinking Original Order and Personal Records," that "Archivists must conceive of original order differently to adequately understand and contextualize personal records: rather than thinking of it as an ends to be achieved, it might better serve archival purposes by thinking of it as a means for carrying out arrangement and description."[6] Like many other archivists, she has argued for personal papers to be viewed as archives that deserve the same treatment as records from governments and organizations.[6]

  • Chapter "Archival Intangibles: Empowerment Through Story and Meaning” in Archival Values: Essays in Honor of Mark A. Greene, edited by Christine Weideman and Mary A. Caldera, published through Society of American Archivists, 2019.[1][3]
  • "Rethinking Original Order and Personal Records," Archivaria, 2010.
  • "Making the Leap From Parts to Whole: Evidence and Interference in Archival Arrangement and Description," American Archivist, 2009.
  • "The Archival Nexus: Rethinking the Interplay of Archival Ideas About the Nature, Value, and Use of Records," Archival Science, 2009.
    • (Meehan, along with Mark Matienzo, are cited with coining the term "archival imaginary," which refers to "the dynamic way in which communities creatively and collectively re-envision the future through archival interventions in representations of the shared past.")[7]
  • "Towards an Archival Concept of Evidence," Archivaria, 2006.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Kudos and In Memoriam". Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  2. “Making the Leap from Parts to Whole: Evidence and Inference in Archival Arrangement and Description, The American Archivist 72:1 (Spring/Summer 2009): 75.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Meehan, Special Collections Library head, aims to connect visitors with stories | Penn State University". Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  4. Cifelli, Jennifer Ann (2019-02-25). "Getting to Know You: Jennifer Meehan". Library News. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  5. "Jennifer Meehan's schedule for ARCHIVES*RECORDS 2018". Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Meehan, Jennifer (2010-10-20). "Rethinking Original Order and Personal Records". Archivaria. 70: 27–44. International Standard Serial Number|ISSN 1923-6409.
  7. Caswell, ML. (2017). “Inventing New Archival Imaginaries: Theoretical Foundations for Identity-Based Community Archives.”. In Identity Palimpsests: Ethnic Archiving in the U.S. and Canada. UCLA. Retrieved from

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