Thursday, November 13, 2008
Archives are not Warehouses
Each of you identified the central problem articulated by this collection of essays: how do archives function in creating, shaping, and changing historical narratives. Quite clearly access to information is related to relationships of power, which is why so many of the scholars referenced Foucault. As a group, you rightly pointed out that these historians found their ability to examine events of history impacted (mostly negatively) by archivists limiting their access to primary sources. As the future archivists in the class noted, it would have been interesting to include a few archivists’ perspectives in this collection. How does preserving history impact decisions about access? This addresses a question Will raised. Is access to an archive a right or a privilege? Does it depend upon the expectations of the society within which the archives exist? For instance, was Robertson’s story more baffling since it occurred within the United States, a democratic nation that so often prides itself on providing freedom of information? In sum, as a group very nice job grappling with the fact that archives function as interpreters rather than warehouses.