An Archivist’s Tale

An Archivist’s Tale Archivists in conversation with archivists, discussing their work and passions. Hosted by husband and wife team Karen Trivette and Geof Huth.

05/16/2019

Yet every member of the public has his or her own image of an archivist: for example, it might be a man wearing a three-piece, tweed suit, possibly sporting glasses, smoking a pipe, and using an umbrella as a walking stick.

Tania Aldred, Gordon Burr, and Eun Park, “Crossing a Librarian with a Historian: The Image of Reel Archivists,” Archivaria 66 (Fall 2008): 66.

#ArchivesQuotes #archivists

05/15/2019

Archivists are seen as trusted agents of society, acting on everyone’s behalf in insuring the preservation of those records necessary in protecting the legal rights of each citizen and in preserving the historical record of human achievement, of cultural evolution, and of everyday life. We have a special role in society, and we are respected as ombudsmen acting in the public as well as each individual interest.

H. Thomas Hickerson, "Ten Challenges for the Archival Profession," The American Archivist 64:1(Spring/Summer 2001):16.

#ArchivesQuotes #archivists

05/14/2019

If previous generations of archivists had understood themselves as keepers of the past, and not shapers of the past, by the mid-1960s the world was changing. Some thought that to be a successful archivist, one must engage in some kind of “dynamic” activity, mainly in the area of collecting.

Elizabeth Snowden Johnson, "Our Archives, Our Selves: Documentation Strategy and the Re-Appraisal of Professional Identity," The American Archivist 71:1 (Spring/Summer 2008): 193.

#ArchivesQuotes #archivists

05/13/2019

To be sure, American archivists are reasonably good at making choices; it is a corollary to our eminently practical natures. That is our great strength—and our great weakness. What do we sacrifice when we make those practical choices?

Scott Cline, “Archival Ideals and the Pursuit of a Moderate Disposition," The American Archivist 77:2 (Fall/Winter 2014): 448.

#ArchivesQuotes #archivists

Folks, An Archivist’s Tale will be in Oslo, Norway, from June 10th to 15th. We have not found (or heard back from) any...
05/12/2019

Folks, An Archivist’s Tale will be in Oslo, Norway, from June 10th to 15th. We have not found (or heard back from) any possible podcast guests while there, so send word if you have any.

05/12/2019

Photographs, because of their transparency and truth, were thus credited with being not only a way of seeing across space, but also a way of seeing those things—qualities, characteristics, emotions, values—that, in space, had no observable manifestation.

Joan Schwartz, “‘Records of Simple Truth and Precision”: Photography, Archives, and the Illusion of Control,” Archivaria 50 (2000): 16.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

Episode 64: From Enriched Uranium to Pickles (Gabriella Ivacs)
05/11/2019
Episode 64: From Enriched Uranium to Pickles (Gabriella Ivacs)

Episode 64: From Enriched Uranium to Pickles (Gabriella Ivacs)

Grabriella Ivacs, Head of the Archives and Records Management Section of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, discusses her work for the agency, the Roma of Europe, the EU's GDPR, and how archives compensate for lost cultural heritage.

05/11/2019

When archivists express their commitment to the protection of records as reliable and authentic evidence of action they are expressing a commitment to a philosophical ideal of truth.

Heather MacNeil, “Trusting Records in a Postmodern World,” Archivaria 51 (2001): 37.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

05/09/2019

In fiction writing, “archives,” both the records and the repository, are often “equated with history” and in certain instances, the records may be viewed as “history itself.” In particular, archives may represent history as secrets or truth.

Caitlin Patterson, “Perceptions and Understandings of Archives in the Digital Age,” The American Archivist 79:2 (Fall/Winter 2016): 342.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

05/08/2019

For Ernst, the historiographical work performed in an archives is always doomed to be a betrayal—a fiction—of the truth of the archive, which consists not in an elusive objectivity but in the way in which systems of organization function as present and persistent remainders of the conditions of knowledge production.

Matthew Kirschenbaum, Review of Stirrings in the Archives: Order from Disorder by Wolfgang Ernst, The American Archivist 81:1 (Spring/Summer 2018): 241.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

05/07/2019

In the exacting idea of positivist history developed at the end of the nineteenth century, the ambition of diplomatics has been to reunite the conditions for establishing true history. Not a particular truth that one or the other of us might commit to our memories or essays, not a connaissance, but the truth. In our era, the need to know, for which the duty of memory is only one consequence, is universal. Everyone seeks the part of the truth needed to give his life meaning.

Bruno Delmas, “Manifesto for a Contemporary Diplomatics: From Institutional Documents to Organic Information,” The American Archivist 59:4 (Fall 1996): 443.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

05/06/2019

In contrast, the prefect of the archives, Martino Giusti, wrote that Leo, in opening the archives at a time of impassioned anticlericalism, was conscious that the truth is always apologetic. The implication is that the documents are on the one hand neutral witnesses to the truth, while on the other they show certain historical narratives to be true and others false.

Nicholas Tussing, “The Politics of Leo XIII's Opening of the Vatican Archives: The Ownership of the Past,” The American Archivist 70:2 (Fall/Winter 2007): 373.

#ArchivesQuotes #truth

Episode 63: Calculate a Retention Based on the Half-Life of an Isotope (Andy Potter)
05/04/2019
Episode 63: Calculate a Retention Based on the Half-Life of an Isotope (Andy Potter)

Episode 63: Calculate a Retention Based on the Half-Life of an Isotope (Andy Potter)

Andy Potter, Electronic Records Policy Analyst for the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, tells us about his passion for audio, and his work managing records, working with government agencies, and (soon) helping set records policies for the federal government.

‪I (the Geof Huth half of us) spent the day vacuuming and packing about 1,000 small volumes of immigration certificate...
05/04/2019

‪I (the Geof Huth half of us) spent the day vacuuming and packing about 1,000 small volumes of immigration certificates. It was slow and dirty work: de-shelving, transporting, vacuuming, transporting, boxing, transporting, and shelving—many times repeated.

In the afternoon, a scouter for Sesame Street came looking for a space to stand in for an archives. They are planning a scene with Anne Hathaway in an archives.

She asked me if I had heard of Anne Hathaway. I said, Yes, my daughter interviewed for a job with her once.

The woman looked at our shelving in the north corridor and said it would be a perfect stand-in for an archives—all they had to do was switch the boxes (of archives) for books…‬

I didn’t try to educate her. I was dirty from dirty records, busy working, and certain the woman assumed I was an unimportant person in this situation.

I doubt we’ll let Sesame Street shoot in this space, but I’ll insist on being here to manage the use of it if we do.

Episode 62: The Presence of Absence (John Slate)
04/27/2019
Episode 62: The Presence of Absence (John Slate)

Episode 62: The Presence of Absence (John Slate)

John Slate, City Archivist for the City of Dallas, spins a tale of being caught in the web of archives before his thirteenth birthday, and how he returns to the source of that capture in his first professional job. He ends up in Dallas, providing essential information for the city, its citizens, and...

Episode 61: Bearing Witness to People's Sorrow (Joseph Coen)
04/20/2019
Episode 61: Bearing Witness to People's Sorrow (Joseph Coen)

Episode 61: Bearing Witness to People's Sorrow (Joseph Coen)

Joseph Coen, Archivist at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, talks about his beginnings as an archivist working in local government, his professional work in that community, and how he came to work for the diocese, where he has served many researchers and worked to document the diversity of Cat...

04/19/2019

Indigenous Australians are increasingly challenging curatorial practices in cultural institutions that support what they see as a misappropriation of their knowledge and heritage. In Australia, the 2007 UN Declaration on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples has provided a framework for asserting the rights of Indigenous people to become active, participating agents in recordkeeping and archiving practice that pertains to all records relating to them, rather than the passive, disempowered subjects of records created and maintained by non-Indigenous institutions and organizations.

Sue McKemmish and Michael Piggott, “Toward the Archival Multiverse: Challenging the Binary Opposition of the Personal and Corporate Archive in Modern Archival Theory and Practice,” Archivaria 76 (2013): 136.

#ArchivesQuotes #access #decolonization

04/18/2019

As an archivist I have power over other people. I control access to materials they desire.

Martha Cooley, The Archivist (London: Abacus, 1998): 246.

#ArchivesQuotes #access

‪The only wish that works is working. We are now wishing ourselves through the next 2K cubic feet of archives in this ...
04/17/2019

‪The only wish that works is working. We are now wishing ourselves through the next 2K cubic feet of archives in this one historic court so we can focus more attention on the ¼ million cubic feet or so of archives stored by the other 1400+ courts across the state. #Archive30 ‬

‪Many of the records I (Geof) find are not records but paper fragments of records released from their original documen...
04/16/2019

‪Many of the records I (Geof) find are not records but paper fragments of records released from their original documents. They are orphans always in search of a home I cannot find for them. They are the dandruff of documentation. When I return to the archives, I’ll find more. #Archive30 ‬

04/16/2019

The choice to link codes of ethics and human rights was not made at random. Many individuals and organizations are now making explicit connections between the right of citizens to access information—whether about themselves, their government or other agencies such as business corporations—and personal and social freedoms, even economic and national development.

Mary Neazor, “Recordkeeping Professional Ethics and their Application,” Archivaria 64 (2007): 48.

#ArchivesQuotes #access

My workspace is dirty, dusty, disturbing, filled with ever-diminishing chaos and irreversible damage. It contains disint...
04/15/2019

My workspace is dirty, dusty, disturbing, filled with ever-diminishing chaos and irreversible damage. It contains disintegrating paper, evidence of custodial disregard, even of the occasional intentional attack on the records. Yet I am inspired by the wealth within it. #Archive30 (Geof’s workspace, not Karen’s sparkling clean one)

04/15/2019

Ironically, the accelerating production of large, cumbersome modern collections is accompanied by a clear demand from both the media and the public for greater and more timely access to information. These trends are further complicated by a renewed awareness of security and privacy considerations.

Elena Danielson, “The Ethics of Access,” The American Archivist 52:1 (Winter 1989): 53.

#ArchivesQuotes #access

04/14/2019

As part of this emerging fascination with olfactory experience, scientists in multiple academic disciplines and commercial sectors, from food science and biology to perfume, are increasingly treating aromas as records, conducting research on ways to document, preserve, describe, and provide access to them.

Anna Chen, “Perfume and Vinegar: Olfactory Knowledge, Remembrance, and Recordkeeping,” The American Archivist 79:1 (Spring/Summer 2016): 105.

#ArchivesQuotes #access

Episode 60: 2X2: No Archives Martyrs: The Solution of the Archives Will Be the Destruction of the Planet (Chela Scott We...
04/13/2019
Episode 60: 2X2: No Archives Martyrs: The Solution of the Archives Will Be the Destruction of the Planet (Chela Scott Weber & Mark Matienzo)

Episode 60: 2X2: No Archives Martyrs: The Solution of the Archives Will Be the Destruction of the Planet (Chela Scott Weber & Mark Matienzo)

Chela Scott Weber and Mark Matienzo, archivists married to each other, recount their origins as archivists and a couple. They also discuss their deep and various archival careers and how archivists can create their collective destiny.

‪A community without its records is a community under siege, defending itself, its identity, and its version of histor...
04/12/2019

‪A community without its records is a community under siege, defending itself, its identity, and its version of history without a firm foundation on which to stand.‬

‪Jeannette Bastian, Owning Memory: How a Caribbean Community Lost Its Archives and Found Its History (Westport, Conn.: Libraries Unlimited, 2003): 87.‬

‪(Quoted at today’s plenary at the Mid-Atlantic Archives Conference spring meeting at Morgantown, West Virginia)‬

#ArchivesQuotes

Most archives we create out of letters and the words letters form and the sentences and thoughts those words create. Rec...
04/12/2019

Most archives we create out of letters and the words letters form and the sentences and thoughts those words create. Records from today consist significantly of typed text, but earlier archives present us the rushed or ornate and unique hands of particular individuals. #Archive30

04/12/2019

‪How do we preserve and facilitate access to the materials? That is a real problem. If there’s one lesson from the first library of Alexandr[i]a—which is probably best known for burning—it’s “don’t have just one copy.”‬

‪Brewster Kahle, “Universal Access to All Knowledge,” The American Archivist 70:1 (Spring/Summer 2007): 29.‬

‪#ArchivesQuotes #access‬

The records of the early courts of New York City include stray drawings by court clerks added to minutes, registers, and...
04/11/2019

The records of the early courts of New York City include stray drawings by court clerks added to minutes, registers, and ledgers. But this small set of drawings asserting bottlers’ intellectual property rights over their products are the most alluring and practical. #Archive30

04/11/2019

‪Archives are already arranged—supposedly. That is to say, an arrangement was given them by the agency of origin while it built them up day after day, year after year, as a systematic record of its activities and as part of its operations. This arrangement the archivist is expected to respect and maintain.‬

‪Oliver W. Holmes, “Archival Arrangement—Five Different Operations at Five Different Levels,” The American Archivist 27:1 (January 1964): 21.‬

‪#ArchivesQuotes #arrangement‬

‪Parchment is animal. It bears the skin of animals and the ink and thread and markings of humans forward into infinite...
04/10/2019

‪Parchment is animal. It bears the skin of animals and the ink and thread and markings of humans forward into infinite time. Unlike paper, it is little bothered by environment, though water may erase it and rodents may eat its text away into permanent silence. #Archive30 ‬

04/10/2019

In at least one important respect, however, the archival quality of many manuscript groups has had healthy effects. Reverence for the single piece has surely been weakened. To the extent that irreverence occurs, simplified arrangements have developed that provide for effective bibliographical controls free of unnecessary and tedious description, which too often have preoccupied workers in this field. The manuscript librarian has behaved too frequently like a frustrated historian or an antiquarian inclined to founder in a quicksand of detail.

Richard Berner, “The Arrangement and Description of Manuscripts,” The American Archivist 23:4 (October 1960): 396.

#archivesquotes #arrangement

An Archivist’s Tale has almost finished its European tour. We traveled to Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary, driving in e...
04/10/2019

An Archivist’s Tale has almost finished its European tour. We traveled to Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary, driving in each country. We ate and toured but we also recorded podcasts in each country along the way. We leave Europe with six new episodes with six new guests in our queue (a month and a half’s worth of them). Today, we fly to Munich to catch a flight back to New York City. No new podcast recordings in the offing until tomorrow, when Geof will arrive at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference in Morgantown, West Virginia, after another round of flying and driving. Don’t forget to listen.

‪Late this morning and early this afternoon, Robert Parnica gave us a tour of the Blinken Open Society Archives and it...
04/09/2019

‪Late this morning and early this afternoon, Robert Parnica gave us a tour of the Blinken Open Society Archives and its storage and sat down to talk to us about his work here as the head of reference. Interesting and important work. Listen to his story starting on June 22nd. ‬

‪This morning, we interviewed Örs Lehel Tari, a processing archivist at the important Blinken Open Society Archives i...
04/09/2019

‪This morning, we interviewed Örs Lehel Tari, a processing archivist at the important Blinken Open Society Archives in Budapest. You can listen to his story in about a week. ‬

04/09/2019

In arranging a group or collection an archivist should obtain a general knowledge of its meaning or essential nature and its structure before proceeding to deal with its parts. The arrangement, in a word, should proceed from an understanding of the whole group or collection; it should not be separated on a piecemeal basis.

T. R. Schellenberg,” Archival Principles of Arrangement,” The American Archivist 24:1 (January 1961): 11.

#ArchivesQuotes #arrangement

‪Archives are not commonly about color—which, when apparent, often indicates merely the degradation and yellowing of...
04/08/2019

‪Archives are not commonly about color—which, when apparent, often indicates merely the degradation and yellowing of paper—so when color is present it often causes us a frisson of joy, as when I discovered this letterbook exhibiting mostly purple and black but also other colors.‬

#Archive30

04/08/2019

Even though the work of arrangement is about finding appropriate places for records within the larger whole of the fonds, many archivists know, or at least suspect, that there is nothing “natural” about record-keeping practices per se and that, as a result, records have no “natural place.”

Jennifer Meehan, “Rethinking Original Order and Personal Records,” Archivaria 70 (2010): 31.

#ArchivesQuotes #arrangement

‪I started with the creations of later custodians: invented series, sometimes bound into artificial books or twisting ...
04/07/2019

‪I started with the creations of later custodians: invented series, sometimes bound into artificial books or twisting multiple series and creators into one, always arranged in an artificial order, indexed on cards, and placed on shelves. Later, I addressed total chaos. #archive30‬

04/07/2019

Let us remember that respect des fonds is most simply defined as the non-separation of documents coming from a given agency and as the non-mixture of documents coming from several different agencies, but it says nothing, at least in its original version, about the internal arrangement of documents in the fonds. In fact, the logic of the principle stated by Natalis de Wailly implied that sooner or later we would come to respect not only the external integrity of the fonds but, at least in theory, the internal integrity of its different parts.

Michel Duchein, “Theoretical Principles and Practical Problems of Respect des fonds in Archival Science,” Archivaria 16 (1983): 75.

#ArchivesQuotes #arrangement

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