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.

The growing insistence that official papers should, as a matter of right, be immediately opened to scholars leads to a d...
11/15/2019
On the Writing of Contemporary History

The growing insistence that official papers should, as a matter of right, be immediately opened to scholars leads to a dilution and distortion of the written record.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "On the Writing of Contemporary History," Atlantic Monthly (March 1967), https://lnkd.in/e9euJBs: 7.

#ArchivesQuotes

“The increase in the velocity of history means, among other things, that the ‘present’ becomes the ‘past’ more swiftly than ever before.”

In the last three quarters of a century, the rise of the typewriter has vastly increased the flow of paper, while the ri...
11/14/2019
On the Writing of Contemporary History

In the last three quarters of a century, the rise of the typewriter has vastly increased the flow of paper, while the rise of the telephone has vastly reduced its importance. Far more documents have been produced, and there is far less in them.

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., "On the Writing of Contemporary History," Atlantic Monthly (March 1967), https://lnkd.in/e9euJBs: 7.

#ArchivesQuotes

“The increase in the velocity of history means, among other things, that the ‘present’ becomes the ‘past’ more swiftly than ever before.”

11/13/2019

Small wonder, then, that archival holdings too often reflected narrow research interests rather than the broad spectrum of human experience. If we cannot transcend these obstacles, then the archivist will remain at best nothing more than a weathervane moved by the changing winds of historiography

F. Gerald Ham, “The Archival Edge,” The American Archivist 38:1 (January 1975): 13.

#ArchivesQuotes

As the Monkees once sang, “I’m a de-le-ter.” We are stuffing the digital universe with terabytes of trivia. Posterity wi...
11/12/2019
Opinion | Let’s Talk About Bloomberg While We Still Can

As the Monkees once sang, “I’m a de-le-ter.” We are stuffing the digital universe with terabytes of trivia. Posterity will not be enriched by keeping it.

Bret Stephens in Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, "Let’s Talk About Bloomberg While We Still Can," New York Times (12 September 2019), https://lnkd.in/ezG_Tjd.

#ArchivesQuotes #email

And did someone say something about impeachment?

We have just finished our interview with Sophie Glidden-Lyon and Daniel Pecoraro, members of the collective that runs th...
11/11/2019

We have just finished our interview with Sophie Glidden-Lyon and Daniel Pecoraro, members of the collective that runs the Interference Archive. Great fun and a great conversation. Get ready to listen to it in a little over a month.

Our latest episode. Steve Novak tells us how the records of a murder first intrigued him about archives and then tells t...
11/09/2019
Episode 90: It Was Also Actually Fun to be in Basements (Stephen Novak)

Our latest episode.

Steve Novak tells us how the records of a murder first intrigued him about archives and then tells the stories of a long a rich career that touched just about everything an archivist might ever do.

Stephen Novak, Head of Archives and Special Collections at the Augusta C. Long Health Sciences Library at the Columbia University Irving Medical Center, tells us how the records of a murder first intrigued him about archives and then tells the stories of a long a rich career that touched just about....

11/08/2019

‪I got into archives for the stuff. ‬

‪Jim Gerencser in conversation with An Archivist’s Tale (Cambridge, MD, 7 November 2019).‬

‪#ArchivesQuotes ‬

Two great podcasts recorded today. First, Arian Ravanbakhsh in his room (neither pictured) and then Jim Gerencser and Ka...
11/08/2019

Two great podcasts recorded today. First, Arian Ravanbakhsh in his room (neither pictured) and then Jim Gerencser and Kate Theimer in our room (both pictured, but you can barely see Kate reflected in the window).

An Archivist’s Tale has traveled from the Financial District to New York Penn Station to the BWI Amtrak Station and we’r...
11/07/2019

An Archivist’s Tale has traveled from the Financial District to New York Penn Station to the BWI Amtrak Station and we’re now on the way to BWI itself to catch another bus to the rental cars where we will get a car to drive to Cambridge, Maryland, for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, during which we will record three new episodes.

11/07/2019

A record is an artifact of a memory.

Geof Huth, @geofhuth, Twitter (7 November 2018).

#ArchivesQuotes

Francis cited the Pius XIII opening in explaining his rationale for the name change, while lamenting how the original La...
11/04/2019
Pope declares Vatican’s Secret Archive not so secret anymore

Francis cited the Pius XIII opening in explaining his rationale for the name change, while lamenting how the original Latin name “Archivium Secretum”—meant solely to mean that the archive was private and separate—had taken on almost sinister implications that the Holy See had secrets to hide.

Nicole Winfield, "Pope declares Vatican’s Secret Archive not so secret anymore," The Washington Post (28 October 2019), https://lnkd.in/e6n5NBN.

#ArchivesQuotes

Pope Francis has declared that the Vatican Secret Archive isn’t so secret after all

11/03/2019

To manage records well, we must begin before creation—at the point of conception.

Geof Huth, @geofhuth Twitter (6 December 2013).

#ArchivesQuotes

Episode 89: The Memory of Society (Hrefna Robertsdottir)
11/02/2019
Episode 89: The Memory of Society (Hrefna Robertsdottir)

Episode 89: The Memory of Society (Hrefna Robertsdottir)

Hrefna Róbertsdóttir, National Archivist of Iceland, provides a wide view of the archival program of Iceland, its national and regional archives, and how these have responsibility for the records of the whole of society, all while Iceland works closely with other archives on international issues.

11/02/2019

Archival desire is a powerful attempt to symbolically prove an encyclopedia structure—that is, order—to a particular “world” inclined toward disorder, which is to say, to control it.

Wolfgang Ernst, Stirrings in the Archives: Order from Disorder, translated by Adam Siegel (Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, 2015): 88.

#ArchivesQuotes

11/01/2019

A man has a single grave. But a poet has a second: the archive.

Jacques Derrida, “In Memoriam (Paul de Man),” in Yale French Studies 69 (1985).

#ArchivesQuotes

10/30/2019

What coagulates into a record is the trace of an action.

Wolfgang Ernst, Stirrings in the Archives: Order from Disorder, translated by Adam Siegel (Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, 2015): 55.

#ArchivesQuotes

10/29/2019

To understand records, archivists say, one must understand as much as possible about the circumstances that produced them. Achieving that understanding demands that we look not only at the practical, utilitarian context of records but at the symbolic context and meaning as well. If we continue to overlook that aspect of our work, our task as archivists remains only half done.

James O’Toole, “The Symbolic Significance of Archives,” The American Archivist 56:2 (Spring 1993): 255.

#ArchivesQuotes

Episode 88: If You Have Their Diaries, You Can See Their Dreams (Njörður Sigurðsson)
10/26/2019
Episode 88: If You Have Their Diaries, You Can See Their Dreams (Njörður Sigurðsson)

Episode 88: If You Have Their Diaries, You Can See Their Dreams (Njörður Sigurðsson)

Njörður Sigurðsson, Director of Acquisition and Access at the National Archives of Iceland, tells his story of becoming an archivist after studying the history of foster children, explains the archives world of Iceland, and discusses his work internationally addressing the thorny issue of displac...

10/22/2019

And thus the reading of records, like the deletion of records, leaves behind trace records.

Wolfgang Ernst, Stirrings in the Archives: Order from Disorder, translated by Adam Siegel (Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, 2015): 54.

#ArchivesQuotes

Yesterday, we interviewed Stephen Novak for the podcast. Lots of fun stories from a various (but still fairly medically ...
10/21/2019

Yesterday, we interviewed Stephen Novak for the podcast. Lots of fun stories from a various (but still fairly medically focused) career. Take a listen in a few weeks. And here’s our recording studio.

Learn about one way we can be archivists in our tune through Ashley Levin’s story.
10/20/2019
Episode 87: Compelled by the Image and What that Might Convey (Ashley Levine)

Learn about one way we can be archivists in our tune through Ashley Levin’s story.

Ashley Levine, Archivist and Digital Resource Manager at Artifex Press, tells us about his move from pure archives to a more modern kind of hybrid archivist role, how all archivists must learn new skills all the time and why their versatility helps them with that, and he explains why archivists real...

10/20/2019

Another exception to the rule of preserving records in their original order should be made when the original order is not ascertainable or is manifestly bad.

T.R. Schellenberg, “Archival Principles of Arrangement,” The American Archivist 24:1 (January 1961): 18.

#ArchivesQuotes #originalorder

10/19/2019

The principle of provenance supplanted the procedure of arranging records according to subjects. It thus supplanted a completely impractical method of arrangement by a practical one, for arbitrary systems of arrangement cannot be applied to records without infinitely complicating the task of the archivist.

T.R. Schellenberg, “Archival Principles of Arrangement,” The American Archivist 24:1 (January 1961): 22.

#ArchivesQuotes

10/18/2019

Archive quality only survives unimpaired so long as this natural form and relationship are maintained.

Hilary Jenkinson, Selected Writings of Sir Hilary Jenkinson (Alan Sutton, 1980): 239.

#ArchivesQuotes

10/14/2019

But for those persons involved in internal disposal, “permanent,” with its overtones of everlasting, to the last syllable of recorded time, is not an easy concept to get around. “Worthy of continued preservation,” awkward though it is, implies that some accessionable records may be less than eternal.

Leonard Rapport, “No Grandfather Clause: Reappraising Accessioned Records,” The American Archivist 44:2 (Spring 1981): 148.

#ArchivesQuotes #reappraisal

10/13/2019

And though we do reappraise on an ad hoc basis, and get rid of, some accessioned records, none of us, as far as I know, reappraises holding systematically and periodically. That is what I am proposing we do.

Leonard Rapport, "No Grandfather Clause: Reappraising Accessioned Records," The American Archivist 44:2 (Spring 1981): 145.

#ArchivesQuotes #reappraisal

Episode 86: The Connections between Then and Now (Nicole Milano)
10/12/2019
Episode 86: The Connections between Then and Now (Nicole Milano)

Episode 86: The Connections between Then and Now (Nicole Milano)

Nicole Milano, Head of the Medical Center Archives at NewYork Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medicine, discusses how her study of history and her travels led her to archives, discusses how being a lone arranger helped her practice the breadth of archives, and she also speaks about her experiences helpin...

Allan Lee and his wife (who did not wish to be pictured) are Indianans working for FamilySearch scanning archival record...
10/11/2019

Allan Lee and his wife (who did not wish to be pictured) are Indianans working for FamilySearch scanning archival records of genealogical value held by the National Archives of Iceland. When we were there yesterday, Allan noted that he had almost finished scanning Iceland’s 1703 census, apparently the oldest complete census of a country (though Iceland was not yet independent of Denmark). This census is part of the UNESCO Memory of the World International Register. It’s a remarkable record, in part because of its pristine condition. (Njörður, if you could share this with Allan, I would appreciate it.)

That’s what archives should do. They’re there to tell us something about the past, because otherwise the only thing you ...
10/11/2019
Full-body poetics | Jacket2

That’s what archives should do. They’re there to tell us something about the past, because otherwise the only thing you have is human memory and human memory dies with the body. Archives is the preservation of the body and the preservation of the person after death. It’s the only afterlife.

Gary Barwin and Geof Huth, "Full-body poetics: An interview with Geof Huth by Gary Barwin," Jacket2 (15 November 2013), https://jacket2.org/interviews/full-body-poetics.

#ArchivesQuotes

Editorial note: Geof Huth is perhaps best known for his innovations in the field of visual poetry, though he has produced considerable textual and aural work as well as critical and archival endeavours. Recent projects include 365 ltrs, a daily online writing experiment, and his regularly updated bl...

Njörður Sigurðsson took us on a brief impromptu tour of the National Archives of Iceland today.
10/10/2019

Njörður Sigurðsson took us on a brief impromptu tour of the National Archives of Iceland today.

We interviewed the national archivist of Iceland, Hrefna Róbertsdóttir, today, and you can hear all about the work of th...
10/10/2019

We interviewed the national archivist of Iceland, Hrefna Róbertsdóttir, today, and you can hear all about the work of this archives on November 2nd. Our thanks to Hrefna for aking time to sit with us.

We are back at the National Archives of Iceland.
10/10/2019

We are back at the National Archives of Iceland.

10/10/2019

We know that because we are not barbarians we must keep records. In other words, the keeping of records in a civilized society is primarily an act of faith. We keep records because of our deep emotions and intellectual commitment to the values of the civilization of which we are a part, and to what our ancestors did and to what we hope our children will do.

G. Philip Bauer, “Appraisal of Current and Recent Records,” Staff Information Circular 13 (Washington: The National Archives, 1946): 23.

#ArchivesQuotes

10/09/2019

I believe, on the contrary, that we keep records for the same reason that we build schools, or rear our children, or support our aged parents. It is one of those things that we do without asking ourselves whether or not it represents a profitable investment but simply because it is our innate assumption that civilized men can do nothing else.

G. Philip Bauer, "Appraisal of Current and Recent Records," Staff Information Circular 13 (Washington: The National Archives, 1946): 23.

#ArchivesQuotes

Today we interviewed Njörður Sigurðsson for the podcast. A great conversation about Icelandic archivy. This was also our...
10/09/2019

Today we interviewed Njörður Sigurðsson for the podcast. A great conversation about Icelandic archivy. This was also our first podcast interviewing a national legislator, and it ends with the funniest archives story of all times. You’ll think you know how the story ends, but the story will trick you each time. What a few weeks, and you’ll see—by which we mean you will hear. Here are the view outside the archives and Njörður himself.

The National Archives of Iceland, which is housed in a former dairy. We interviewed Njörður Sigurðsson here today.
10/09/2019

The National Archives of Iceland, which is housed in a former dairy. We interviewed Njörður Sigurðsson here today.

10/07/2019

But an archivist’s job of appraisal increases in difficulty as the documentation of society increases in quantity.

T.R. Schellenberg, “The Appraisal of Modern Public Records,” National Archives Bulletin 8 (Washington: National Archives and Records Service, 1956).

#ArchivesQuotes #appraisal

An Archivist’s Tale (that is, Karen Jamison Trivette and Geof Huth) are traveling to Reykjavík, Iceland, tonight, where ...
10/06/2019

An Archivist’s Tale (that is, Karen Jamison Trivette and Geof Huth) are traveling to Reykjavík, Iceland, tonight, where we will interview a couple of archivists at the National Archives of Iceland. Stay tuned for the episodes!

10/06/2019

Important records, moreover, are difficult to assemble for preservation in an archival institution because many of them must first be segregated from the mass of trivial in which they may have been submerged.

T.R. Schellenberg, "The Appraisal of Modern Public Records," National Archives Bulletin 8 (Washington: National Archives and Records Service, 1956).

#ArchivesQuotes #appraisal

10/06/2019

But if the archivist is truly concerned with the preservation of records and the quality of records that are preserved, there must be an involvement in records management. It is only when the archivist takes the first step that he or she becomes the walking archivist.

Patricia Bartkowski, "Records Management and the Walking Archivist," Georgia Archive 3:2 (1975): 133.

#ArchivesQuotes

Episode 85: This Tape Recorder is Still On (Heather Lember)
10/05/2019
Episode 85: This Tape Recorder is Still On (Heather Lember)

Episode 85: This Tape Recorder is Still On (Heather Lember)

Heather Lember, a processing archivist at New York Public Library, tells us of her life trip from being a musician to an archivist and finally to the archivist working on the extensive papers of Lou Reed, most of which consisted of audio recordings in many formats. She explains the challenges and jo...

10/03/2019

Faced with this mass, so vast and yet so diverse, what are the duties and what the qualifications of the good Archivist? Obviously he must have certain technical knowledge: he must generally be a bit of a Linguist and more than a bit of a Paleographer; sometimes a bit of an Architect; almost always a bit of a Book-binder, Librarian, Mycologist, and Photographer: must have a specialized smattering of the knowledge of many specialists.

Hilary Jenkinson, “Reflections of an Archivist,” Contemporary Review 165 (June 1944).

#ArchivesQuotes

10/01/2019

Finally, I would stress the universality of Archives—the way in which, once writing has become general in use, they include potentially everybody in the world and, in consequence, every conceivable human interest.

Hilary Jenkinson, “Reflections of an Archivist,” Contemporary Review 165 (June 1944).

#ArchivesQuotes #Jenkinsons5Points

09/30/2019

In the fourth place, the ranks of professing Archivists include, or should include, a vast number of amateurs and of part-time devotees.

Hilary Jenkinson, “Reflections of an Archivist,” Contemporary Review 165 (June 1944).

#ArchivesQuotes #jenkinsons5points

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