Digital content I read this week
The news has been a flurry of activity related to the field of archives and libraries, which is always exciting…and a little odd considering we are usually behind the scenes rather than sweating in the spotlight. Still, it’s important for our kind to step out of our windowless kingdoms and mingle with the functioning world; the one we impact with our work, but don’t always take center stage to discuss.
Leaving Cloister of Dusty Offices, Young Archivists Meet Like Minds: This article made its way through my social media feeds, listservs, and sent to me directly from friends and family via email. The article centers on New York City archivists and their regular Round Table discussions related to, you guessed it, archival issues. A decent article with some great quotes:
Archivists are the specialists who snatch objects from oblivion. They have long spent their careers cloistered, like the objects they protected. But now many of these professionals are stepping out.
Strictly speaking, archivists should not be confused with librarians, who generally manage collections meant to be handled freely; with record managers, who keep track of items created in the course of business; or with conservationists, who restore and preserve old objects.
Archivists, rather, gather essential items with an eye to the future, and their work, done properly, becomes “a porthole into the past,” Ms. van Roessel said.
My biggest complaint about the scope of this article is that the field of archives and librarianship are transforming as rapidly as the way in which we create, disseminate and ingest information. Not every archivist works in a dusty basement somewhere. In fact, the workplaces of many archivists resemble computer and other technology-centered spaces. Some archivists work not with artifacts as they are explained in this article, but with massive amounts of data and metadata that needs to be structured, standardized and made accessible. The field of archives has been changing for quite some time. I think new outlets need to reassess their go-to paradigms for representing the profession.
Bricks and Immortality: The George W. Bush Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas opened last Thursday. Located at Laura Bush’s alma mater, it opened to the public this week. This Wall Street Journal article has a few notable quotes,
The presidential library is an architectural conundrum. Its function is split between lofty symbolism and menial tasks: embodying legacy and storing papers. No model exists, leaving each commander in chief to propose his own ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt adapted his Hyde Park, N.Y., home to be the first presidential library museum.
Ultimately, presidential libraries are hybrid curiosities; they can be highly selective, some might say reticent, in the history they retell, but personally very revealing.
There’s so much written on the most recent presidential library (the good, the bad and the ugly, as you can imagine). But, there’s also literature available about the presidential library system. The Office of Presidential Libraries, a branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) operates the network of libraries. There are over 20 libraries dedicated to president’s legacies but not all of them are considered official presidential libraries. The Office was established under Herbert Hoover’s presidency, so all the libraries erected before the 31st president’s term are not considered part of the network. The Wikipedia page has pretty good information including maps.
Here’s a new comic from Doonesbury, probably one of many about the Bush Library.