Keepers of the Secrets
September 22, 2017 12:09 PM   Subscribe

But the real gem of the library, in Lannon’s view, is the stuff that you can find only in boxes like the ones now strewn across the table. “You can get a book anywhere,” he said. “An archive exists in one location.”
posted by ellieBOA (7 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Wonderful story. The aging archivist in the organization where I work is a dear man, who keeps records in a fine hand. But he will be retiring soon, and the millions of pieces of information in the archives are all in his head. What will happen when he goes? Priceless bits of knowledge will disappear into a file, tucked onto a shelf, in a row of shelves, in an obscure basement.

I suppose that this is happening everywhere and that it constitutes a kind of crisis. But what's to be done? There is more past every year.
posted by Modest House at 1:56 PM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Bard (“a middling to decent liberal arts school”)
lololol don't tell them that.
posted by crazy with stars at 2:02 PM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

A 2005 paper titled “More Progress, Less Process” was a wake-up call to the field.

Hmm. Does a day go by (he muttered) when librarians and/or archivists don't issue a "wake-up call" to each other about something? QR codes? Laptop chargers? Patrons micturating in the stacks?
posted by lagomorphius at 2:45 PM on September 22, 2017 [5 favorites]

Serendipity is a wonderful thing. This is a great story and archives are wonderful things.
posted by MovableBookLady at 3:31 PM on September 22, 2017

It's "More *Product*, Less Process": Link
posted by mollymillions at 9:01 PM on September 22, 2017

On one hand, I am rolling my eyes at this, but on the other hand, I'm all aflutter and feeling flattered. Archivists seem glamorous and interesting now??! I'll take it. (I'm an archivist)

And it is really exciting work, processing collections. This article does a surprisingly good job describing the work and describing the juggling act of keeping information in your head (or a scratch pad, or spreadsheet) and using your best judgment re: paperclips and things, and the excruciatingly difficult task of not becoming engrossed in the material you're supposed to be arranging. I knew an archivist who had a sign above his desk: NO READING. If you start to read the papers, you're sunk. You can't stop. It's too good.
posted by witchen at 7:24 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, I loved this! My whole university career has essentially been focused around allowing myself as much time in the archives as is humanly possible. I literally cannot get enough of it (OK, that's not entirely true. I spent a month photographing nearly 3000 pages in the archives this summer, and on my last day I said "you know, I think I'm a little archived out" -- but I'm planning on going back again soon, so I guess I wasn't put off forever, thank God). I think I've basically found the ideal activity for someone as completely obsessive as I am. There really is something amazing about going through something page by page. You start to notice things you would never see otherwise.

Of course, making a career out of it is a whole other story... I've all but given up on the idea of becoming an archivist because of how incredibly competitive I've heard the field is. For now, at least, I'm very happy that I've had the opportunity to spend as much time in the archives as I already have. It's really been a blast.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:24 AM on September 26, 2017

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