Ending in the Archives.

Well, it is my last semester of classes before writing my thesis this coming Spring.  How interesting for the journey of M.A. public history study to end with Archives and Manuscripts for Public Historians and Managers of Cultural Institutions.  It is almost like this little blog is now an archive of public history study.

I have been a bit focused on the values presented by Mark Greene in “The Power of Archives: Archivists’ Values and Value in the Postmodern Age.”  Firstly, though, I noticed that Greene described the challenge for archivists to describe what they do is very similar to what public historians in general face.  It made me think back to my courses with Seth to consider if any of the history of public history pieces we read had defined values for public historians to substantiate the field with collective meaning.

It will not be a surprise to anyone, I think, that the values I most identify with from Greene’s article have to do with activism– agency, advocacy, and archiving the marginalized.  However, I also am greatly interested in reading more on how the value of use trumps the value of preservation.  I understand why this value arguably matters most, but I would imagine that not all archivists feel this way.  I would like to read a different opinion (and maybe I will with the remaining reading for the week).

The other thing I am wondering about after reading Greene’s article is about appraisal.  Why do archivists fear it?  Better yet– what exactly is appraisal?  What is the process?  How does it work?

A lot of thoughts, really.  I’m now getting into “What is Past is Prologue” by Terry Cook and highly enjoying the way capital M Memory is identified as the “Mother of all Muses”– that through Memory, “society can be nursed to healthy and creative maturity,” but in order to use Memory correctly, we-collectively, perhaps as archivists or as citizens or as humans– must battle the balance of remembering and forgetting.  This passage ended with a gorgeous quote from one of my most favorite authors, Milan Kundera: “…the struggle against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”  I think, though, there is another quote from Mr. Kundera for all of us to think about in terms of archives and public history– “The future is only an indifferent void no one cares about, but the past is filled with life, and its countenance is irritating, repellent, wounding, to the point that we want to destroy or repaint it. We want to be masters of the future only for the power to change the past.” 

Cheers!  I am so excited to spend the semester considering what and how we choose to remember.

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