Archives and Manuscripts Week 7

This week for class we discussed preservation and safety in the archives. One of the most interesting articles for class was “On the idea of Permanence” by James O’Toole, which examined what it means to save records and if they need and can be kept forever. The tension came down the distinction between saving the information or saving the physical object as well. This was an important topic since it highlights the differences where people place value. Indeed, if one were to look at the Declaration of Independence for example, is it worth saving people of the information on the document or the value that we give to the document as a piece of history. Due to this tension, archivists must try to find a balance of preserving things that have intrinsic value and maintaining the information that have. This is why such things as microfilm or digitization are important because while they take up space and cost money, they allow for records to be used while limiting the wear on the original documents.

Another important topic from the readings and something that was discussed in class was archival security and safety. WHile one of the readings stressed the dangers of theft and seemed to suggest that archivists should spend much of the time trying to prevent it, the bigger danger to collections appears to be damaged from the elements, sich as fire or water. This is a major concern because while a stolen article can be recovered, once a document its damaged it may be more difficult to repair. The class discussion on this was very interesting because we talked of the new places for Temple’s archives, which will use a water based fire suppressant. Furthermore, it was interesting to see the tension between practical needs and architectural design, since the planners wanted the inclusion of wood for artistic purposes,while the archivists saw the potential dangers that such an inclusion would have.


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