Archives and Manuscripts Week 12

This week for class we discussed different theories on the nature of archives and their roles in society. One of the main readings, Rand Jimerson’s “Embracing the Power of Archives,” identified three different aspects of the archives, the temple, the prison, and the restaurant. Jimerson believed that these three aspects represented the archives power as veneration, control, and performer. This was important because Jimerson believed that archivists are not neutral and thus must embrace the power that comes with archives in order to better perform their role in the understanding of the past. One interesting argument from the article was the idea that archives are not a repository of memory since the records do not necessarily show was happened or what was true but rather are a record how and when a document was created (25). However, this is a bit concerning since if taken to its logical conclusion it means that we can never understand the past since the we can not define what was true. This would then cast doubt on the field of history and then the usefulness of archives. Thus the ability of archives to retain information to come to an understanding of past truths in an important aspect of archives that cannot be overlooked. On a whole Jimerson’s work is important because it raises questions over the system of archives and challenges archivists to recognize the great responsibility that they have. Indeed, while his ideas as archives as prisons and archivists as actors is a bit concerning since it implies a oppressiveness and pantomime-ness to the field, it is an interesting way to think about the role of archives in modern society.

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