Ironic Appraisal

The Society of American Archivists announced yesterday that “the cost of retaining, administering, and maintaining access to the 1993-2006 archives of the A&A List is substantially higher than is warranted by the evidential or informational value of the archives” and so they will be disposing the entirety of the listserv archives from 1993-2006. Zuh?

I understand that a great number (probably a majority) of the posts on the Archives and Archivists List may be off-topic, outdated, or spam-like, but isn’t the whole idea of being an archivist based on the recognition that individual documents and pieces of information gain value from being presented in the context of their original creation? And don’t we, you know, like to save stuff?

Maintaining the archives of the A&A list will allow future researchers of our profession to see how archivists used early listserv technology, not to mention what we think about such hot-button topics as certification, the Patriot Act, and a whole series of appointed Archivists of the United States, not to mention an irreplaceable documentation of changes in best practices in all areas of archival administration.

Not surprisingly, this announcement has stirred up a flood of indignant posts on the current version of the A&A listserv (to clarify, the listserv changed servers and administrators in October 2006 – posts made since the change will not be affected by the current decision). Some members are trolling through the archives of the old listserv and downloading their favorite posts. Others are threatening to print the whole thing out and put it in a giant acid-free box.

Yesterday this story got picked up by, via a post by Rick Prelinger on his blog. If nothing else, this decision paints a totally embarrassing picture of the archives community for non-archives folks.

Hopefully the leadership of SAA will reconsider their decision and maintain the listserv archives – if nothing else, in an off-line format that could be accessed on-site as part of the institutional archives of SAA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If not, have fun searching the soon-to-be destroyed information until March 31st.


2 Responses to Ironic Appraisal

  1. D says:

    Yeah, I just posted my own comment to the listserv. I really can’t believe they wouldn’t foresee the political fallout from such a stupid decision. I’m sure Dr. Galloway’s head already exploded.

  2. Bored_Yesterday says:

    I understand the arguments for nixing it. It doesn’t have long term value as a record of SAA activities.

    On the other hand, as a cultural artifact, the posts contain evidence of viewpoints and personalities otherwise unrepresented in the professional literature. I like the idea that there will be a record of the profession’s undercurrent of practioners who do the work of archives while the academics write all the books and hog floor time at conferences.

    Aslong as there are offers from other entitites to preserve the posts. Why not? But still, it doesn’t bother me much one way or the other.

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