April 2, 2007
I never get to listen to On the Media, since my NPR affiliate doesn’t carry it, but I was able to pick it up driving through East Texas yesterday afternoon. This week’s show has a good segment on the email-trail issues in the Gonzalez scandal that touches on issues of government agency email and the questions of long-term record keeping. There’s also an interview with scholar Anna Nelson on the history and legacy of the Presidental Records Act.
This morning’s ATC had one of those trademark NPR “sexy archives” segments, on the cache of flirty correspondence between Marlene Dietrich and Ernest Hemingway stashed at the JFK Library. However, the segment didn’t touch on a slightly more salacious archival allegation involving Ms. Dietrich and the Kennedy family that surfaced when the the diaries of Kenneth Tynan were made public.
March 14, 2007
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understand that a great number (probably a majority) of the posts on the Archives and Archivists List may be off-topic, outdated, or spam-like, but isn’t the whole idea of being an archivist based on the recognition that individual documents and pieces of information gain value from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 BoingBoing.net, 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.