Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
Like the making of history, the writing of history is a collaborative venture. It may look as if ideas are entirely the product of the individual imagination but, as any honest, straight-talking historian will tell you, they are the result of a group effort. The writer-cum-historian gets all the credit but were it not for the efforts of archivists, not much would get done. Keepers of the flame, of the historical record, they are the great unsung heroes of the scholarly enterprise.
They are also among the very first to be fired when the chips are down. When it comes to cutting institutional costs, archivists are widely thought to be the most dispensable. After all, goes the reasoning, they are merely stewards of the past — guardians of paper — rather than vital contributors to the present.
True, archivists do not generate money for their institutions. But what they do generate — and sustain and nourish — is a vibrant sense of history, without which the broader community is impoverished in ways that go well beyond the contours of a budget.