Thoughts on Archives

I was struck by the process of controlling information during both readings.  There is a huge emphasis on selectivity, limiting the collection to the most valuable resources and limiting those with access to certain people.  Ridener made it very clear that there is the field is battling to maintain its place of importance.  Yet, with the proliferation of media and democratizing nature of the internet it seems like archives may be losing their importance. 

While Ridener emphasized the appraisal process as crucial to the archives, I was interested in the transfer of materials into the archives through the accessioning or description process.  There is a great concern with legal and material control and also intellectual control.  I never considered intellectual control in such explicit terms as described in Joffrion’s Powerpoint, but I can understand the importance of it in an archive.  Is citing work from archived material any different?  Would archivists like to see the archived material used in certain ways or for a certain purpose?      

I also enjoyed thinking about the link between the past and present.  One can learn as much about the past as the present in an archive.  Not only do archives hold some of the most unique, significant information available in their original form, but the entire process of categorizing, safeguarding and collecting these materials gives a great deal of insight into our own society.  What do you value and how has that changed over the years?  Who gets to choose what goes into an archive or which documents to associate or group with which?  Do some archives have a political agenda?  How have the materials changed over time?  Our own work with the WDP speaks to the changing nature of archival material as we will be passing along video and audio records.  I’m curious to see if I can get answers to some of these questions during our visit.


The Williamsburg Documentary Project (WDP) strives to collect and preserve the rich past of Williamsburg, Virginia. By conducting oral history interviews, building physical and digital archives, and creating online exhibits, the WDP interprets Williamsburg’s recent past. The WDP works towards developing a better understanding of Williamsburg by bringing together individuals, local groups, Colonial Williamsburg, and the College of William & Mary.

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