Reading Archives

With this blog, I am planning to offer, as regularly as possible, critical observations on the scholarly and popular literature analyzing the nature of archives or contributing to our understanding of archives in society. I hope this blog will be of assistance to anyone, especially faculty and graduate students, interested in understanding archives and their importance to society.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

National Treasure

The second National Treasure movie was a disappointment, especially with its fine cast, stringing together one historical cliché after another. Yes, we get to see people chasing each other through the Library of Congress, the staging of lectures and exhibitions about historical documents, the use of historical documents as clues, and a variety of other archival images. It is great mindless entertainment, although I found myself bored at a number of places, checking my watch, and looking for one great scene where archives and archivists are portrayed in some astounding insightful fashion. It was too much to ask.

However, I don’t think archivists should write off the entire enterprise. There is now a series of children’s books, written for middle schoolers, accompanying the movies. The first book – Catherine Hapka, Changing Tides: A Gates Family Mystery (New York: Disney Press, 2007) – introduces us to the Gates family in early seventeenth century and takes us to the Virginia colony. The second book, National Treasure: Book of Secrets (New York: Disney Press, 2007), is based on the script of the present movie. A third book, apparently based on the first movie, is scheduled to appear in March 2008. Reading the first two books make you realize that the real theme of these movies is not history, archives, old documents, but treasure hunting. Still, I wonder if the movies and books might not get kids curious about archives; after all, there is not much else out there for piquing the interest of youngsters about archives and archivists.


At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was also very disappointed with this movie. Not only was it the same basic idea as the first one, it also seemed factually inaccurate (even beyond what I can swallow in a movie). My research background is in indigenous cultures of Latin America and I don't even know where to begin to describe where the movie went wrong. Films like this make me cringe because it only propagates the legends and lore of indigenous cultures without encouraging actual research that is factual, though perhaps less fantastical.

At 1:04 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I as a parent of 3 boys under 10 I really enjoyed this movie. I guess it takes a parent to appreciate the fact that there are a few good action movies out there that are appropriate for kids. No killing, no bad language, sexual content, just a good clean mystery that kept their attention and though the movie might not have been spot on historically, it does give kids an interest in history. I really enjoyed the movie and watching it with my kids.


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