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, January 21, 2009

Personal Archives

Here is information from my publisher of a new book about personal archives. I thought since I spend so much commenting on other books, I would at least provide some notice about this one.

Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations
Author: Richard J. Cox
Price: $35.00
Published: January 2009
ISBN: 978-0-9802004-7-8
Printed on acid-free paper
In the U.S.:, Barnes and Noble
In Canada:
In the U.K.:
Buy directly from us

In Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations, Richard J. Cox argues that personal archives might be assuming a new importance in society. As the technical means for creating, maintaining, and using documents are improving and becoming more cost-effective, individuals and families are seeking to preserve their old documents, especially traditional paper forms, as a connection to a past that may seem to be in risk of being of being swallowed up in the immense digital gadgetry in our Internet Age. There is a reversal to other technologies as well, such as leather bound journals and fountain pens, by some individuals resisting or protesting the increasingly digital world they reside in. Behind these very different approaches are similar impulses, and, these divergent paths raise identical questions about the role and purpose of traditional archives dating back two centuries and more. Personal recordkeeping raises a remarkable array of issues and concerns about records and their preservation, public or collective memory, the mission of professional records managers and archivists, the nature of the role of the institutional archives, and the function of the individual citizen as their own archivist. Archivists need to develop a new partnership with the public, and the public needs to learn from the archivists the essentials of preserving documentary materials. We are on the cusp of seeing a new kind of archival future, and whether this is good or bad depends on how well archivists equip citizen archivists.


At 6:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

..."Archivists need to develop a new partnership with the public, and the public needs to learn from the archivists the essentials of preserving documentary materials. We are on the cusp of seeing a new kind of archival future, and whether this is good or bad depends on how well archivists equip citizen archivists."

Lots of initial thoughts of course, one being addressed to the last part above--are archivists equipped themselves to advise on conservation too ? A key word must be 'essential' or 'basic' might be a better term to use above. They are quite different skills and education requirements as well.

Libraries have a long tradition of personal journals and manuscripts (i.e. "written by hand" = manuscript as opposed to archive) which is also yet another big ? I always have. If a journal was bound in leather, depending on whether it was handwritten or not, also whether it was of value for other reasons i.e. special binding etc or part of a larger important collection. I once had a very unique item that was made from thumbnails only from Asia/India, I can't recall offhand, however it was a unique example of where to house it accordingly--is it a manuscript actually as it was made 'by hand' as well.

Many questions on terminologies and perspectives is my biggest issue always, can we put someones personal journal writing by hand in with the corporate archives of such and such, are they the same?

Also, did the person keep their 'archive' or personal journals, diaries for private use only or public viewing. There are some ethics in this question as well, and yes collection management ! :-)

I do like the cover...will it be an e-book? ! ?

At 6:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should further add that the item mentioned in the last comment on this, the pages were "written" by pressing someones thumbnails on the leaves and it was bound in a special way--so, one would have to collaborate on this type of item is it a manuscript in fact i.e. hand written so to speak, or should it go with the other collections as a special type of binding etc. It was not meant for the archives either--it was a collection of wedding salutations made in the 19th c. and from what I can recall it went to the manuscripts division.

just wanted to explain that a bit more...thanks...

At 3:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just a question on the blog archives to the right hand side of the screen, is there a way you can edit the Archives listed from 2006 onwards with more than just a date for readers?

You have above a few recent headings, but if one wants to search for a topic on older archives listed, it's rather slow searching by the search box on top.

How might one make your archives more accessible besides the date posted? it's a valid question its very awkward to search older postings on this, so one might ask also do you want the blog archives to be accessible to readers readily or just act as archive only.

Just wanted to ask...thank you.
another question I just had was do blog writers expect users to find them simply through Google or other feeds pushing content "out" ?
not everyone subscribes this way or wants to, having too much filling their inboxes already :-)

was just wondering--thanks...

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You and readers may have already seen this conference being hosted at the British Library, of further interest upcoming next week, you can attend as an 'avatar' or a real person :-)

First Digital Lives Research Conference: Personal Digital Archives for the 21st Century
British Library hosting

The Digital Lives Research Project is designed to provide a major pathfinding study of personal digital collections. The project team drawn from the British Library, University College London and University of Bristol is led by Dr Jeremy Leighton John of the British Library (the lead partner) and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The research for Digital Lives commenced in September 2007 and will run until March 2009, with dissemination continuing until June 2009. We expect outcomes from our research to generate significant interest within arts and humanities, and the archives, library and information science professions as well as social and human sciences. It will also be of direct relevance to individuals who wish to manage their own personal digital collections for family history, biographical or other purposes.

press release from Nature Publishing and the British Library

"Digital lives conference invites virtual delegates to Elucian Islands "
On Feb 11, virtual delegates can join the conference on the Elucian Islands, the Second Life home of Nature Publishing Group and Macmillan Publishers.
see further at :

The Digital Lives research conference will examine how libraries and archives can support individuals who wish to organize, preserve, and transfer their personal digital archives.


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