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.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Reading the Archives Building

If you talk with any researcher who has visited a number of different archives, they will tell you of many different experiences in these facilities, from buildings that are old and decrepit with no accessible parking to wonderful newer facilities that make working with archival records a sheer joy. The structures housing archival records can tell us a lot about a particular archival program, sometimes more than the archives really wants to convey.

Although Thomas P. Wilsted’s Planning New and Remodeled Archival Facilities (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2007) is “about planning new and remodeled archival buildings, and how archivists design buildings that provide for collection and user needs for the next twenty-five to fifty years, a task complicated by the rapid changes in technology” (p. 7) – it can also be read by anyone who desires to gain greater knowledge about what an archives building must support.

In this amply illustrated and well-written manual, Wilsted considers all the essentials of archives buildings, from selecting the building site, designing the structure, working with architects and contractors, creating environmental controls, dealing with security and fire resistant facilities, renovating older buildings into functional archival repositories, equipping archival facilities, moving into the new facilities (often a very complicated process), and managing the new facilities.

This is an important reference for anyone administering an archives and for those desiring to gain a better understanding of what archives are all about.