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.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Vergangenheitsbewältigung: Coming to Terms with the Past in Germany

Archivists have long struggled with the implications of computers for their work, but now it seems that technology is being used in creative ways to support archival work. Andrew Curry, in “Intel Inside,” Wired 16 (February 2008): 126-131, 149, 152, describes how efforts are being made, with the help of computers, to put back together Stasi files shredded as the Iron Curtain crashed. The Stasi, the East German secret police, sought to destroy its records, shredding by machine and ripping by hand 45 million documents into 600 million paper scraps. In May 2007 German computer scientists announced they had developed a way of doing this digitally, and that they could do it in five years – an amazing accomplishment if it is done given that the documents are “made of everything from carbon paper and newsprint to Polaroid and heavy file folders” (p. 149). You can read the story at