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, November 12, 2008

Thinking About the Future

Nan Mooney, (Not) Keeping Up With Our Parents: The Decline of the Professional Middle Class (Boston: Beacon Press, 2008) is not a book about archives, but it is a book that archivists (as well as librarians, museum curators, and university professors) should read, since we are all part of this class. Mooney presents a carefully research, if depressing, analysis of the weakening financial and social status of professionals, especially those who are in the creative sector or who are committed to contributing to the public good. She describes low salaries, disappearing pension and retirement plans, weakening medical benefits (if any at all), and other similarly depressing concerns (and one reads in disbelief realizing this book appeared before the collapse of Wall Street!). However, Mooney also argues that the well-educated and talented pool of such professionals should turn their abilities to trying to reform society and resolve some of these issues; this makes for an entertaining and thought-provoking reading. She concludes the book in this way: "If there's one thing we must keep in mind about our current economic situation it is this: We are not failures and we are not alone. We have it within us -- every single one of us -- to fight back if we so choose. Don't just tentatively poke at the boundaries of how life might be. Bust through them with all the power you can muster." Then this: "Be active. Be vocal. Be creative. Be radical. This is your life. Make it matter" (p. 216).

I will restrain myself from commenting on all the various ways archivists might want to contemplate the issues Mooney raises and the actions she raises -- that, is, after all, for each individual to contemplate. I know for myself, however, that writing this blog is part of my own activities in this resisting and changing the negative influences in our society on the important mission of archivists. I hope that by regularly providing commentaries on how archives are perceived that archivists will reconsider how they seek to carryout their efforts to meet their mission. Failing that, however, I admit I have turned to landscape painting as a creative outlet, even though my limited abilities will not allow me to give up my day job!

Maine Coastal Sunset 2008