Reading 4 – Cook “What is past is prologue: History of archival ideas since 1898, and the future paradigm shift”. Archivaria 43 pp. 17-63

As a first impression of this reading I was drawn to the length, the essay itself is thirty three pages long which made me concerned as to how the writer would keep my attention. After completing this reading I was right to be concerned as the language, writing style and length combined together made this a very heavy reading and one I struggled to follow. In short the essay reviews the pathway of the concept of an archive, it looks at how they were developed, why their purpose has been and now is and finally how they have changed to be socially, politically and culturally relevant.

Archives started as Houses of Memory in 1898 they were designed to be the keys to the collective memory where anything that is worth remembering is stored.  However, in this time period the things that had been forgotten provoke the question of whether it was deliberately removed or done so accidentally. Through this time period there was a large concentration on government control where people of authority could depict who can and can not speak within public and archival settings. As the years progressed there has been proof that many archives have been tampered with, especially during World War One when Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig had the archives changed to make him less culpable for the slaughter on the western front. With the corruption of the archives, rules had to be created but these then became too constricting as they included rules such as “keeping them separate and not mixing any archives across subjects”.

As the years have progressed and the creation and evolution of the computer and telecommunications there was a call for new ways to keep archives, using organised systems and websites. As the growth of archives developed so did the amount of work being submitted to them which then caused a back log and so a process of selection needed to be made but first a way needed to be found. This way was the archivist or keepers, who had to make a personal judgment based on their knowledge and experience within the field of study. Today archives are developing even more and providing a platform for current artists to rediscover artifacts that have been long lost.

The rest of the reading looks in more detail at the reasoning for the changes and the theoretical writings to support the changes.

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