THE ROLE OF ARCHIVISTS IN A CHANGING WORLD
I’m reminded of a story about speaking in your own hometown: A man was asked by his hometown historical society to speak at their next meeting. When he arrived the only ones there were the board members and a couple of old geezers in the back. “Did you tell them I was coming?” he asked them. “No, I guess we really didn’t,” the chair answered “but it sure looks like the word seeped out.”
And from the philosopher Boethius: “Every age is a dream that is dying and a new age coming to life.”
From the paleontologist Chardin: “The only task worthy of our efforts is to construct the future.”
And from the Zen: “The meaning of life is to see.”
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about this conference and this presentation for two reasons. The first is a simple one: if there were ever a place where I would not expect to be invited, this would certainly seem to be it. I would certainly understand
an invitation to colleges and civic social groups, to spirituality centers and ecumenical programs, yes. But at a conference of archivists? Trust me: until now, at least, the chances were slim to non-existent
And yet, the second reason I’ve thought so much about today’s presentation is equally simple: if there were ever a group I identify with--as well as with writers and speakers,
with educators and researchers, with historians and theologians, archivists are definitely it.
What that means is that I could not be further away than I am from the life of an archivist. But it also means that as a woman, as a writer, as a social scientist I realize my indebtedness to you and to your profession.
I value your work and I respect your dedication to it. In fact, I think the values and sensitivity with which archivists approach the development of public archives may actually be what is missing in much of public life today. Which is why I want to talk today about what it means to choose a profession, to make a career a vocation, to decide between making a salary and making a difference,