Closing an Era: Historical Perspectives on Modern Archives and Records Management

Closing an Era: Historical Perspectives on Modern Archives and Records Management

Closing an Era: Historical Perspectives on Modern Archives and Records Management

Closing an Era: Historical Perspectives on Modern Archives and Records Management

Synopsis

The importance of records in modern society is explored by re-examining some of the historical antecedents for critical functions in the modern records professions. The motivation for writing this book comes from a conviction of the importance of records and records professionals in organizations and society, as well as the need to possess a stronger sense of the events, trends, people, debates, and controversies producing the modern records professions.

Excerpt

Considering how technology and science relate to society’s continuing evolution, the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson wrote these memorable words: ‘‘In every civilization, the skilled artificer has an honored place beside the scribe and the shaman.’’ Whereas Dyson was examining the role of the ‘‘artificer’’—the technologist and scientist—I am considering in this book the role of the scribe—or, in this case, the modern equivalent in the archivist and records manager.

A decade of experience in teaching future archivists and records managers is at the core of this book’s content. These nine chapters explore the importance of records in our modern society, a seemingly modest and mundane topic in all the glitter and glamour of the Information or Knowledge Age, by re-examining some of the historical antecedents for critical functions in the modern records profession. My motivation for writing this book comes from my conviction of the importance of records and records professionals in organizations and society, as well as the need to possess a stronger sense of the events, trends, people, debates, and controversies producing the modern records professions.

William Sullivan writes that a profession is ‘‘in business for the common good as well as for the good of its members, or it is not a profession.’’ This two-edged sword to professionalism, a concept itself much maligned in this modern era when ready access to vast quantities of information seems destined to end the expert’s monopoly over certain forms of knowledge, is particularly relevant in the modern Information Age. We live in a time when so many of the new technologies seem to threaten records, government accountability, corporate memories, individual rights, and self-understanding.

The array of information technologies provides many dangers and opportunities for traditional ways of managing records. The records profession-

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