Week of September 24 Writing


The lack of early reference to sessions to educate users on how to work with archivies is not surprising. in our earliest period we were just trying to understand the purpose and the reasosn for our profession. this should go without saying the we were more concerned with making the case for our collections than anything else.

What were the major issues facing early archivist?

  • Professionalism?
  • Collection policies?
  • Support?
  • How to deal with collections?

These possible early questions can lead us to examining how and when the profession started to reach out to users.


What will be the language of instruction in the early days or will there be none? The selective reading i’ve done from 1938-1941 suggest that early in the profession I need to focus on working with public relations and archivial users. This seems to be how the profession first approached the issues. The acknowledgement of schools is rather minimal though this quote from 1940 is illustrative.

“The archivist should not neglect the opportunities for making friends in the schools and colleges of his state. During this year, I hope to spend one day in each senior and junior college in Mississippi, lecturing to history classes on the department.” AA 1940 McCain Willimam, oct 1940.

The major issues it seems in the early period of the profession is that most archives were not attached to schools so instructional activities where not something they thought of. This is an important point to consider. Since archives, where primarly private or governmental at this date much of their work focused on dealing with these types of groups. The article qouted here demostrates this greatly. McCain goes on at lenght about courting businement genaalogist, the press, and governement officals, but relgates schools to a one sentence mention in the conclusions.

Much of the focus on instruction must emerge during the expansion of the archivial profession during the 1960 when many university were establishing archives an new peopler were entering the field. Does the social history movement have some resason to play in the includion of educational activities.


“Strategic objectives in Archival” Policy American Archivist 1938 p163

“Of course it would be possible to dodge all these problems if we
should adopt as a foundation of archival policy the idea that only
the professional scholar would be welcomed, or possibly that only the
professional scholar would be served. But to take such a view would
be to miss our great opportunity. I hold that even the most amateur
genealogist ought to be welcomed in our archives, and the people
should be allowed to browse through old legal records. The public
should learn to expect in the archives of its own community the same
kind of reference service that its public library gives.

This is a surprising sentiment from 1938. research to this point has shown a lack of interest in engaging with the public. Sees engaging with the community as important aspect of engaging with the community. This sentiment is echo with a slight tone in early literature, but it still seems that archivist are not acting on this impulse. The following quote is also illustrative of this sentiment

“With our knowledge of what we have, we can begin to study the question of how it is to be used. It would be a mis- take to think that the use of our archives is merely to provide docu- mentation which scholars can work into books. We must think of it also as a place in which teachers in our schools will read for interest- ing information to be used in their classes; we must think of it as a reference room in which whole classes of questions—such as the date of this, the cost of that—will normally come for answer.” 165

I think this represents one of the earliest mentions of classrooms and how archives are important to them. This sentiment needs to be explored further, in particular tracking its author along further.

Possible research avenues

  • Collection of archivist papers
  • Does SAA have such a collection

If this is the first time this sentiment has been used it’s surprising to me, but it could mean i don’t know the profession as well as I once thought.

The public archives of a community can become a kind of local
encyclopaedia, and the public can be taught to use it. The people
generally will then come to be shocked by the destruction of records that ought to be preserved just as they are shocked by cruelty to animals and as they are coming to be shocked by cruelty to automobiles” 166 -167

Binkley actually alludes to the idea of educating users. His approach in more about understand what should be kept and what should not be kept. Not so much what is at play with how to use archivieal collections. This next statement seems to say a little more to me than all the rest.

“so archivists have as a part of their duty to give stimulus and guidance to the use of archives, and to their use not by the few but by the many. “168

This is an important statement and one at the heart of this paper. This probably the first time in professional writing that the importance of educating the public on the use of archives is stated. This statement sets an importance precedent for the profession and leads to greater educational developments in the future.

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