Wednesday, April 01, 2015
manufact n. ~ an artifact considered as an object that records and preserves meaning similar tot he way that an archival record does
Notes Just as a manuscript is written by hand, a manufact is made by hand. Each is a human creation, each records the fact of its manufacture, and each transports meaning into the future for continued use by other humans. The concept of the manufact accepts that all “recordings” (even digital “recordings” of text or image or sound, or physical recordings in the form of objects) exist as physical realities that maintain information over time, thus each must be accorded the respect archivists usually reserve only for the record.
Washburn, Wilcomb E. “Manuscripts and Manufacts,” The American Archivist 27:2 (April 1964): 247. The important distinction is not between the written word and the material object but between the specific fact and the general idea. The specific fact may be either in the form of a written document—a manuscript—or a material artifact or “manufact” (if I may be permitted to use an archaic term to demonstrate the close relationship of the artifact and the manuscript). The historian has an obligation to the specific before he plunges into the general, and it is this responsibility that unifies the manuscript and the manufact.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
|SAA President Danna C. Bell Just before Her Presidential Address, Washington, D.C. (14 August 2014)|
I am a person of words, of words isolated, of words in roving packs, of words sunk into the soft bedding of the page, of words swirling into my ears. I am the captive of the word, the manner in which it holds and transmits meaning, the shapes it takes upon a screen, the sounds it has in flight.
In fact, I almost forgot about it, because it wasn't listed on the little app I used to navigate the conference. I remembered at the last moment but still made it on time. Upon walking into the room, a small one, I noted that many of the sessions at this conference were more than ten times larger than that room. There were probably under 100 people in attendance, but they were all people Danna knew well, except for a few extra people who unwittingly followed invitees into the room.
I remain ambivalent about Danna's decision to give her speech in this manner. On one hand, I understand the difficulty some people have speaking in public. (Personally, I can't really understand it, because the bigger the crowd, the more comfortable I am speaking before it. The size of the crowd gives me energy. I pull it out of their bodies.) Still, I like to believe that leadership requires us to push ourselves beyond on areas of comfort. I would have preferred Danna to give a speech to everyone or to explain before the conference why she wasn't.
She begin by talking about using primary materials in education, something her life is focused on, and she demonstrated, through personal illustrations in her life, how "we must think about the story," how "we must think of the people behind the documents." She made some of the arguments I myself would make for archives and archivists. She hit some delicate nerves within me and played a bit of music.
And her ending was beautiful, if extended.
She began by quoting from, of all places, Mary McLeod Bethune's last will and testament:
I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you thirst for education. I leave you respect for the uses of power. I leave you faith. I leave you dignity.And Danna continued with that anaphoric structure, never letting on that she'd left out the details Bethune had included after each of those opening sentences, which were simply dramatic topic sentences to most of the ending paragraphs of her will.
Then Danna switched the tables. Bethune was a woman in the present past who was looking forward to a time when she would be dead and people would hear her words as words from the past urging them forward. Danna was a woman in the present giving words in that present as a means to make us move forward toward that wished-for future. What Danna did was wish for the future with us; she wasn't leaving us anything. She was telling us her desires, hoping they'd be ours, encouraging us to think of them as such. Telling us to make them so (as Bethune herself was, from another direction).
Though, maybe the world of archives seems a less important place than the struggle for racial justice, especially today, I still believe that archives holds some of the promise of that justice.
In the climax of her presidential address, Danna asked for a world where archives matter more to people. And she gave a wish for the SAA staff, saying that "full-time staff, just like archivists, deserve jobs and living wages, benefits and support." (I loved that human touch, that respect given to a group of people who work hard for the Society and accomplish more than I would ever think possible.) Danna also wished that members would support one another more, finding ways in which we are brought together as one, rather than ways in which we can separate from each other. She said, "We are a strong, vital, powerful group with great minds and passionate hearts." And I believe it. I believed her. I see it.
In the end, I don't know for sure why Danna didn't want to give a presidential address or why she gave her speech this way, but I accept that this venue, that small crowd, might have made it possible to give a speech as good as the one she gave. I'll take what I can get. I'll accept what is lost if what replaces it seems sufficient.
And this speech seemed more than good enough. And it is available on line for all to see, to hear. We can all watch it. And we can watch it again. I'd move the dial to the last eight minutes of the speech. I'll listen to that again. I already have tonight.
I am a man of words, of my word, and I'll accept these words from Danna as a gift to archivists. I'm happy for the gift.
Earlier today, I wrote to Danna to explain that I'd be writing this little essay, to say that I'd explain my thoughts about the speech and its manner and place of birth. Danna seemed curious about what I'd have to say, so I was glad I didn't surprise her with this.
Yet I continue to wish I had heard this presidential address in a grand hall, even if that meant I'd miss a chance to see her mother again or meet her aunts and uncles. I wish everyone had had the chance I had to hear this live and in person, even if not as intimately as I had.
I'm sitting teeteringly between two poles of thought. But I'll let the more hopeful thought win out.
Friday, April 25, 2014
1. Go to https://archive.webex.com/archive/j.php?MTID=m8fda032f7acda77058ae15de91b297fa
2. If requested, enter your name and email address
3. If a password is required, enter the meeting password: Webharvest1
4. Click "Join".
5. Follow the instructions that appear on your screen.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
I'm a native Californian, descendant of multiple '49ers (none athletes). I've lived in five states, nine countries, and four continents, and I don't have a favorite country.
I know too much about beer, so bring homebrew (which I don't make). I am serious half the time.
I climb fast. I live in the world of archives because I'm passionate about it, and I'm passionate about electronic records more than is seemly.
I am a poet, visual and otherwise, mostly working in forms of poetry you will not have heard of. My shortest poem is one punctuation mark long.
My work has been shown in Bergen, Norway. I was a small but active part of the 1980s zine revolution.
Cliff Hight is one of my favorite people, and ALI14 will be my first time seeing him outside of an SAA conference, even though we graduated from the same library school.
Natalie Baur is one of the few people I know who knows the South American card game Telefunken, though the version she plays is considerably different from my Bolivian version.
I've never played a musical instrument, but I can provide you with recordings of my playing. I sing constantly, even at work, as my secretary can tell you, but the only song I know all the words to is "Happy Birthday."
I am known to tell jokes. Language is my medium and element.
I keep my home at 52 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter (511.67 degrees Rankine). I have a general interest in clothing and color.
In 2008, I attended the first instance of ALI in Madison, Wisconsin. I firmly believe you'll all have a great time at ALI, because I know the people who will be working with you, I've read about all of you, and because there is also something that happens at ALI to bring people together and inspire them.
All of this is true. Be well, and see you in 101 days!
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
|firewater (at Pat O'Brien's) (17 August 2013)|
My thought tonight is to begin to remember a little of New Orleans, specifically the Society of American Archivists' conference there last week, and to begin to stitch together a story. I begin with the night before leaving New Orleans because a story told in the proper order is not a story at all.
I found myself, at a point that night that was almost late, walking down Bourbon Street, a street known for rowdiness--and this was a Friday night. When I asked why we were walking down Bourbon Street, the answer was, "Because everyone wanted to," yet no-one expressed that want in such a way that I could hear it, which is understandable. The noise at Pat O'Brien's was huge and wavelike, surging at me, trapped as I was against a metal fence, pinned in by chairs to either side of me, the table--everything was metal--preventing my escape forward, if I'd wanted to escape.
Strangely, I'd found myself at Pat O'Brien's in much the same way. I had just started reviewing the beer selection* at Ralph & Kacoo's again with my friend Scott Goodine, the provincial archivist of Manitoba, when suddenly Rachel Vagts told me we were leaving. The "we" was not exactly clear at the time, but it ended up being much of the steering committee and both of the staff from the Archives Leadership Institute (@ Luther). I still ordered my beer and stood at the bar talking to Scott, but soon "we" were indeed leaving, so I had the bartender dump my remaining beer in a styrofoam cup and I hit the streets of New Orleans with my first open container of alcohol.†
|Walking the Streets of New Orleans with a Styrofoam Cup of Beer (17 August 2013)|
Pat O'Brien's was wild with the noise of talking and music and waterfirefountains, and we were there (I learned during the walk) for hurricanes, a common New Orleanian drink that consists of lots of sweet juice and some alcohol--the latter which appears to always be imperceptible through the sweetness. Once there, we sat at a round metal table and talked. About anything. Sometimes archives. Sometimes the fact that I never slept and never have had a hangover. Sometimes about where we were. Always about anything.
The reason I go to SAA each year‡ is to learn, and much of what I want to learn is about people I know or don't yet know. Archivists may be a strange and ruly-unruly breed, but there is something exhilarating about being together with 1650+ of one's closest colleagues and friends and talking in a language not many people know. I go to SAA to have a great time, to learn as much as I can, to help others learn whatever it is that I know, and to make jokes. (The last may be related to having a great time.)
And I go there to make sure SAA thrives. I've been a member continuously since October 1988, when I was in graduate school beginning my life as an archivist, and I do what I can to make SAA thrive so that I can help archivists thrive. And maybe it's because some of them are my friends, and because I am somehow free at SAA to feel the power of humanity, the power of friendship, but also that of the purpose and passion of archivist, of the drive to do good well.
In what seemed like almost no time at all, we were finished with our work at Pat O'Brien's, the massmind of my friends having decided (again, outside the range of my perception) that it was time to leave, and we left the facility from the other side of its majuscule L, foot-tall hurricane glasses in hand (courtesy of Rachel--and I had two, since I took the one Terry Baxter left behind). Suddenly, we were on Bourbon Street's riot of noise and light and flesh, watching people vomit as they walked, watching people take their three-year-old children by the hand through the throng, watching the sign blinking "LIVE LOVE ACTS."‡‡ In the accordioning mass of people, which we snaked through as well as we could, we occasionally broke into individual pearls of humanity, separate from our friends, but we would soon pull back into a line of limbs curving through the crowd.
Eventually, we exited Bourbon Street, where people barely made room for a police car, lights rolling, that was trying to inch its way through the humanity. So what did we do first? Look for food for the next morning's meeting, something happening on Sunday, my last session of the conference, even if post conference, the Archives Leadership Institute's Practices Workshop, another round of connection, another attempt to bring ourselves together, another venue for linking, our final chance at building more relationships between us as we try to unravel the mystery of making and keeping the light of archives burning at the start of the twenty-first century. (But that's another story, if maybe not the next.)
Later, back at the hotel, I packed my suitcase, and lay in bed watching the middle of a poor comedy, wanting to see how it ended even though it was clear what the ending would be. But I gave up, I relented, I poured myself into my weariness. And I dreamed of connections, of people, of how archives is always about people, about relationships, about the blurry boundaries between ideas, about how we are all one in our multiplicity of differences, about intertwingularity, about arrangement and description.
* NB: Do not visit New Orleans for the beer. The beer in and near the state of New Orleans is never much good. But if you must go to New Orleans for the beer, go to the Avenue Pub on St Charles, which has an excellent selection of fine brews, because they almost entirely ignore nearby beers. I provide you this information as a beer aficionado.
† Hint #2: Do not carry a glass container of alcohol on the streets of New Orleans, not even an empty glass made of glass. The fine for that is $500, which explains all the broken glass on Bourbon Street.
‡ At what I too too often note is at grave personal expense (the pocketbook variety here, not physical).
‡‡ As I explained to Terry, "love" means "sex" in this context, but I wasn't sure it was an accurate description of what might have awaited us.
Thursday, October 06, 2011
|Still Life at a Home in Cheyenne, Wyoming (6 October 2011)|
Today, I flew to Chicago and then I flew to Denver, and from Denver I drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming, under a sky that really did seem bigger than the same sky as seen from the eastern part of the country. The reason for this trip is to give a workshop on electronic records tomorrow to 136 people from Wyoming and Colorado. This will be my biggest in-person workshop ever, and by a long shot (I did have an audience of 1,000 once for a webinar, but this is people in one place).
I spent an enjoyable evening tonight with members of the board of the local ARMA chapter, and tomorrow will be my presentation in celebration of Archives Day in Wyoming. I'm hoping to have the energy tomorrow night to report on what happened, because I think it's interesting to see what happens when one of us archivists flies around the country to talk about what we do.
|Members of the Cheyenne ARMA Chapter with Geof Huth|
Monday, January 31, 2011
TIME: 5:30-6:30 (PST) – 8:30-9:30 (EST)
WHERE: Live from Schenectady, NY, via Elluminate
Deciding to join the field of archives and records management is a strange one, a rare career choice, but one filled with many interesting challenges and fruitful rewards. Geof Huth will discuss his own career, how he chose to enter the field, and how he took advantage of opportunities to create a rewarding career but one not at all like the one he had imagined for himself. He will discuss what newcomers to the field need to think about and be prepared to do to find their own surprising careers.
With two decades’ experience in the field, Geof Huth is an authority on best practices in records management in government. He currently serves as the Director of the New York State Archives’ Government Records Services, ensuring the development and delivery of quality records management and archives services to local governments and state agencies across the state. These include direct advisory services, records center services, retention scheduling, and publication and workshop development. He speaks frequently around the country and the state about records management and archives.
Apart from his archives and records management interests and responsibilities, Geof is well known as a ‘visual poet.’ Check out his dbqp: visualizing poetics blog: http://dbqp.blogspot.com/
RSVP: Although virtual seating is unlimited, I’d appreciate an estimate of the number of participants. Please respond to Dr. Pat Franks at email@example.com if you plan to join us.
ELLUMINATE: If you have not used Elluminate before, a student guide is available to help you prepare: http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/software/elluminate/students/