No sign of a 1949 presidential address, so I move on to the 1950 address delivered by Philip C. Brooks at the Society of American Archivists (SAA) meeting in Madison, Wisconsin, in October 1950.  Brooks served as the first secretary of the SAA (1936-42) and as its seventh president (1949-51).  His early work with the National Archives helped to shape the records management policies and procedures of that organization.  Brooks also served as the first director of the Harry S Truman Library (1957-71), and his papers are housed at that presidential library.  His presidential address was published in American Archivist in January 1951.

Brooks began by reflecting on what sort of address he should give.  He referenced the “crisis call” addresses delivered by Waldo Leland in 1940 and 1941 but ultimately likened his address to a “cadenza in which the speaker is bound by no rules of composition, can be highly personal, and can be entirely irresponsible to any party line in expressing his own views” (34).  Using a musical term that has the connotation of improvisation perhaps helps to explain the free-flowing style Brooks employed in this address.  He spoke briefly of the qualifications for membership in SAA and then segued into a discussion of terms that are problematic in their definitions.  Specifically, he cited “archives” as a term “used loosely and with confusing variation” (35).  (I shudder to think what Brooks would think of the multitudinous and disparate uses of the term archives today.)  He also took issue with the term historical being too loosely applied to archives, instead pointing out the other types of research that take place in archives, including “uses for administrative precedent, government research, economics, sociology, scientific development, and other lines of investigation so numerous as to evade logical classification” (35).

Brooks briefly analyzed “the relationship of archivists to the organizations from which their accessions will be derived,” suggesting the two most prominent phases are guidance and selection.  By guidance he meant suggestions regarding the creation of records as well as the handling of current records.  Selection obviously means choosing which records should be preserved (37-38).  He went on to explain why archivists were increasingly involved in records management:

“We must remember that archivists have entered the records administration field because economical administration of records at all stages is closely akin to the specialized activities of archivists, and because the results of good or bad records administration affect the kind of job that archivists can later do with the records” (39).

Brooks briefly reflected on the training required for archivists, though he mainly deferred to the work already completed on this subject by Ernst Posner.  In discussing whether the discipline of history is important to the training of archivists, he concluded, “Archives at once are derived from history and serve the study of history” (43).  Perhaps the most interesting commentary by Brooks was about what was not being emphasized in archival training — specifically, analysis and description.  He suggested that seemingly making these the afterthoughts of the profession severely compromised the ability of archives to publicize their holdings and appropriately serve researchers.

In reference to his title, Brooks made several comments about common denominators.  He first mentioned what unites archivists, mainly “a concern for the preservation and effective use of valuable evidence of human activity in the form of records” (36).  Another common denominator identified was “the common interest of many related groups in the selection of what is to form the enduring core of valuable records” (38).  Perhaps picking up on the term “documentalists” that Solon Buck employed in his 1946 presidential address, Brooks suggested that archivists, librarians, and other allied disciplines are a part of the field of documentation, concerned with “the control of information” (41).  He concluded:

 “I believe that the study and teaching of history, interpreting history broadly as the knowledge of all phases of human experience, is among the highest realms of cultural activity; and that it cannot proceed without evidence.  I believe that in preserving the evidence and promoting its effective use archivists and their colleagues have a role to play of which we can be justly proud” (45).