Maynard Brichford delivered his presidential address at the 44th annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in Cincinnati, Ohio.  His address was published in the Fall 1980 issue of the American Archivist.  Brichford worked at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, the Illinois State Archives, and the Wisconsin Department of Administration before becoming archivist at the University of Illinois in 1963.  He also taught at the Graduate School of Library Science at the Urbana-Champaign campus from 1967 until his retirement.  His papers are housed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Brichford opened with the premise that “Archives — repositories and documents — and the archivists who are responsible for them draw their identity from the institutions they serve” (449).  Along these lines, he argued that academic archivists carry the responsibility for Überlieferungsbildung (the handing down of culture or civilization).  He spent some time chronicling the history of institutions of higher learning in both Europe and America.  He also cited a 1964 speech by Adlai Stevenson, “The Centrality of Education,” in which Stevenson tied together universities and democracy:

“‘the educational ambition which gave this democracy, from its inception, the noble vision of learning as a part of citizenship and the school as the instrument of liberty'” (453).

Brichford added his own analysis of the value of universities in general and academic archives in particular:

“It has taught us to study the past, keep a selection of the present and be concerned about the future.  In academic archives it teaches us to document innovation, dissent, and the transmission of culture” (453).

While some institutions such as Harvard established an archives before the 20th century, most universities started down the path of academic archives in the mid-2oth century.  Brichford pointed to the 1964 session of the Allerton Park Institute, which focused on university archives, as key to advancing this movement.  (The presenters included several SAA presidents — Oliver W. Holmes and Clifford K. Shipton, along with Brichford.  The proceedings are available from the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship.)

Brichford both listed the typical contents of academic archives — “publications, official records, personal papers, and organizational records” — as well as the customary contents of these archives:

  • academic attainment
  • administrative actions and proceedings
  • course descriptions and materials
  • research under contracts and grants
  • academic events
  • social activities
  • housing
  • arts
  • athletics (455)

He specified that in an academic environment, accountability rests on having access to records that document how policies were formed and how monies were spent.  He defined the core of an academic archives as:

“trustees’ reports, audit and financial reports, catalogs, student newspapers and yearbooks, alumni directories and files, staff and student telephone directories, college and departmental annual reports and newsletters, published histories, a photograph file, and the correspondence and subject files of the chief administrative officer” (456).

Brichford acknowledged the significance of users of academic archives and suggested that in addition to housing university-generated records, universities have sought to collect “historical and literary archives and manuscripts collections” as a means of attracting researchers (455).  He also assigned archivists the task of citizenship education, instructing “students in the careful examination of documentary evidence and consideration of all viewpoints.  By the zealous preservation of the record of society’s successes and failures, the archivist permits an understanding and identification with the past, through which we come to appreciate continuity and change and can welcome the future” (458).

Brichford asserted that universities serve as “a counterpoise to the government’s tendency to monopolize documentary and financial power” (460).  In conclusion, he challenged archivists to embrace change and the future:

“As archivists, we are primarily concerned with the future.  The present is the context of our work.  Our heritage from the past is our special charge, but we should not worship it.  The successful resolution of contemporary problems requires a concept of a dynamic society.  We will all succeed to the extent that we can welcome change” (460).


P.S.  In researching Brichford’s biography, I came across an interesting 1988 article he wrote in reflection on Ernst Posner‘s 1956 SAA presidential address.