Maygene Daniels delivered her presidential address at the 1995 annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists held in Washington, D.C.  She held numerous positions at the National Archives and Records Administration, was the director of the Modern Archives Institute, and was the chief of the Gallery Archives at the National Gallery of Art.  This address was published in the Winter 1996 issue of the American Archivist.

Daniels focused her address on why archivists enjoy our occupation.  She acknowledged that it’s not because of “power, wealth, or fame” (8).  And she recognized the diversity within the archival ranks.  But she offered three explanations for the dedication of archivists that she identified as “shared attitudes and beliefs” that while not unique to archivists “are found in every true archivist” (9):

  1. “honest and selfless commitment to a larger good” (9)
    • For the appraisal archivist, Daniels suggested this attitude hinged on evaluating records by simply asking, “‘What information or evidence is in these records?’” (9)  The focus is on the larger good rather than any gain that might come to one individually or to one’s institution.
    • In the realm of arrangement and description, this attitude encourages arrangement that is equally suitable for various researchers.
    • Daniels asserted that archivists are also prone to “dedicated and generous service” (10).
  2. intellectual approach
    Daniels explained that archivists “ask questions about evidence, proof, context” and possess an “ability to reason backwards” (10).  By this she meant that archivists can look at documents and work to determine their meaning.
  3. “celebration of the human spirit” (11)
    “Archivists work with the legacy of human activity.  And archivists, to their core, appreciate the varied, erratic, irrational complexity of human life and its changes over time” (10).

Daniels considered the impact of electronic records on archivists and concluded that electronic records will still need context that archivists can provide and will only mushroom in quantity compared to their paper counterparts.  She concluded, “the basic human compulsion to recognize the value of the passing human scene will remain as long as mankind exists” (11).

Advertisements