Thursday, November 15, 2007


To Google oneself is an interesting exercise. I have discovered that I have a broader and longer digital footprint than I expected, partly due to working for a few years in a sort of public job in a state that takes open meetings seriously. As a result of that experience, my name is frequently listed as “in attendance,” and sometimes my comments are quoted.

There are as yet only a few brief traces of my newest venture, and that probably won’t change. I live again in the world of private business, after all, so beyond the bio on my employer’s websites, there isn’t much exposure to the digital world.

What really surprised me is that work I did, almost off the cuff, in my early twenties had staying power. It was just a little paper, based on one of those Wait-just-a-cotton-pickin’-minute moments that come to all of us from time to time. A brief observation dating back to the time in my life when SAA meant Society of American Archivists instead of Stowe Area Association. A simple thought backed up by analysis of grant proposals, propped up by statistical support from my former husband.

The simple thought was this: If we really don’t know how long it takes us to organize collections of personal papers, how can we write grants that say we will finish this number of collections of this size? At some level, deeply and collectively, we must have some notion of how long it will take.

Further, in a world of limited resources, we are always making tradeoffs. Perhaps it would be better if we assessed those tradeoffs up front, rather than bending in the breeze of opinion.

It’s nice to look back and realize that the work we did in the MIT Archives in the late seventies and early eighties was creative work. Maybe even groundbreaking in its small way. Younger, more energetic archivists have moved the bar forward since that time, but I find it touching that they would have quoted me, that they have built a theory of archival processing if only in part on our work from that time.

A gift from the internet twenty—almost thirty—years after the fact. A flashback to work in an earlier time. A reminder that our creative brains work in pretty much the same way at twenty and at fifty. Thank you, Google.

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