Historians Just Don’t Get Archivists. Here’s Why.

Historians in the News
tags: historians, archivists, Michael Brenes

Michael Brenes is the senior archivist for American diplomacy and a lecturer in global affairs at Yale University.

I occupy an unusual but not rare position: I am both an archivist and a trained historian. I write history, sometimes for popular outlets, but I spend a great deal of my time working with archival collections — processing them, curating them, and teaching with them.

I am not sure where I fit among Alice Dreger’s "types" of archivists (I hope I am none of them), but I understand why her essay, "The Delicate Art of Dealing With Your Archivist," struck a nerve with some of my colleagues.

While tongue-in-cheek, and riddled with both humor and hyperbole, the piece resuscitated caricatures of archivists and librarians — and yes, there is a difference between the two — that caused a heated, near visceral backlash within the profession. Librarians and archivists accused Dreger of being offensive and demeaning. As a new archivist and friend said to me: "Why a historian would — even in ‘good fun’ — malign an entire profession that makes her own work possible is completely baffling to me."

Dreger is not alone among historians in misunderstanding archivists, and, in fact, the misunderstanding goes both ways. Transformations within the archival and historical professions in the past 30 years have prevented cross-fertilization and collaboration.

Indeed, the premise of her essay — that archivists have the "stuff"; historians need to find a way to get it — is flawed. ...

Read entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education

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