Monday, October 22, 2012
Archiving (a link to THE CARAVAN)
Increasingly, I find that the labor of archiving, of stubbornly standing for memory against forgetting, is heroic to me, more so than any monument; and this heroism touches me in a way that, if I am honest, even word of most deaths does not. Part of it is that the archivist deals with memory and knowledge dependent on things -- books, cassettes, film reels, CDs -- that survive, but that are very fragile. They seem vulnerable, and all the more so when we are not talking about a hallowed object, such as a book, that has been relevant for centuries; but of more recent media, destined to become obsolete every few years with unseemly haste. (This obsolescence is also dangerous, because it ties up far too much of our musical and cinematic heritage into particular media that are doomed even when they are introduced (who would bet on the DVD?), dependent on the vagaries of fashion and taste to preserve material that could so easily be lost forever: we can still read a century-old book, but it isn't too hard to imagine a world where no-one has any cassette players; in such a world, that which hasn't been digitized risks being lost forever.) Shelves of dusty audio-cassettes with reels in them, old records and video-cassettes, make claims on my sympathy that even old books do not: because they are proving even more ephemeral.