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Abstract

The scenario is a familiar one, recounted numerous times at gatherings of archivists and sometimes taking on mythological proportions. An archivist eagerly assumes a new position, excited by the anticipation of a new challenge, the interesting records under his or her care, the prospects of new and more significant acquisitions, the endless possibilities of research use, and the promises of support for building a strong historical records program. The eagerness turns to discouragement and sometimes disillusionment as the promised support is actually revealed. There are no resources for new staff, the "increased" funds for supplies and equipment are inadequate for any real improved maintenance of the historical records, other money-burning problems--such as major design and construction flaws in the repository's building-suddenly appear, and there are threats to divert funds from the historical records program to other "more important" functions of the institution. The "promising" historical records program becomes but another example of the underdeveloped and underfunded operations that archivists have pessimistically and consistently described throughout the 1980s.

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