Publication Date

January 1994


In his 1974 Society of American Archivists presidential address, Gerald F. Ham cautioned archivists against becoming "too closely tied to the vogue of the academic marketplace" otherwise ''the archivist will remain at best nothing more than a weathervane moved by the changing winds of historiography." These wise words of advice reflected concern over collecting activities that responded to the latest research interests rather than a broad knowledge of ''the scope, quality, and direction of research in an open-ended future." But how can archivists predict the future trends of research, especially those in an openended future? Should they even try? Timothy Ericson has pointed out that "we do not collect or preserve records as an end in itself; we do so in order that others may use what we have selected, whether by viewing it in an exhibit, by conducting personal research, or by reading the scholarship of someone else who has conducted research in our holdings."3 If archivists preserve the records so others may use them, can they appraise them without determining what those uses may be? If they focus on the potential uses of the material during appraisal will they be at the mercy of the changing winds of historiography? Can archivists steady the weathervane and allow it to direct and guide their appraisal decisions or does considering their current users' needs condemn them to a fate of fluttering to the latest breeze?



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