Newsletter of
The Maryland State Archives
Vol. 16, No. 8
April 22, 2002

Page 2
The Archivists' Bulldog
WELCOME (continued)

reminded me of a book review I am late in submitting by a scholar who spent her graduate career at Yale, took time off to confront the real world as a auto mechanic, and then got down to basics to write a very good book on the influence of Small Pox on American history which she called Pox Americana. 

But I digress. The top of the google hit list for "beyond the basics" was a site called : WWW: Beyond the Basics. which is a draft book written by a class at Virginia Tech about the World Wide Web . Just as I was getting interested in what the class was about (I would recommend you spend some time at the site), a little screen popped up asking me who was the lead singer of Nirvana?  How many know? I was given choices, Shannon Noon, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Ian Curtis, and Ed Papenfuse.  I suppose you all know the answer, Kurt Cobain, but I had to go back to Google to find out. There, I found that my 87 year old father-in-law's heartthrob, Courtney Love, was once Kurt Cobain's partner and that they had a child, Frances Bean. 

It is easy to get distracted on the web. It is almost as bad as archivists on Listservs. But permit me to return to today's theme: Beyond the Basics, and to welcome you to Maryland on an auspicious day: Patriots Day, April 19. In 1775, on this day, the shot heard round the world was fired. In 1861, on this day, the first blood of the Civil War was shed on Baltimore's streets as the Massachusetts troops tried unsuccessfully to move unscathed from President's Street Station to Pratt Street Station on their way to defend Washington. In 1995, tragedy struck Oklahoma City. Subsequently, a memorial was built and web site launched to keep the memories fresh of what happened that day, but, interestingly enough, nothing on the web site tells you succinctly about what happened, how it happened, and when it happened.


Everything, of course, that we remember about the importance of this day, is overshadowed by another day in September, but the message is the same. As archivists we are charged with keeping the the meaning of the collective memory alive in world that is fast becoming almost too fragile for us to handle. Instead of the tangible objects of paper and even more esoteric artifacts like Jeremy Bentham's skull that we are called upon to care for and make known, if not accessible, we face extraordinary challenges ahead with regard to holding on to our knowledge of the past. 

Last fall, I had the privilege of addressing a group of archivists in the interior of China. The metaphor that I used to conclude my remarks was drawn from a poem that Chairman Mao copied in his unique style of calligraphy and which is engraved on a stone monument at the entrance to a dark alley in Nanjing named after the Confucian scholars that once lived there: The poem is about the swallows nesting in the eaves of the rich who leave their safe and secure world to create their nests in the eaves of the poor. The information revolution, as manifested today in the World Wide Web, in many ways is like the swallows spreading out into the countryside to nest in the eaves of the citizenry at large.

More people than ever can learn about what we have in our collections and what it all means, but, like the mud and straw homes the swallows build, the electronic world is fragile and easily destroyed. Still, as archivists we must venture forth from the safe havens of the small and tactile collections which largely form the basis of what you care for to the larger, darker uncertain world of finding and maintaining the principal source of what we know about ourselves today, tomorrow, and in the future: the electronic information sources of today, ignoring the distractions, and focusing on the essentials, building our little homes of clay and straw (known 

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LIBRARY ACCESSIONS (continued from Page 3)

Dearstyne, Bruce W., ed. Leadership and Administration of Successful Archival Programs
_____. Effective Approaches for Managing Electronic Records and Archives
Dodd, Rosemary B. and Michael E. Flood, eds. Abstracts of Land Records, Anne Arundel 
     County, Maryland, Vol. 5, 1728 - 1737
_____. Abstracts of Land Records, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Vol. 6, 1737 - 1744
Dorbin, Ann E. and Richard A. K. Dorbin. Saving the Bay: People Working for the Future of the