Quaternary dating methods
In the process, the first four chapters have been substantially rewritten, but the underlying structure of the argument, and its conclusions, have not been affected.Although references throughout the text were updated to reflect recent literature, the modest amendments and refinements of archival methods and practices proposed during the past three years have not required me fundamentally to revise my premises.
The advent of literacy posed a new problem for human societies, for in freezing the memory of a culture in material formats, in creating a written or recorded memory which resists transformation, man provided himself with an objectified past which stands in opposition to the present in a way which the oral tradition, so bending and resilient, never did.Chapter six returns to the themes in the introduction to consider the role of the archivist and the nature of the archival endeavor, and to propose new views of both based on the ideas in the intervening chapters.More important even than the generous financial support I received from the Mellon Foundation and NEH is the intellectual support of Francis Bluin and Bill Wallach of the Bentley Library, and of my colleagues in the 1986 Seminar - Chris Baer, Greg Bradsher, Judy Endelman, Avra Michelson and Peter Sigmond - who read and discussed drafts of these papers with me that summer and stimulated me by their own research.It is a hallmark of human societies that they seek to preserve a memory of the past, and have always done so.Indeed, keeping and using the past is central to our concept of human cultures and civilization.No technologies currently exist that will permanently arrest those natural processes of decay that erode even the tiny portion of the overall record which is retained in archives.
Thus the second challenge of the archival profession is to preserve a record, by necessity a portion of the total record, and thus further to shape the memory of our society.
The cultural record is also subjected to differential rates of erosion due to the properties of the physical medium upon which it is recorded, the care taken of it by the sub-culture in which it is created, and the need which the culture has for the particular information it holds.
Archivists live with the certainty both that all activities leave some recorded memory in our society, and that each recorded memory will disappear in time without intervention by some preserving agent.
Because societies were enabled to extend themselves further across space and time through writing, and subsequently through the recording of sounds and images, than through the oral record, the "technology of preserved communication" has allowed for the development of a more variegated cultural repertoire.
In so doing, it has created a world so complex that no individual can possibly master it all.
I have spoken about it publicly from time to time, but have not forced others or myself to deal with its conclusions.