I would say I’m definitely losing my memory as I can’t remember the date David S. Ferriero came to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to deliver the Annual Library Lecture. Luckily, as Archivist of the United States, Mr. Ferriero does a wonderful job of managing our nation’s records. In his talk, titled Are We Losing Our Memory? Cultural Institutions in the Digital Age, Mr. Ferriero described his experiences in the role of “Collector in Chief,” as appointed by President Obama in 2009.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed the first Archivist, R.D.W. Connor, to the position in 1934. At that time, the job of the Archivist was to organize the piles of paper records that had accumulated in an unofficial “closet,” which, surprisingly, also housed rats and other pests. Although the system is probably much more organized today, the Archivist is responsible for hard files as well as digital files: emails, audio recordings, scanned documents, etc. There are currently over 10 billion papers and 40 million photographs alone, and those numbers are increasing every day!
Mr. Ferriero touched on the issue of conservation at the Archives by saying more than once that, “much is saved, little is preserved.” Of course, with that large of a collection, I imagine that a very small percentage of objects undergo preventive measures and/or treatment by the Preservation Department. I have yet to visit the conservators at the Archives, but hopefully I will be able to make it there while Mr. Ferriero is still in office.
To read some interesting anecdotes about the Archives and to learn more about David Ferriero, please visit his blog. Thanks to the folks at the museum library for organizing the event, and thanks to Mr. Ferriero for coming!