The signal’s been effectively boosted over the past week or so, but the saga of the Georgia Archives is worth paying attention to. It has serious political, societal and professional implications (see Kate Theimer’s advocacy post). It’s also interesting to see the various constituencies who have raised their voices or been referenced by others. High-minded rhetoric and individual stories are anchored by pragmatic concerns. The AHA focus is largely staid and practical, highlighting the ways in which archives are used in day-to-day business. Bonnie Weddle’s talking points namecheck Paula Deen and Spike Lee and evoke media prestige as well as money.
Much of this is, presumably, simply a matter of covering all the bases or fighting fire with fire. (You say this is a budgetary matter? Okay, look at the financial impact.) I have the feeling that it also reflects on the frequently negative view of public employees. A personalized appeal to save jobs just isn’t effective after an extended effort to demonize the public sector. Even the archivists’ supporters are, to some degree, forced to reduce them to a line item on the budget, rather than highly trained resources to be safeguarded. It’s a practical solution…but I fear the twin of “just hire interns for pennies and school credit,” the counter-argument of “just put it online” (because computers don’t need health insurance or vacation days, and unlike student interns won’t graduate and want to pay rent and grocery bills). The equally practical response of rolling one’s eyes at the suggestion (because computers do need maintenance and data has to be migrated and digitized in the first place…and then there are all those niggling questions of the digital divide and materials that perhaps should not or cannot be fully released to the wild) may end up framed as laziness or lack of vision on the part of those public sector employees who just can’t cut it in the real world.