A Glass Half Full

US News & World Report Publishes Letter from SAA President Tim Ericson

 

Archivists were highlighted to the more than 2 million readers of US News and World Report on October 20 when SAA President Tim Ericson's letter to the editor appeared in response to the publication's "100 Documents That Define Our Nation" special issue.

As is often the case in large publications, however, his letter was edited. This is how the letter was submitted:

On behalf of the Society of American Archivists, I'd like to congratulate you on a superb tribute to our national heritage ("100 Documents That Define Our Nation," September 22, 2003)—as well as your challenge to readers to express their opinions about the relative significance of the documents. Archivists know that people frequently forget the many important ways in which archival records affect our lives. You have reminded everyone why we should not take our documentary heritage for granted!

The National Archives serves as "home" for many of our national treasures. But we must be mindful that similar treasures exist across the nation—in state and municipal archives, in corporate and association headquarters, in state and regional historical societies, in public and private museums, and in the collections of religious and ethnic organizations. We might anticipate that each of the tens of thousands of archives—large and small—that exist throughout our country has its own list of "defining documents."

Archivists are acutely aware of an issue that is not addressed in your special articles: the plight of our documentary heritage—and ensuring access to it—in a time of declining resources. It is ironic that your special issue comes at a time when the National Archives and Records Administration's own initiatives in electronic records management are in grave danger of being compromised by Congressional budget cuts, and when many state archives across the country are undergoing draconian budget cuts in response to revenue shortfalls (see www.archivists.org/statements/statearchives.asp). Your special issue should be required reading for both federal and state legislators.

This is how the letter was printed:

On behalf of the Society of American Archivists, I'd like to congratulate you on a superb tribute to our national heritage as well as on your challenge to readers to express their opinions about the relative significance of the documents [cite]. You have reminded everyone why we should not take our documentary heritage for granted! The National Archives serves as "home" for many of our national treasures. But similar treasures exist across the nation in state and municipal archives, in corporate and association headquarters, in state and regional historical societies, in public and private museums, and in the collections of religious and ethnic organizations. Each has its own list of "defining documents."

Archivists are well aware of the need to redefine the public perception of archives. The publication of President Ericson's letter demonstrates that significant inroads are being paved in this regard and, also, that the work of advocating archives is never done.