On [Data Lost; Sorry, Archives!], or Prompted Yet Forgotten

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Third From the Top.”

The writing muse is fleeting and she very much enjoys leaving me in the lurch, so when my fingers just won’t move across the keyboard, I head to The Daily Prompt. Today’s prompt is to riff on the third sentence in the third post in the Reader.

As luck should have it, the sentence I have to riff on is archives-related. From SAA President Kathleen D. Roe’s statement on public officials using personal email: “Nonetheless, there is an essential issue of concern to archivists here, and I asked the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy to develop recommendations for the SAA Council to consider as a statement on the use of non-government email accounts by officials conducting public business.”

Is there any evidence that these strongly worded missives result in action? I am the first to admit that I am a jaded millennial who casts a strong side-eye at everything, but is there evidence that, in this day and age, these calls “to develop recommendations for someone else to consider something with the potential end result of making a statement” actually do anything outside the sphere of its core community? I’ve tried to write something interesting and informative but, like I said, my muse has abandoned me, much like Mike Huckabee abandoned the pretense of caring about government transparency when his office destroyed emails and hard drives at the end of his gubernatorial term in 2007. 

 It doesn’t seem to matter if it’s a state government with fluid and permissive records laws for high-ranking public officials or a federal department with Congressional backing (‘sup, NARA) that provides instructions and information on EV.RY.THING. We’ve seen that government officials across the board, either out of malice or ignorance, neither listen/read/see this information nor care about it unless the shit hits the fan and gets flung towards the press.

It is great that people want more accountability and the archivists with a voice are demanding change, but no one’s paid attention to what was said yesterday or today. I don’t think anyone will be paying attention tomorrow.

There’s a phrase that every archivist, in positions high and low, in small non-profits and large corporations, have said over and over again throughout the years: No one ever listens to the archivist.


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