Saving And Archiving Are Not The Same

January 8, 2013

In my personal life I actively work against saving things. I actively work because it is difficult to not save. Because the opposite of saving is wasting or over-consumption, and those are amoral or unethical. Because there are many urges and compulsions to save. Because not saving involves making a decision, and decisions might be wrong or irreversible or just. too. much. effort.


Why do we save? What is it that compels us?

Cultural heritage
Family history
Legal contraints
Mental issues
Expenditures made
Just in case

Most likely it is a mix of these, a particolored profile of one’s psyche where the colors bleed and overlap, the dominant field not necessarily the most apparent or even visible at all. Experience, ego, shame, indecisiveness, dreams. These mesh and expand and shrivel and prompt the electrical impulses to save.


Somewhere in here is a fuzzy line zigzagging the patchwork which the divides the reasons we save and reasons we tell ourselves (or potential funders) why we save or should save a particular thing.

We would prefer these to be noble. Sometimes the primary reasons are. Sometimes, though they may ultimately lead to noble seeming ends, the primary reasons are selfish, accidental, or pragmatic.

What matters then is not why we save but how we save. How we ensure that our stuff continues to exist into the future and continues in its ability to be saved by others in the future. This is archiving, not saving. It is the purposeful and controlled selection, arrangement, and documentation of materials, done in a way that is not overly burdensome to a future caretaker, and in a way that allows a future caretaker to continue using the materials and to easily pass them along to the next caretaker.


It lacks romanticism, but that’s okay. It is work. It is what we do. It is why we are professionals and why archives matters. It is how we are professionals and how archives matter.

—¬†Joshua Ranger