The Creator and The Archivist

By: Joshua Ranger
January 6, 2016

A significant portion of certain Archivist’s job is processing collections — the activity of arranging and describing materials that have been deposited with an archive. At times this is simple. For the most part it is difficult. Consider your own paper and digital files, and imagine someone who doesn’t know you personally sifting through those files and computer desktop and download history and et cetera trying to make sense of what is there and what is important.

As a creator, these things do not matter so much. Where is the file I am working on?, and Where are the files that inform my work?, are the primary questions. If everything is in a download folder or desktop folder, it doesn’t matter much as long as the creator can find them. For future generations, that mental process is obscure and needs to be better described for discovery. The mind of the creator is foreign to us, even with Subject Matter Expertise. Creation is not a simple 7 day process, but a long series of attempts at expression and refinement. We can capture the outcomes of creation, but the process itself will remain individual and may develop across multiple media that are difficult to relate.

As Archivists, we may struggle to define and describe these processes and personalities. Depending on the scope and mission of the collections, at times more successfully than others. And this is done, despite the creator’s potentially personal feeling of remaining undefined or not being pigeon-holed. The creative process is not linear and not always easily (or satisfactorily) defined. The archival process is the same. We feel, we interpret, we guess, we analyze, and we hope for the best outcome that will please the public.

— Joshua Ranger