There are times when, no matter your cultural/political/religious what-have-you affiliation, we have a sense that history is passing before our very eyes. I had one such moment today, when I read the piece Quiet Riot in the New Yorker. Evidently, the personal papers of Kathleen Hanna (of third-wave feminism's Riot Grrrl movement, Bikini Kill, Le Tigre) have been added to the Riot Grrrl Archive at NYU's Fales Library . The New Yorker article written by Macy Halford celebrates the scholarly value and revolutionary nature such a collection, but laments "the fact that they're being archived means they've passed into history." Movements that catalyze a generation, as the Riot Girl movement undoubtedly did, often result in a sense of sadness when the first signs emerge that the movement might be "over". But consider this: roughly the same amount of time has passed between now and the time Hanna emerged in the early '90s, as had passed between the early 1970s and Hanna's heyday. That's about 20 years, people. I'm sure the second-wave feminists of the 1960s and 1970s were not ready to end their work as the activism of the 1980s and 1990s commenced. So, what has this to do with archives? Well, perhaps we (and Halford) could stop believing that a movement ends when its artifacts, records, and ephemera begin being archived. The whole purpose of what we do as archivists and records managers is to make sure that these materials will remain available - to whomever needs them. Archiving does not represent a finite ending, but is part of a larger cycle of preservation, accessibility, and scholarship. In the next few decades, many of us will begin archiving collections that represent our own recent history - perhaps personal, but certainly global - and we should remember to shift the proverbial boxes and make some room for our history and for those that will come after us.
What do you think will be your "oh no" archivist moment (or did some of you have it already with the Grateful Dead archive). I think it might come on the day that some intern hands me a cassette tape (preferably "Born to Run" by the Boss) and says, "what do you do with this?"