Modern Day Archives

In Archive Fever, Jacques Derrida references Freud and his idea that ponders if what he was writing down would even be relevant.  Freud writes “…what I am describing is common knowledge and that I am using up paper and ink and, in due course, the compositor’s and printer’s work and material in order to expound things which are, in fact, self-evident.”  Derrida explains that Freud is implying that he needs to discover something new or something relevant to have a reason to archive.  Some may argue that it does not need to be a new idea for it to be important enough to document.  Every day, people document the little things that happen in their lives on social media sites and blogs on the internet.  Although this may seem boring or too detailed, it could one day help historians understand this time period.

The term “archive” was once used to describe the actual place (house or dwelling of a political figure) where important vital documents were held.  These political figures had the power of the law because they housed the important documents of the law (Archive Fever).  Now the term can be interpreted to have a few different meanings.  It can mean an actual place (National Archives in D.C.) or it could be a website on the computer (  It could even mean a home scrapbook someone made or even the personal identification one carries as mentioned by Richard Cox in the Citizen Archivist.

Cox posed an interesting question, “If government was not recording so many or our activities, even with all of the reasons of privacy invasions and misuse of personal data that should concern us, would we simply ramp up our own self-recording?”  Although government officials in early times housed the official documents as archives (Archive Fever), private organizations or individual people have also archived important documents in history.  It is important that the individuals of modern day society continue to do their own record keeping if not implement more of it.

Cox insists that it is still better to hold the original document in your hand and to feel the emotion that accompanies it.  One cannot connect with those emotions as well with a scanned document or picture.  This is also a reason, in his opinion, that letters are still circulation today. Derrida wrote of “secret to non secret.”  He is conveying the message that once something is archived in the public domain, it is no longer a personal archive.

At what point do personal archives become public and is there a way to keep private archives online without the possibility of becoming public? How can we, as individuals, help other people to see the importance of modern day archiving?


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