18 June 2014

Janus as the patron of archives

Melissa Gonzales just tweeted, “I prefer @pearcemoses idea of Janus as patron god of archivists v. Saint Catherine as a patron saint. Let’s kick this pagan.” I’m not sure what’s going on at the Archives Leadership Institute (#ALI14) that triggered this, but I’m seeing lots of great tweets from participants.

I do like the idea of Janus as a patron, especially for digital archivists.  Many prospective students tell me they want to study archives because they love history.  Amen for that; history is good.

However, I make sure they know that archivists aren’t historians.  More important, I stress to them that Clayton State’s program emphasizes digital archives.  It doesn’t take much for them to understand the ephemeral nature of digital records and the potential that – if archivists don’t act to capture those records – they will be lost.  Archivists work with history, but I reframe that idea.  Digital archivists are focused not on their own past, but the future’s past.

Janus may be an ideal patron because he is on the cusp of the moment.  Unlike Mnemosyne, the personification of memory who looks only backwards, Janus is always in the present, looking simultaneously to the past and the future.