Lights, Camara… Archivists!?!

Last night I attended the Archivists in the Movies event and in addition to being an entertaining collection of movie clips from the past 60 years presented by Leith Johnson including the Bourne Supremecy and the 2nd National Treasure movie- I was also struck by the re-occurring nature of the roles archivists and archives seem to have in movies.

We as practitioners typically are either masculine female characters with severe buns and tailored suits, or old, glasses wearing and grey hair turning white men. Regardless of the gender- no archivists of color or other ethnic groups seem to be represented in the chosen film clips. This draws attention to the lack of diversity in the archives profession- which hopefully will change.

Secondly, the archives themselves in the movie clips are closed off, in many cases locked repositories where researchers need pass codes, or archivists as gate keepers and in the example of Angels and Demons movie with Tom Hanks- a Vatican staff member paces back and forth as Hanks pours over Church records in a glass enclosed cube. Not only do researchers appear not to be trusted and as the gasps in the audience attest- some patrons do take it upon themselves to rip out documents and steal materials- archivists and archives are portrayed as unwelcoming and hostile environments where if you find what you’re looking for…

Archivists didn’t help you or the document wasn’t hidden well enough!

I hope that as tv shows like “Who Do You Think You Are” and companies like Ancestry.com will continue help the public perceive archivists and archives in a better light…

As we all know public perception is everything!

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