DisciplesWorld‘s website will change and evolve over the next few months. Keep up with it all at Verity Jones’ blog here and get connected at the Intersection, a social networking site for Disciples and friends, here. Change and evolution is the order of the day it seems.
It remains to be seen what an archive will look like and how it will function in a few years as print media continues to disappear. Certainly the day of printed journals as media of information, opinion and discussion like we have known it for the last two hundred years, is over. I don’t know what the new day will be like, but I don’t think it will look like yesterday. Maybe we will see a resurgence of journals? Maybe the few survivors will emerge stronger? Maybe not? Maybe something else will emerge that none of us as yet can image. Who knows?
One hundred years ago a preacher (like C.E.W. Dorris when he published The Bible Student) would purchase a printing press, a couple trays of type, set about to build a readership and promulgate his views and the teaching of those he respected. Frequently these small operations were expensive, time-consuming and soon abandoned. For example, Dorris and his wife often worked twelve or fourteen hour days setting type, printing, labeling and mailing his journal. Subscriptions barely enabled them to break even (partly because it was a small readership, and partly because he operated it cheaply for a theological reason: to preach to the poor). So, the Dorrises used the press for job printing to pay the bills. Eventually he abandoned the paper because he felt it a better use of his time to preach in person rather than teach through a printed page. We are fortunate, very fortunate, to have a full run of his paper. We could repeat a similar story several times over.
Now preachers, pastors and especially average pew-ers sign up for wordpress or facebook or blogger or intersection or whatever…for free and build a readership through near-instant networking. The dynamic has changed altogether. One aspect of archiving will certainly need to be addressed in this new day: in the past we have collected papers and journals which have almost exclusively been printed and published by preachers or (un)denominational publishing houses. What little we have in the way of the average person in the pew is in the form of diaries or letters, and they are scarce…scarce. Not so with wordpress, facebook, blogger… everyone can be ubiquitous in this new day. So, the archivist’s choice is this: whose voice do we preserve? We can’t keep everything, and choices must be made…so who gets saved to the server and who gets deleted? And furthermore, not only does everyone have a voice now, most of what they say doesn’t look like it is worth keeping. Much of what I see on blogs and social networking sites is the minutiae of daily life. But I also see some wonderful historical, theological and ministerial reflection taking place…stuff that needs to be kept.
So, here I am wishing we had more leather-and-paper diaries from the 19th century and bemoaning the banality of much of what I see in the blogosphere. What is disturbing is that in 100 years we may wish we had a hard drive or three worth of blogs and facebook accounts…all keyword searchable and ready for PhD (or whatever they’ll call it then) dissertation research. In short, I don’t have an answer I’m comfortable with…I’m only just now beginning to wrestle with the problem. What is at once frustrating and (on my good days) exhilarating, is that by the time we think we have the problem somewhat under control, it will change again.
Enough for now, I think I’ll check out who is on intersection…:)
Mac is Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Abilene Christian University.