The View from Broughty Ferry

On May 24, 2010, in Personal/Other, Research, by Chris Prom

View from our Flat, 07:30 22/5/2010

It’s been a while since I posted, since I’ve been busy writing a few articles, participating in a programme review (internal quality assurance) of the Center for Archive and Information Studies, getting ready for the Practical E-Records Seminar which took place last Friday, and, most of all, tying together loose ends in the Recommendations section of this blog.  In addition, the past weekend was a glorious time to be in Scotland–best weather we’ve had since arriving–as you can see from the photo I took early Saturday morning.  We spent most of the weekend out and about.  The weather has finally turned, the days are long, and most everyone around the Ferry is out and about for the long (and hopefully pleasant) summer.

I’ll be posting more details about the e-records seminar later this week, but at least from my point of view it was a success.  I left with many ideas to pursue and a few conversations lingering in my mind.  The most memorable was with Sherielyn Diaz, an Archivist/Librarian at De La Salle Lipa, Philippines, who traveled up from London the seminar and who returns to her home country next week.  She is hoping to enroll in an archival education course, but the Philippines does not have a Masters program.  I encouraged her to consider to enroll in CAIS or better yet, participate in the Fulbright program–something I’d recommend to any archivist or librarian.  The program is NOT just for traditional teaching faculty.

Busy as I’ve been, one very big date has been looming in my consciousness and now seems closer than ever: June 3rd, the day Linda, Andy, Grace, Molly and I return from Scotland to Illinois.  It is hard to believe the Fulbright “year” (10 months, really) has gone so quickly, and it will probably sound like a cliche to say it, but it really has been a life-changing and life-affirming experience not only for me, but (I hope) for my family as well.  As much as we look forward to returning to the States and telling everyone about our time here, it will be very difficult for all of us to leave, and we wish we could stay at least a little while longer.

The bottom line is that the village where we live, Broughty Ferry, is a wonderful place to have spent the year—filled with warm, hard-working, and good-hearted people, and my work here has gone well.    There still are places where kids have time to just be kids—the Scottish and American attitudes toward childhood are very different—and Broughty Ferry is a wonderful place to have raised our family for this past year. We love living in a community where the kids walk to school, and where we not only survived, but thrived for a year without owning car.  We have had plenty of time to explore Scotland and make new friends, but wish we had even more!

At the seminar last Friday, both Ian Anderson and Malcolm Todd noted that the archives are a fundamentally democratic instituion and that they have a value beyond that of libraries or purely technical approaches to ‘archiving.’ Regarding my research, I feel confident that any archives, no matter its staffing, resources, or budget, can preserve and keep alive the stories, evidence, and information that will comprize the raw materials of histories yet to be written, even though those records are now generated almost exlusviely in electronic format.   If my time here has any value to others, I hope it will show that electronic archives will remain a civilizing force in a very uncivilized world.    At Illinois, I look forward to setting up a program for collecting and preserving faculty and student ‘papers.’  In the broader community, I look forward to helping other archives begin their own programs for identify, preserving and providing access to electronic records.  This blog will be the heart of that effort.

If I’ve learned one thing from my time here it is simply this: that working with people, encouraging people, helping people, and most of all learning from people, will be much more important to me when I return to Illinois.  Sure, I’ve enjoyed research electronic records issues, working with software, etc.  But at the end of the day, archives are about people and their stories, not about hard drives, software, metadata, or technical standards.  Having focused so intensely on those topics, I can see clearly that I want to spend the rest of my career away from the screen more than I’m in front of it, living life face-to-face with colleagues, friends and, most of all, my family.

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