“The World Turned Upside Down”

I just wanted to share this article in The American Archivist about the role of the archivist and their relationship with genealogists (which has historically been a frosty one). Maybe grad school is turning me into a huge nerd, or I just have a really odd sense of humour, but I was laughing out loud (in public) reading this paper. I’m still not sure if it’s meant to be ironic or serious, but an entertaining (and informative) read nonetheless. .. find it at this link.

Here is the incredibly strange introduction:

“Two hundred years ago this October, the British army under Lord Cornwallis marched dejectedly from the breached defenses of Yorktown, Virginia, to surrender to victorious Americans and their French allies. The vanquished British marched out to an old tune called ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. Just as the name of this tune succinctly symbolizes that defeat of the British, so state archives and other record repositories throughout this country have in recent years come under seige by a determined and persistent legion known collectively as family historians, or genealogists.”

…oh? And a few other highlights:

“The archivist of a large religious institution, whom I know well, says that genealogists are the most selfish of all people and that some of his fellow religious are morally opposed to aiding any of them. The same attitude, expressed in secular and occasionally outright vulgar terms, is shared by most archivists in public archives.”

“Denigrating genealogists has been a cherished avocation of archivists ever since we began scratching our way up the ladder toward professional status.”

“Genealogists were given no special encouragement or assistance, and younger members of archives staffs were warned: ‘Do not spoon-feed genealogists’.”

“The typical historian in our archives, rather than deserving special attention from us, is at least as self-centered as the average genealogist; and today most topics investigated by historians are so narrowly defined and so obtuse as to be of liuttle of no value to anyone.”


– Nathalie Delean (653-01)

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by Hugh McLeod

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Pratt Institute School of Information
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