Saturday, February 25, 2012
Not long thereafter, a nice young man came along pulling a large dolly that contained five or six boxes about the size of the ones in those photos above, and he left them all beside me. Needless to say, I was stunned. I had never expected that I was making such an enormous request (it seemed routine to them), and I was amazed that they were willing to just walk away and trust me with the whole thing. So . . . nothing to be done but get to work. And I did. I spent a whole day, looking through all the papers that those boxes contained. It was fascinating, and much of what I learned that day about the changing neighborhoods of Detroit in the 1960s showed up in my novel in some form.
Not all archives are so well-organized as this one, or as the many other professional archives that exist at museums and universities around the world. Many people have archives in their own homes, and I suspect they are more along the lines of this, below. Although, even that looks perhaps more orderly than what many of us have in our homes.
At any rate, that is the situation I created for the archivist in my novel, and it is a role she becomes a bit impatient with in the course of the story--that is, she wants to be the one to interpret, find meaning, weave stories about a found treasure, not only to preserve and present to someone else.