In Praise of Archives

In this article a scholar relates some experiences of doing research in archives. When he tells people about his many years of research they sometimes ask why anyone needs to go to the archives at all, since everything is now on the Internet. Au contraire, he reports. After his most recent foray to a Parisian library he writes, “Nearly every day I found something new in the archives, whether a detail about the families or finances of the principal characters, a twist in the legal case, or another piece of information that shed a little more light on the controversial affair. Each discovery was a reminder of how much is hidden in the vast yet incomplete archive of the human past — how much has been lost for good and how much, even in the digital age, still depends on the paper, parchment, or papyrus record.”
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