Forgotten Treasures: Archives from a Student’s Perspective
by Cheryl Palacios
THE AD in the magazine says: Was born in New York City, but has never gone to the Empire State Building.
I turn the page and the rest of the ad says: An avid Windows95 user, but has never clicked on MSN. Clever effect, I surmise. The ad gives a feeling of an overlooked stupidity, an action that people are naturally expected to perform but, for one reason or another, never came to pass.
Pondering, I realize that I can actually add to the commercial: A student who has studied in the University of the Philippines for the past four years, but has never gone to the university archives. Or even better: a graduating Library and Information Science student, who holds classes in the same building as the archives for four times a week, but has never gone inside the University of the Philippines Archives.
Appalling is it to admit, but it is true that my whole stay in UP, I have never gone inside the Archives. Four days a week, and around four times a day, I go by rooms 300 and 301 of the Gonzales Hall, better known as the University Archives and Research Depository. I never bother to actually go inside, for different reasons. For room 300, it is because it looks like an office, a place where students like me are off-limits, or at least a place where they are not supposed to hang around in. Room 301, on the other hand, looks familiarly like the Social Science Stacks of the UP Main Library, only sloppier. If you haven’t been to the stacks, it looks like a big dark room with rows of shelves containing books so old, you’d think they’ve grown feet. You would have to drag me to get me inside the Social Science Stacks, and possibly exert more effort to get me to set foot on room 301.
It was the first thing I saw on the first day that I went up the third floor of the UP Diliman Main Library. The sign read, “Welcome UARD.” We used to joke about that sign, saying that the letter G on the front of the second word was somehow forgotten or defaced, and that the sign is really a welcome sign for the security guards of the Gonzales Hall. It took me a year to figure out what that sign really meant, not because of stupidity, but because of sheer lack of interest for the rooms referred to by the signs.
I, however, am proud to exclaim that I am not totally clueless regarding the UP Archives.
Some of my friends in the UP Institute of Library and Information Science have been to the Archives, and have brought back tales: little bits here, other pieces there, which have all contributed well to my own constructed image of the Archives.
When I was still young (that wasn’t too long ago, mind you), I thought of the UP archives as a repository of old books that were scheduled for disposal. I was only afterwards that I came to know that room 300 houses very important and rare materials, while room 301 contained the theses and dissertations made by UP students through the years. However, this is an admittedly a relatively incomplete concept of what is actually contained in the UP archives, or any archive, for that matter.
Any sane LIS student, in my opinion, would at some point in his or her academic life, wonder why a course in archives management is offered in an LIS degree. The question seems almost automatic, and for some, the answers come just as instinctively. This wonder would most likely be followed with more questions regarding the connection between LIS and Archives, and again.
However, while the answer to this and other questions could come relatively easy to others, it must be realized that the obvious answer is not always the correct one. I distinctly remember a friend relating how his professor in archives management repeatedly stressed the difference between librarianship and archives management, and how a librarian is not necessarily an archivist, in the same way that an archivist is not necessarily a librarian.
While it may be argued that both professionals concern themselves with matters relating to information contained in certain media, it is of my opinion that the similarity ends there. Each profession harbors its own standards, priorities, and values. These, in turn, dictate the differences that set each trade apart. While some functions may, at one time or another, overlap, a certain distinction will always set each profession and professional apart. The two trades could more properly be regarded as complementary, rather than identical.
And where do I, the LIS student, fit in the puzzle? I am the one given the choice, the one being set to decide which profession to devote the rest of my life to. While it is true that one may choose to study both fields, a choice of specialization at one point is inevitable, taking one form or another.
Given such mode of thought regarding archives and their importance to me and my field of study, a more general ideology exists for the university and for the country. Archives, in my opinion, serve as the university’s, and ultimately the country’s great storyteller. Within its walls lie the tales of the university’s history. Beneath its covers rest the chronicles of our nations past. Between its shelves remain the accounts of who we are, and how we got here.
Looking back, the magazine advertisement did more than showcase a forgotten product. With it came a message of recall, and how certain things are not so often remembered, seldom understood, and even more rarely valued. As I close the magazine, a single resolution stands on my mind: it’s time for a trip to the Archives.
Cheryl Palacios recently graduated from the University of the Philippines - Diliman Institute of Library and Information Science. She wrote this article during her last year in college
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