I’m pleased to report that a proposal for a talk on “A Risks and Opportunities Framework For Archives 2.0” has been accepted for the “Archives 2.0: Shifting Dialogues between Users and Archivists” conference which will be held in Manchester on 19-20th March 2009.

The risks of Web 2.0 are often mentioned but those who use this as an argument for refusing to engage may miss out on the risks of doing nothing and the missed opportunities. 

It struck me recently that Douglas Adams, author of the Hitchhikers Guide series, provided a wonderful historical perspective  on the need to take risks in order to evolve. In the first series “The Book” describedan utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea“.

The book then went on to add: “Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

In homage to Douglas Adams I’d therefore like to describe the evolutionary history of the Archives profession. Feel free to adapt this to other scenarios – I’ve sure we are all familiar with theAcademus Coelancanth and the Librarian Coelancanth (and if I’ve confused Latin and Greek terms I’d welcome more approariate suggestions).

Image of a Coelacanth fish (from Wikipedia)Archivus Coelancanth is rarely spotted in the wild these days, still to be found but can still be spotted in the depths of the archives. This is the species which failed to evolve with the changing environment.  As documented in Wikipediathe coelacanth is almost worthless” although it is worthy of interest to those who have an interest in evolutionary dead ends. 

Image of a Raptor (from Wikipedia)In contrast to Archivus Coelancanth the Archivist Raptor has failed to survive.

This species was terrifying when it ruled, rapidly destroying many of its competitors. However the destruction of the local IT Servitus proved to be its own undoing and the species is now in grave danger of becoming extinct following an inability to respond to the rapidly changing (economic) climate. 

Archivus Sapiens (the wise archivist) is not as intimidating as its predecessor. However it has the agility and mental capacity to respond quickly to the changing environment. A distinctive feature of the Archivus Sapiens is the ‘elbow patches’ on its outer garments which have no practical important but, like the appendix in the related Homo Sapiens is a relic of a previous environment. 

Which species, I wonder, is to be found in your archive?