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archives Archivy Fantasy Sci-fi short blogs

Rick, Morty, and the National Archives Museum break-in

Rick and Morty enter the National Archives

When I heard that a Rick and Morty episode had archives within it, I was a bit wary, as I watched an episode before about a supposed archivist, and nothing about the person being an archivist was mentioned. So, my expectations were pretty low, especially since I wasn’t drawn into the series when I tried to start watching it a while back. Since has some similarities with National Treasure, I thought it was worth a try to watch “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular.”

This episode, on the face of it, seemed to have a focus on archives. In part, Morty says that stealing the Constitution is wrong, and Morty taunts Rick, asking if he is going to be an “America nerd” or if he is going help him steal the Constitution. Other than this, Michael McCarrick in CBR notes that the episode begins with breaking and entering the National Archives Museum, with the intention of “steal[ing] the U.S. Constitution for the sole purpose of using the hidden treasure map on it,” [1] with Rick calling the Constitution “a piece of paper with instructions on running a country” that isn’t necessary. But, this goes awry when Morty accidentally fires the laser gun which “destroys some of the Constitution…immediately blows off Abraham Lincoln’s head at the Lincoln Memorial…pass[es]…through the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall…and blowing up the Statue of Liberty.” McCarrick also notes that the episode has historical symbols defaced throughout, like the Washington Monument, a laser “slices through the American flag on the moon,” and Morty kills FDR who has become a spider mutation. This led McCarrick to say the show is “willing to recklessly destroy” famous American symbols and “show that the country can still survive without them.” This sends an interesting message, you could say, different than most shows.

However, the actual scene set in the archives is relatively short. It isn’t even a minute long, and the archives never appears in the episode after that point. Most of the episode focuses on trying to save the country from the invasion of turkeys with superhuman strength. Some sidestepped that they were in an archive altogether, calling it an “underground bunker” or just saying it references National Treasure, or saying that the episode itself is challenging American exceptionalism, one take that definitely has merit, along with being wonky in many ways. All in all, while the episode was enjoyable, it did not feature archives as much as I would have wanted, so it felt like a bit of a waste of time, unfortunate to to say. In any case, I hope to find some better examples in the future to feature on this blog.


Notes

[1] This is like National Treasure except in that film they stole the Declaration of Independence not the Constitution.

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Anime archives Archivists Archivy Fantasy Records management Sci-fi short blogs

Ura and the digital archives of the past in “Pale Cocoon”

Ura looks over records of the past at his desk at the beginning of the OVA

This OVA peaked by interest when I read a review by THEM Anime Reviews about it, which noted that it focuses on a person named URA who is “mining digital archives of the distant past for information,” finding in archival images a “long-gone world of green grass and animals and clouds and oceans” and his co-worker, Riko, often distracted, while he becomes “increasingly obsessed with trying to decipher a strange and disturbing record.”

So, the episode begins with Ura climbing stairs in a facility and him saying that “the archives we know of as history ended at some point.” Wee then see him looking over records from the past, leafing through a book, which is a way to communicate his supervisor, noting that he is looking through a visual record of some type from 2000 C.E. He agrees to send the record onward, through the bureaucracy, while secretly making a copy of the record himself, among others he is collecting. Basically, he is forming his own collection of records! As soon has is about to look at the next record, an audiovisual record, there is an air raid siren. He then talks about “wreckage of archives” scattered across the world, which contain “fragments of the former world,” saying he is evacuating archives because it is “the only way to understand the past.” He later tells Riko he is “obsessed” with evacuation/processing of records because of the archives. He tells about about a record he found and says to himself that through archives people were able to understand the reality of the present, with people only able to live on a part of the world.

Later, Riko and Ura look at the record he saw the day before, which he partially restored. Riko says that books are a “medium for passing on archives” and they wonder whether the place shown in the video is an archival data storage facility or not. As she walks out, not interested at first, she recounts how all sorts of people use to work there, but now they are the only ones working there. He becomes dedicated to figuring out what this record is really saying, slowing deciphering it. His supervisor notes that Riko is planning on leaving and discusses with him about the value of archives, then says this:

That can’t be good! Ura says they have already been confirmed as fact, in response, and his supervisor says he wishes sometimes that they were all lies. Ura and Rika discuss the past and where people live in this world shaped by environmental modifications. When Ura says that looking through the archives can help change the world, Rika tells him it is “better not to understand,” since humans destroyed the world in the past, saying she doesn’t want to lose any more hope in reality. She goes as far as to say that archives shouldn’t have been “dug up” (processed and brought in) in the first place. Later, Ura is back looking at records about population growth affecting the earth’s environment (not sure why they couldn’t have just said “climate change”), saying that perhaps he wanted to immerse himself in archives to avoid reality. The last parts of the OVA are spent of Ura using clues from the audiovisual record, which I think is a music video, to find out something about the past, speeding on an elevator up into the sky. Rika is shown coming to his work cubicle and doesn’t find him there, later seeing a video which tells her more about the past. The OVA ends with Uta looking at what appears to be the Earth, meaning they are on the Moon (I think?)

Anyway, there were some interesting archives themes in this, better than other anime like Little Witch Academia and Mystic Archives of Dantalian, both of which confused libraries and archives, to give two examples. It appears that Ura is doing some level of archival processing, which is preparing archival materials for use,” although he is clearly not engaging in arranging, description, or analysis. Even so, he may be described as an archaeologist, but he seems like an archivist to some extent, albeit a strange one, as does his colleague, Rika.

I wish this was a longer series where they could explore the archives more, but I would say I was relatively satisfied with this on the whole. I don’t know if its the best representation of archives, and archivists, but it is definitely a different one from anything I’ve seen recently and definitely more positive than the archives in Phineas and Ferb, Fluidium, and Meau that I’ve written about recently.

 

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archives Archivists Archivy Fantasy Records management

Archives in Fiction’s selections

In this post I’m going to feature and expand on some examples of archives in fiction which were noted by Archives in Fiction (herein AIF), an account which notes “portrayals of archives in fiction of all kinds.” [1] This includes the following examples:

  • Alias, Season 1, Episode 8
  • Alias, Season 1, Episode 16
  • Alias, Season 1, Episode 18
  • Alias, Season 2, Episode 4
  • The Americans
  • Loki
  • Age of Ultron: Book 8
  • Station Series
  • Berlin
  • Zoo Station
  • Restless
  • Age of Ultron
  • Killing Eve
  • Rogue Male
  • Midnight Library
  • The Defenders
  • Slough House
  • Inspector Montalbano, Season 14, Episode 1
  • The Da Vinci Code
  • The Pulse: Part 11 “The Fear”
  • The Pulse: Part 10 “House of M”
  • The Pulse: Part 5 “Thin Air”.
  • Kingdom: Ashin of the North
  • Weapon X #10

These examples include the protagonists breaking into the classified archives of the CIA, an elaborate plot to infiltrate secret archives, and early examples of digitization of a show set in the 1980s. Others focus on a book with archival records featured throughout with acknowledgements crediting archivists as helping with the work, possibly vast archives, the “judicious use of the 30 year rule,” a film where the villain scrubs digital files to frustrate attempts by the heroes to follow him, so they dig out boxes of files, and an “interestingly shot and well edited sequence…in which Jessica Jones tracks The Hand through archive records.” [1] AIF says they were “less amused by her treatment of the finding aids” because she removes index cards, and further says they were surprised that they let her have the run of the place, but added that is “nice to see a superhero doing her own research instead of relying on sidekicks.” AIF also mentions Midnight Library, saying that while this might be a stretch of archives in fiction but says that “infinite storage, incredible rolling shelves and…musings on the reliability on the reliability of memory,” make it memorable, as does a line about librarians as “soul-enhanced search engines.” Furthermore, AIF noted that archives are the heart of a novel, some “through appraisal” going on in one episode of a TV series, archives in a well-known film, and Wolverine sharpening his…archival research skills? The specifics of what is being referred to is noted in AIF’s certain tweets, linked throughout this post. In one recent example mentioned by AIF, they note an episode of Alias which has a break-in at a technical library in Moscow, with use of a finding aid and a retrieval system, even though “there was a trail of destruction and misappropriation.” This contrasts a nice, clean repository elsewhere.

Jessica Jones character explores archives in New York in an episode of the live-action series The Defenders.

I wish AIF had featured some animated series, but I’ll be trying to look into some of those in the future, with draft posts about: Wan Shi Tong in Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, Tony Stanza in Welcome to the Wayne, and Miss Quackfaster in Ducktales. Whether I write those or not, I don’t know, but there are hopefully topics out there to write about going forward in the future.


Notes

[1] For Age of Ultron: Book 8, AIF notes mention of archives in this comic, saying jokingly, “Surely Tony would’ve rebranded these Starkives?” For Berlin, AIF says that in this book by David Downing there isn’t much to report when it comes to archives in fiction. For Zoo Station, AIF says that this book by David Downing features include theft from archives, invisible archives labor, and no provenance. For Killing Eve, AIF says that archival material has a part to play in this trilogy. AIF also notes this appeared in the TV series of the same name. For Rogue Male, AIF says that there is a brief nod to archives in this novel by Geoffrey Household and said they were annoyed by “describing an archive as some kind of pit, the bottom of which is reserved for inconsequential items.” They noted the story was excellent otherwise. This doesn’t include AIF talking about almost an archivist in Andrew Caldecott’s Rotherweird and says that the Thrilling Adventures of Babbage may be inspired by archives. AIF also notes: mention of archives in this comic, The Pulse: Part 11 “The Fear”; mention of archives in this comic, The Pulse: Part 10 “House of M”; mention of newspaper archives in the comic, The Pulse: Part 5 “Thin Air”. AIF also noted improper records management in an episode of Community, early mentions of the Library of Alexandria in Brad Thor’s Blowback, and suggests possible archives in the She-Hulk comic, along with theft from an archives in another piece of pop culture.

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Animation archives Archivy Fantasy Records management

Bureaucracy, the archives and…more in “Phineas and Ferb”

Doofenshmirtz declares that by the time the agents reach him in the archives, he will be ruler of the Tri-State Area

In the Phineas and Ferb episode “Where’s Pinky?,” Heinz Doofenshmirtz realizes he can steal an old deed to the Tri-State Area from the archives, in the basement of the Tri-State Capitol building. In this post I’ll look at how archives are portrayed this episode, using what I have written about on this blog in the past.

First, a summary. Building off what I have mentioned so far, Doofenshmirtz tells the two agents trying to stop him that he will get away with it because they will have to go through bureaucracy first. A bureaucrat stops the agents, and Doofenshmirtz travels to the “secret vault.” He gets thrown into the archives, which is filled with documents and lit by torches, which, of course, has cobwebs. He finds the deed. The agents knock the deed out of his hand, knocking papers to the ground, and he can’t figure out which paper it is. It seems like he will get away with it at the last second and Agent P knocks him over the head with a computer. Later, Don, a sort of tour guide, grabs the deed and declares he is the ruler of the tri-state area. That’s it.

There are many stereotypes associated with this archives. For one, it is in a basement, dusty, and poorly lit, how archives are generally portrayed in popular culture. Secondly, no archivist is present. Thirdly, it doesn’t seem to have much in the way of organization, as it is almost set up like a library. Therein, in some sense it is confused a bit with a library. Finally, it isn’t even called an archives or a hall of records, but just a… “secret vault,” on the same level as a gift shop.

However, there is something interesting that is noteworthy here. I liked how the agents can’t get to Doofenshmirtz because they are hemmed by bureaucracy, having to get a specific number in order to get down to the archives. On the other hand, the security at the building where the archives is located really isn’t that great. Doofenshmirtz is able to get to an elevator (albeit he is invisible) and get down to the archives by going on an elevator and pressing a button. Shouldn’t he need to present an ID or something? That seems like a lapse in security to me.

Archives as shown in the episode, sadly stereotypical in many ways

I wish archives had been portrayed better in this episode, but sadly they were not. So my feelings about this whole episode are ambivalent, as I’m not sure if its better or worse than the archives shown in an episode of Amphibia or the one in Regular Show, with the latter a little better because a person who is at least in some sense an archivist is shown. In this case, as I noted before, archivists never appear.

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Archivy Records management webcomics

Examining futuristic “archives” in “Fluidium”

The “archives” first shown in the comic, in episode 33.

Continuing from my last post, where I examined the so-called “archival reserve” in Meau, this post looks at the futuristic “archives” in Fluidium, another one of my favorite comics. “Archives” first appear in the 33rd episode, “Will this work?” where Jesse Janssens works to access records at the Belgian National Records to find out more about whether shifting “seamlessly between a male and female body,” as noted in the webcomic’s description, can be continued, rather than stopped, as happens after someone turns 21. Their friends are beside them, like Milo, Lake, and Professor Marsden Leti, the latter who is leading the effort. Jesse’s id gets scanned, and they get access, able to “browse around the library” for specific information. [1] They are able to concentrate the search on anyone alive related to a person named Sigmund Alders, finding there are 78 people alive, narrowing it by those born in Belgium, sorting the into specific occupations, and work with their friend Lake, and end up with only six people. These are divided between Jesse, Milo, Lake, and Leti, where they can go to Belgium to find them. With that, let me begin my analysis of these issues of Fluidium and the role of archives.

For one, the robot at the “archives” resembles the one who talks to Milo in an earlier episode, [2] and relays messages to them, making me think the robots are related in terms how both are created, used, or something like that. What is being researched is taboo and is hidden in an attempt to supposedly stop civil unrest, and the records are only accessible to someone who is Belgian. [3] Jesse is intrigued by the idea, in the research, that both bodies can be kept, rather than being forced to discard one, of course, when first learning about it. They learned about from Lake, and later talked about it with their girlfriend, Rachel, in an earlier episode. [4] Due to some interpersonal issues, though, Lake has to do the research on this on their own, and later finds the grandchild of Alders who is named Karel. [5] Jesse eventually agrees with Rachel and agrees to go meet this grandchild, while leaving her girlfriend in the hospital to recover from a fluid build-up after throwing her other body off a cliff in a car into the ocean.

While this story will undoubtedly continue as Fluidium moves forward, I doubt that archives will be shown again. For one, I think it is unfortunate that the Belgian National Records is shown as a library, when it appears to be more of an archives, or more accurately a records center, or perhaps just a depository. I think a lot of the archives-libraries confusion is related to people not knowing the difference between archives and libraries, to their peril.

As I noted on the about page of this blog, archives are somewhere you can gather firsthand information, evidence, and data, a collection of materials, with archivists trained specifically in preserving this material, possessing knowledge about records and their life cycle, engaging in analysis and research to make sure the records can be used by the public. Furthermore, records of many types are kept due their continuing value to those who created them, possible users, and serve as documentary evidence of the past, with an archives dedicated to preserving the heritage of a specific group, whether governmental, personal, corporate, or a community, for instance. It should also be recognized that archives make their collections publicly available, have unpublished and published materials of lasting/long-term value, with archivists caring for the materials to preserve them for present and future use, which are unique and cannot be replaced, whether for research, reference, or another reason. Even so, archives may have printed items which aren’t unique, but help give context to other records. For instance, the Maryland State Archives has a library which can be accessed by patrons, including books which have extracts of archival records and general histories, which can help in research. Additionally, materials to be preserved are identified, appraised, and made available, to ensure government accountability, support research, or serve as cultural memory institutions, for instance.

We do not see evidence that the Belgian National Records is anything like this. In fact, it is more like a library akin to something like the Library of Congress, or even a data center of some type. Hopefully this improves in future issues of Fluidium. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath for that, because I have very low confidence that those who write about archives and/or archivists in popular culture will do it right, as it is often done wrong and detrimental for the archival field as a whole.


Notes

[1] Layla, “Belgian Records,” Fluidium, episode 34, June 1, 2021.

[2] Layla, “Milo, where ya been?,” Fluidium, episode 32, May 18, 2021.

[3] Layla, “Why do they need me?,” Fluidium, episode 30, May 4, 2021; Layla, “Do people know?,” Fluidium, episode 29, April 27, 2021.

[4] Layla, “Alders Theory,” Fluidium, episode 26, April 6, 2021. The “Alders theory” is first mentioned in the 25th episode, “Flowers.”

[5] Layla, “Is it too late?,” Fluidium, episode 36, June 15, 2021; Layla, “Fluid Build-Up,” episode 39, July 6, 2021; Layla, “Found Them,” Fluidium, episode 40, July 13, 2021; Layla, “Heart or mind?,” Fluidium, episode 41, July 20, 2021.

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Archivy Fantasy short blogs webcomics

Examining the “archival reserve” in “Meau”

I was reading one of my favorite webcomics recently, Meau, and in the 34th issue, the librarian tells one of the protagonists, Gwen, that the magic books she is getting are in the “archival reserve,” as she terms it. The protagonist is confused that she can’t check out the books, calling them “old” and nothing that “could be replaced” with money and status She gets back to where the materials are stored, saying there are no chairs, the light is broken, and that it “all smells like dust.” She looks through the books for the material she needs and her boss, Haku, says he is coming to help, and a monster attacks. Sadly, Haku is mortally wounded… and the librarian is mortified by what happened.

I can’t say much here, as the issue is focused more on library-related themes than archives. While this story was interesting, it again confuses archives and libraries. Why couldn’t they just have called it the reserve section, rather than the archival reserve section? What about this section is specifically archival? That is never explained. This sounds like the author was trying to invoke a reference section in a library but called it, for some reason, an “archival reserve section.” I’m not sure why that was done in this case.

The lack of an archivist in this comic is also very unfortunate, as someone would have to come up with a way to preserve, conserve, and store those materials. Instead, the librarian sits behind a desk, and doesn’t do much else, becoming little more than a plot device.

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Animation archives Archivists Archivy Fantasy Film Live-action Records management

Two “keepers of secrets” in fiction

In their glossary of tropes, #ArchivesInFiction talks about a “popular trope in which the Archivist is portrayed as an unapproachable curmudgeon who views the archives as their own personal fiefdom and is therefore protective of their records and their knowledge” which they call “keeper of secrets.” In this post I’d like to highlight some of those people, as I know them, in series I’ve seen up to this point. Even tough the second example isn’t a curmudgeon, he still is protective over records in his care but for a different reason.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

This is the quintessential example of this trope and it was the subject of one my first posts on this blog. Putting aside the archives-library confusion in this film, which I, of course, wrote a whole post about, Madame Jocasta Nu, seemingly the Jedi Archives lone arranger, first asks Obi-Wan if he needs help, but then declares the archives are totally immutable, thinking there is no way that anyone could tamper with the records. Don’t they have records management tools or something to check the records? Why do they blindly trust that no one tampered with the records? After finding that Kamino DOES exist, was there any consequences for her? I sure hope so. There is no doubt that she, and the archives, were of little help to Obi-Wan, who was faulted for chasing something that didn’t exist. I have to disagree with what then-SAA President Randall Jimmerson said about the film: “George Lucas presents a more confident view of archives.” How in the world can that be the case? Isn’t this view of an archives very cynical? I mean, I’m taking away from this that archives shouldn’t be totally trusted. And also the fact that if items do not appear in archival records, they do exist. However, I can agree with him that this vision definitely “shows the limits of archival control” and the illusion of the power of the archivist, who has a powerful and crucial role.

Other than this, in that post, Samantha Cross is right to call Nu a person of experience and age, and says that her confidence and complacency are worrisome,and argues there “a distinct lack of scrutiny and curiosity in Jocasta that’s endemic throughout the Republic.” In that post I also noted that she served as Archives Director for over 30 years, formerly on the Jedi Council for 10 years, and that she was reliant on data of the Jedi Archives. This also makes clear the impression, for archivists, that everything in their collections is, as I noted in that post, all there is, that they have everything, that records could not be tampered with, which is absurd, to say the least.

Nu sort of reminds me of Filis in Tri-Squad VoiceDrama, who is also a lone arranger. Currently, there are almost 300 fics which feature Nu on Archive of Our Own. However, only ONE fic specifically mentions her as an archivist, and even that fic doesn’t seem that positive to me, when it comes to archives, from what I can tell. [1] I did like this one (even though it slightly confuses libraries and archives) where she wonders what is hidden from them:

Two hours later, having returned the youngling – Charzi, of Pod Kwinn – to her teachers, Jocasta was staring at the blank space on what should have been a top of the line star map of the entire known galaxy.

 

It was the best known star map of the galaxy, being updated daily as new information came in from the exploratory corps and other private enterprises. And yet, she was staring at clear proof that someone had sabotaged her archives.

 

No, not her archives. Pride and possessiveness were traits unbefitting a Master of her years and discipline. Still, this was a problem that needed to be rectified immediately.

Jocasta’s eyebrows went up, but the scouting and exploring of a newly discovered system and interacting with the locals respectfully were long accepted parts of the Trials for those who chose the archival path.

She was going to need to audit the entire library. Top to bottom just to see what else they’d missed. It was going to take years, even if the entire Education Corps and Archivists worked on it. Which they would be.

Jocasta stared at the archives, gaze scanning over the shelves and shelves of books, scrolls, datapads.

 

What else was being hidden from them?

I think one fic writer put it well, that after the Kamino incident, she “made a whole whack of archive backups and stashed them in increasingly unlikely places, which allowed at least some to survive long enough for Rey to get to them,” adding that you don’t get to be “Head Archivist by being casual about data integrity and backups, especially once you’ve been shown a problem!”

The same issues with Nu also are somewhat reflected in the animated series, although you could argue the series is a bit more fair.

The Joker

Unnamed records clerk first shown. Look at those Hollinger boxes in the background! The records are being stored correctly in this scene. Did they consult any archivists when making this film? I sure hope so.

The archivist, er actually records custodian/clerk is not a curmudgeon but he really wants to stick to the rules. As I noted in the post, Arthur Fleck wants to get records about his mother,but the records clerk lugs in a heavy storage box and does some digging for Fleck. He ultimately, however, says he can’t give the file to Fleck without the right forms, saying he needs his mom to sign a “patient disclosure form.” Fleck won’t stand for this, and he ultimately grabs the file and runs away.

Apart from the metal gate itself symbolizing, as I noted in the post, the division between those who can access records and those who can’t, there are other takeaways from this. For one, in this film, the records center is literally part of the system which is oppressing people. Secondly, the clerks are prevented by bureaucracy from providing patrons with access to records in a fair, equitable, and efficient way. Thirdly,is the division between those who can access the records and those who can’t access the records. I wish more series and fiction would discuss this, but sadly, they do not.


Notes

[1] This expands when you only use the term “archives,” with some only mentioning it in passing as “Jedi Archives,” (same here, here, here, here, here, and here), another which confused libraries and archives sadly, along with those about flirting in the archives, one more specifically about her, missing records, various archivists, interactions between Nu and Jedi, surprise in the archives, finding a stray Padawan in the archives, vastness of information there, Anakin meeting Nu, and her dying during Order 66.

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Archivists Archivy Fantasy webcomics

Library-archives confusion in “Spells From Hell”

Scarlet says hello to a person who is likely an archivist

In the webcomic, Spells From Hell, archives make an appearance. While the 14th episode it is said that scriptures don’t leave the “clan’s library for security purposes.” However, right after that, it is said that archivists will be guarding the doors so no one can leave or come in. But once James Chao and Scarlet get inside, it is clearly a library. There are bookshelves of scholarly materials and they escape out a window, with a woman, who may be an archivist, seeing her outside. They later get sent back inside and study. What’s really going on here?

For one, these two episodes almost fall in the trope of #InvisibleArchivesLabour, as #ArchivesInFiction describes it, as except there is no significant plot development which “occurs through archive material.” Without a doubt, there isn’t much “recognition or appreciation of the work that’s gone into compiling, ordering or preserving the records,” but neither James or Scarlet ever find anything there or use any records. I’d argue, however, that the author of the webcomic, xxx, made the fundamental mistake of library-archives confusion. The two are smashed together into one, not unlike the worst example of all, the Star Wars series. Yes, there are special collections inside of libraries, which are basically mini-archives, with the SAA saying that there is a great area of overlap between them, with archives having library sometimes as “part of its name, or an archives may be a department within a library.” But, this is not that all. The archivists are assumed to be part of the library, when this logically makes sense. If they are archivists, aren’t they part of the archive? As the SAA states, places records are kept is called archives, with archivists are professionals “who assess, collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to these records.”

Here’s one specific example. NARA is “the nation’s record keeper,” with any record created in the “course of doing federal business, that falls into a category predetermined to be kept and preserved,” is transferred to NARA when “the agency or department that created it doesn’t need to refer to it any longer.” On the other hand, the Library of Congress is the “world’s largest collection of knowledge and creativity,” taking in “more than 10,000 objects a day,” and it is the nation’s copyright repository. It also has offices around the world. So, that is just one difference between the two agencies.

In the end, I hope more people in fiction avoid the library-archives confusion, whenever possible, because its one of the biggest tropes I see on here, and its unfortunate to see.

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Animation archives Archivists Fantasy Records management

Archie the Archivist, the laserdisc, and preservation of analog data

Some time ago, I went through all the major animated series and searched the fandom pages related to them for terms like “library” and “librarian.” One of the series that came up was Regular Show. I watched a few specific episodes, one of which was “The Last Laserdisc Player.” At first, I thought a character was a librarian, even listing him on the list of Western animated series with libraries and librarians at one point. But, I learned in the credits that this man, voiced by John Cygan, was named Archie the Archivist. Enter one of the strangest, wildest, most bizarre depictions of an archivist that I’ve ever seen, seriously. So, I just had to write about it. I had no choice in the matter, ha. Anyway, warning for spoilers for those who haven’t watched the episode.

Before getting that far into this series, I’d like to bring in what is noted on the blog, #ArchivesInFiction (herein AIF) on this blog it is noted that for archivists, archivists often aren’t protagonists in fiction, if at all, leaving those in the archives profession unable to reference a fictional character as a shorthand when explaining what they do. Even worse, archivists and archives are often misrepresented in fiction, with writers falling back on various cliches and tropes. I used their posts to determine whether any of them are the case here.

The protagonists, Mordo, Rigs, and their friend, go to the local library to search for a laserdisc player. They are told by two older patrons who declare a VHS is better than a laserdisc (I guess the equivalent of a Blu-Ray?). Archie hears about this and takes them down to the basement where thousands of formats are stored. He believed they are the ones who will end the “format wars.” At this point, this could be called a basement archives and Archie could be called #AlmostAnArchivist which AIF describes as when a character managing the archive is doing their best but isn’t a professional archivist. Archie goes on to tell the story of how VHS took over from laserdiscs, having a goon squad which destroyed all the players in society, so VHS could be dominant. The laserdisc itself opens a secret chamber in this basement archives (treated as the basement of the public library). Inside, they find the last laserdisc player. Again, I would say this falls into a few tropes, specifically by heists, robberies, and theft from archives. [1]

Anyway, the episode continues as they fight off the “ancient order of the VHS” so they can watch their film, with the library getting destroyed in the process. The librarian turns into the laserdisc guardian and they later watch the movie together, which is an absurdly long film. All in all, however, the archives is in a “dank, dark, subterranean setting for the repository in question,” what AIF calls #DustyArchives, which is a trope common in journalism and fiction. However, there is not any #InvisibleArchivesLabour, as the characters don’t seem to ignore the work that has “gone into compiling, ordering or preserving the records is forthcoming.” I suppose you you could say this falls into the #AcknowledgedArchivalLabour trope, which is, surely “all to uncommon in fiction” as AIF notes, but is worth nothing for sure.

In this story, however, there are no aha moments where characters find exactly what they need without finding aids, convenient finding of archival records with minimal research, no death-related imagery used to describe interactions with repositories or records, with no buried records. I vaguely remember something about records being compromised due to their lack of provenance, but he was not an unapproachable curmudgeon who views archives as their “personal fiefdom and is therefore protective of their records and their knowledge.” And you could argue that power of archival records is “acknowledged within the context of the narrative.”


Notes

[1] AIF defines #ArchiveHeist as a “scenario in which the planning and/or execution of #ArchiveTheft is as important as the theft itself,” while defining #ArchiveRobbery as “similar to #ArchiveTheft only with force and or destruction,” and #ArchiveTheft as  a common trope for archives in fiction, a “self-explanatory generic term but with some nuances regarding the subtlety (or otherwise) of the theft in question.

Categories
Archivy Fantasy Records management webcomics

An underground mail room which has archivy vibes?

Displays image of mail room in the webcomic <em>Men of Harem</em>
Mail room at the Melosi estate… is it actually…an archives?

I know its been over a month since I’ve last posted on this blog, reprinting a post about archivists in Recorded by Arizal and Stretch Armstrong. With that, I apologize for it being that long and I wanted to publish sooner, but sadly that did not come to pass. Anyway, I am, as I noted on one of my sister blogs, “an otaku in more ways than one, as I have written about scores of anime,” the same applies to webcomics too. I estimate I’m subscribed to at least 100 webcomics on Line Webtoon (otherwise known as WEBTOON) right now, a list that is ever-expanding. I’d like to write about one of my favorite webcomics, Men of the Harem. In the 15th episode, in an underground mail room at the Melosi Estate, a character, Sir Sonnaught, captain of the royal guard, asks the mail assistant for “all the records we received in the year 515,” specifically those addressed to the imperial majesty, then princess Lastrail. He finds out that over 120 letters did not pass the screening process, specifically those without an official seal or containing content deemed threatening or malicious. The mail assistant admits he screens the letters, with most threatening letters sent anonymously, investigating all cases. The search through the letters continues onward. The question remains: is this mail room really an archives? Whether it is, or isn’t, what are the archives themes in this story as a whole? That’s what I plan to look at in this post, using a glossary of archives terms/tropes put together by a blog which began following me on Twitter, #ArchivesInFiction, as a guide for analysis of this webcomic, as a starting point.

We must ask, is this mail room an archives? Obviously libraries are often confused with archives in fiction and vice versa as I’ve noted on this blog before, with archivists themselves often portrayed in the same way as librarians, meaning they are shown in a stereotypical way. An archives is, simply a place where people can, as I noted my last post on this blog, “access, in person or online, first-hand accounts of events, including various original materials, whether paper documents, maps, photographs, and digital records.” These repositories are staffed by archivists, who are specially trained individuals to handle records deemed to have continuing value to users, and records creators. Furthermore, there are often attempts by archivists to make collections available to the public in whatever way possible, with records arranged according to those who created them, and cannot be checked out by patrons. As such, there are certain guidelines for accessing such records. NONE of these are the case for this webcomic. However, it can be argued to be a repository, which the SAA Dictionary defines as “a space used to store items of continuing value, particularly records,” also known as a storehouse. [1] Due to this, we can’t say that any of the tropes outlined by #ArchivesInFiction are relevant here.

Even so, this issue of this webcomic gives me archivy vibes, even though it seems to more closely involve a library more than anything else. And records are central to this issue and the webcomic more broadly, making it definitely possible these themes could surface in the future. I went into this thinking I could get more out of this issue and ended up disappointing myself in the end, sadly. Onto the next review!


Notes

[1] This is also defined as “an institution focused on the care and storage of items of continuing value, particularly records.”