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Creative Research Center

The Archive must go out into the world in 2020 – by Neil Baldwin

Posted in: Director's Essay

A page of ideas for the future from NB's 2017 CRC Journal.
A page of ideas for the future from NB's 2017 CRC Journal.

The Archive has always been sacred to me — as a scholar, of course, sitting alone, always alone, in the hushed libraries of the world, filling out call slips and summoning books and manuscripts and ephemera; and wearing white gloves for handling vintage photographs, and taking care to only pull one file at a time, and laying it flat on the table, all the while watched by vigilant reading room staff, benevolent yet proprietary. The frisson of discovery! The compulsion to request one more item. The conviction that there is a “there there.”

And as a compiler, an amasser. Of the manuscripts and works of others; and of my own papers, crammed into boxes and pushed along the floor into the peripheral corners of the attic, saved just because I might “need” them some day in some undefined way. The boxes gather and sit silently, welcoming dust and aging imperceptibly. I walk past their closed chambers on the way to my study; and lately, in my heart of hearts, I know they cannot stay with me forever.

And most pertinently I venerate the Archives as a creator. There were others before The Creative Research Center, at other institutions and repositories when I saw the need to honor posterity before I even knew what that meant or who would live there, before the word “legacy” was implanted in my imagination. When I could not shake the thought that some day in the indeterminate future, someone would actually need a tangible record — the present serving what was to come. After decades, this mission became unshakeable, and out of it was born the CRC, coming up on ten years.

Here we are. Here you are. Yes, I agree, it is a rich site, the content (as they say) is diverse, representative, alive, vibrant, drawn from the farthest reaches of our University community, intellectual, theoretical, seasoned, raw, opinionated, reserved, humanists and scientists and artists and category-less people emerging from their niches — self-made or designated — into general illumination. That was ever my ideal. I am thrilled it has come to maturity.

But: and this is a big qualification: Now the Archive has to move – because now I accept and understand that the CRC, although proudly and originally virtual, was born out of my traditional analog sensibility and training, very much “old school.”  What good does the CRC serve if it is known only to a limited, if passionate and appreciative, constituency?

The resolution for 2020 and beyond is to disseminate, release, expand, link — to emancipate The Creative Research Center and allow its collective voice to fly and be heard across the Web as broadly as possible.

Watch this space.