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ARCHIVES  June 2006, Week 1

ARCHIVES June 2006, Week 1

Subject:

Portuguese Naval Archives: A User's Perspective

From:

Jim Klein <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Jim Klein <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 7 Jun 2006 08:38:59 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (66 lines)

Several Listmates have asked me to explain the reason for the lack of  
interest in the Portuguese naval archives, as opposed to the national  
archives, and suggest a solution - if one is needed.

First, it seems the world is Eurocentric, and wants to know what  
Europe did in the age of sail and exploration. There is less interest  
- so they tell me - in what Asia did during the same age. I'll know  
more about this when I begin the tour of Asian archives.

My research is along the standard lines too, so I'm part of the   
general trend. I'm interested in testing economic theories on the  
formation of governments by the five major European powers -  
Portugal, Spain, France, the Netherlands, and Britain - in the old  
and new worlds. Standard stuff. What sort of economy do we see from  
the various legal systems?

But, economists are also interested in competition, in this case,  
competition from Asian ship owners. Why can we not find evidence of  
Asian owned, manned, and mastered ships? Did they not come, or are we  
not looking in the right place?

In the Portuguese archives, the latter is true, and until I asked the  
question, no one had ever raised the issue, as far as they could  
remember. The archivists jumped at the opportunity to see what their  
resources could tell us about Asian shipping activity, and asked me  
to brief their personnel on my interest in the subject.

That leads to the final issue: what can or should archivists do about  
this?

My first thought was the archivists might draw upon other fields to  
give them a better insight into what it is they have in those dusty  
boxes.

Archivists are good at preserving stuff, but have not yet - in those  
countries - begun to advertise to the world. Economists, in  
particular, will love it there, and can propose a structure to the  
archival material that will allow easier understanding and searching.

As other fields are drawn to the Iberian archives, and their insights  
illuminate the uses of the data, both the presentation and the use of  
the information will increase.

So, I suggested a symposium at their archives bringing in researchers  
from other fields to learn about the data there and suggest uses for  
the data in their own fields. I volunteered to raise some money and  
drag some of the Dismal Gang along to Lisbon.

Lisbon's a nice town and the archives are in a beautiful building.

  * * * * *  J B K  * * * * *

       San Francisco

A posting from the Archives & Archivists LISTSERV List sponsored by the Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.
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