The conventional view on archives is to see them as keepers and brokers of information between the past, the present, and the future. However, it is not possible to keep everything, and therefore stored archives always reflect a choice, in other words, an interpretation of the past. The way in which the materials are chosen for archiving and the manner in which they are organized will direct the researcher’s perspective and set the limits for the choice of questions posed in scientific research. Indeed, the premise in the research project Making and Interpreting National Pasts – Role of Finnish Archives as Networks of Power and Sites of Memory is the notion that the archives are, per se, always an interpretation of the past and a result of a cultural process. For this reason, we must ask how and on what terms were the archives established, and how they have accumulated and evolved. This development is never detached from the values or political and ideological choices of society.
Helsinki, 15 May 2012, Finnish Literature Society, SKS
This second seminar of the research project approached these questions from the point of view of the networks of power. The formal and practical reasons of collecting and preserving archives are based on the need of the public authorities to have documents and to make administration more efficient whereas the cultural motivations underline the national and historical value of documents. However, these values change over time, and in this context the power has been and is still exercised by the employees of the archives. A special gatekeeper role has been held by national archives and their directors. They have had the ultimate decision as to whose history is worth saving. Moreover, it is important to ask how the historical decisions and the collecting, indexing, description, and cataloguing of the materials orientate the current research. In the context of various documents, only certain features are considered relevant and the decisions on choices are made by certain key individuals at the national archival institutions.
Chief of Archives Ulla-Maija Peltonen: Opening
Professor Kirsi Vainio-Korhonen: Presentation of the Academy of Finland research project Making and Interpreting National Pasts – Role of Finnish Archives as Networks of Power and Sites of Memory
Professor Angelika Menne-Haritz: Opening Top Secret Records for Public Access the Foundation Archives of Parties and Mass Organisations of the GDR in the Federal Archives of Germany
Doctoral candidate Petra Hakala: Strategies of Archival Acquisition in The Society of Swedish Literature in Finland, commenter Taina Saarenpää
Doctoral candidate Taina Saarenpää: Women of the Bourgeois Class in the Collections of Medieval Sources, commenter Petra Hakala
Postdoctoral researcher Jari Lybeck: Birth and Development of Records Management Thinking in Finland from the 1880s to 1981, commenter Outi Hupaniittu
Doctoral candidate Outi Hupaniittu: Appraisal Policies and the Ideas of Objectivity and Impartiality, commenter Jari Lybeck
Chief of Archives Mikael Korhonen: Conclusion