Processing the Past explores the dramatic changes taking place in historical understanding and archival management and in the relations between historians and archivists. Written by an archivist and a historian, it shows how these changes have been brought on by new historical thinking, new conceptions of archives, changing notions of historical authority, modifications in archival practices, and new information technologies. The book situates archives as subjects rather than places of study and examines the increasingly problematic relationships between historical and archival work. The authors contend that though historians and archivists once occupied the same conceptual and methodological space, they have divided into two separate professions with distinct conceptual frameworks and understandings of the authorities that govern their work: historians now ask questions not easily answered by traditional documentation, and archivists confront the challenges of new technologies and increases in the amounts of material they process. Blouin and Rosenberg conclude by raising the question of what future historical archives might be like if historical scholars and archivists no longer understand each other.
Francis X. Blouin Jr. is Director of the Bentley Historical Library and Professor in the History Department and School of Information at the University of Michigan. From 1984 to 2004 he led an effort to do a complete inventory of the archives of the Vatican. He has served on the board of the Council on Library and Information Resources.
William G. Rosenberg is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Michigan. He has authored, co-authored, or edited some thirteen books on Russian and Soviet history. His interest in archival issues developed from his responsibilities as vice president for research of the American Historical Association. He has also served as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and is a vice chair of the board of trustees of the European University at St. Petersburg.