Last week I had an opportunity to visit with Dave Joens and his staff at the Illinois State Archives—the first AOTUS to visit since Wayne Grover was there in 1952. Dave and I were able to reenact the original photo op at the same catalogue drawer!
Margaret Cross Norton was the first State Archivist of Illinois from 1922 until 1957. She was a co-founder of the Society of American Archivists, served in SAA leadership roles for many years, and edited American Archivist from 1946 to 1949. Her “Catalog Rules: Series for Archives Material” trained generations of archivists.
She fought the good fight distinguishing archives from libraries and historical societies:
“One might conclude…that the ideal archivist is a scholar sitting in a remote ivory tower safeguarding records of interest only to the historian. In reality the archivist is at the very heart of his government and the archival establishment is a vital cog in its governmental machinery. Archives are legal records the loss of which might cause serious loss to citizens or the government.”
In the mid-1950s, Grover was working on “The Archivist’s Credo” (later Code) and sent drafts out for review. Our records are rich with the correspondence between Norton and Grover. She challenges language and basic principles, addresses the non-partisan nature of government archives, and makes it clear that archivists are hired to process and serve archives and not to research their own scholarship!
An added general comment to the draft:
“Probably this also does not belong in the code, but I would say that the most important single need for the archivist is for a strong sense of order. Disorder must worry him. I don’t think enough emphasis has been placed upon this in the training of archivists.”
2 thoughts on “Paying Homage to Margaret Cross Norton”
David, thanks for the mention of the Archivists’ Credo. My husband, Mark Greene, is updating the SAA appraisal manual and hadn’t run into the Credo before. He found it online and plans to cite it. Precursor to today’s Code of Ethics.
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