Every so often, when I meet someone new at a social gathering, 1 I have a conversation that runs something like this:
New acquaintance: So, what do you do for a living?
Andrew: I’m an archivist.
Acquaintance: Archivist? What does that mean?
Andrew: It means that I look after historical records.
Acquaintance: Oh. What sort of records do you have, then?
Andrew (proudly): I work at The National Archives. We have government records, millions of them. 2
Acquaintance (unconvincingly): How, erm, interesting. 3
Andrew (hastily): I specialise in maps and plans and things like that.
Acquaintance (brightening up considerably): Oh, I love maps.
I am always bemused (and sometimes amused) by the fact that many people think maps are interesting but government records must be boring, even though our maps are government records. The large amount of media interest when batches of records are newly made available to the public demonstrates that many government records – even the ones that aren’t maps – are anything but boring. Continue reading »