I’ve had this quote scrawled on a piece of Christmas wrapping paper that I’ve been carrying around since, well Christmas. Boxing Day to be precise.
It comes from Neil MacGregor’s A History of the World in 100 Objects, chapter 19, The Mold Gold Cape. He describes how the removal of the skeleton at the dig site meant that they lost so much more potential information about the way people lived at the time. The story of the cape was only half told.
“For although the precious finds will usually survive, the context which explains them will be lost, and it’s that context of material – often financially worthless – that turns treasure into history.”
You might say that for our records it’s what turns documents from Peter and Jane into Shakespeare…
We’ve already spoken of the importance of context in managing information, but this is IMPORTANT. So let’s explore further. A few days after I was leafing through someone else’s Christmas presents, The National Archives released a set of Margaret Thatcher’s files. One of the elements that caused so much attention was her hand written notes in the margins of the papers. They bring so much more context to the documents, an insight into her thoughts and personality.