Kim Sbarcea has a new blog – ThinkingShift. There is a thought-provoking article there on how “future archaeologists will view 21st Century life.” It does make you wonder what we will look like… I am reminded of a short story I read years ago about alien archaeologists exploring a post-apocalypse Earth, and pondering deeply on the cultural significance of a Donald Duck cartoon that had been preserved.
My brother has just completed his Master’s in archaeology. His wife is writing a history of the city of Darwin for a Doctorate in history. (This is a sequel to her earlier book, The Evolution of Darwin – you’ve got to love the title!)
In a recent conversation with them, I have only just become aware of a major bone of contention between these two disciplines. My lay interpretation of this is as follows…
The archaeologist is interested in artefacts – things you can see and touch. Oral history is not only meaningless to the archaeologist, it is anathema. To the historian, however, oral history is in some cases the only thing they have to go on. As you can imagine, there is some (good-natured) debate in my brother’s household.
So how will people remember our organisations in the future?
What will we leave behind of our business achievements (other than architecture)? Perhaps more importantly, how easy is it to find out what we did one year ago, let alone a millennium?
When a new staff member joins a team, or one person tries to pick up work for another that is absent on maternity leave, do we know which document repository the files they need are stored in? Are they on a PC that we don’t have access to? How do we find the right files – and the right versions? Do co-workers have an oral history, or do we have to dig?