Not in the archives

I (Mariecris) love movies and am especially excited when archives make it into the movies.  In Fool’s Gold, the two main characters utilize the archives to find hidden treasure.  Robert Langdon, in Angels and Demons, navigates temperature and relative humidity controlled encapsulated rooms whose oxygen levels are kept low to decrease deterioration.  (Of course, at the end of the movie, one of the bishops just hands him a document from the archives to take home.  All that protection was for nothing!) And then there is Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  Though it probably will not end up a classic, it is truly an educational and hilarious movie.  However, there is one fact that moviegoers should not learn.  The ‘Federal Archives’ in the movie is not an archives.  It is a storage room.  D-Man2010, who wrote the synopsis for the film on IMDB, correctly describes the ‘Federal Archives’ as portrayed in the movie as “federal storage.”

Under the Smithsonian and its surround museums, the federal archives is the National Museum of History’s new home for artifacts. Included the pieces transferred is an ancient Egyptian tablet that brings all the museum pieces to life.  If the tablet had really been stored in a federal archives, there would be no battle.  There would be no artifacts or museum figures to animate because archives typically hold correspondence, records, audio/visual materials, and moving images. (Well that is not totally true.  People in photographs and art can come to life, but they are limited to the confines of the photograph or canvas.*)  It is very rare than an archives collects artifacts only.  Museums are the institutions that collect and preserve artifacts/exhibits like the wax figure of Sacajawea, Theordore Roosevelt, and Archie Bunker’s chair.  Sadly, the museum displays ended up in a storage area, not in an archives.

If you would like to see what a real ‘federal archives’ is like, check out the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Library of Congress manuscript reading room websites.

*editor’s note: do not believe everything Mariecris tells you.  

One Comment

  1. “(Well that is not totally true. People in photographs and art can come to life, but they are limited to the confines of the photograph or canvas.*)”

    I really don’t think this is going to happen, seriously… But it would happen in the confines of the movie. Anyways, it would be great if they did a movie about a real archives, in Alaska, in the Consortium Library, and on the 3rd floor. I’m just saying…

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