Preservation and Destruction

The complexity of the problems which may arise when the collection and organization of research material is envisaged as a whole is instanced in a memorandum on the destruction of documents prepared by Professor N.S.B. Gras, which develops the thesis that “destruction is the necessary correlation to preservation. If repositories keep on growing, there may come a time when they will be as threatening to our civilization as the graveyards of China. Apart from physical limitations is the question of financial support for archives, museums, and libraries. If discrimination and moderation are not shown, there will be a reaction on the part of supporters, both private and public.” In view of present-day printing policies, which put records upon perishable paper, and present-day library policies, which neglect some categories of material known to be useful, the practical need of the moment is for more adequate preservation, but in proportion as this need is fulled there will arise a need for more rational destruction. Otherwise valuable material will be destroyed for the sake of preserving unimportant material.

Solon J. Buck, chairman, and Robert C. Binkley, secretary and reporter, “Report of the Joint Committee of the SSRC and the ACLS on Materials for Research”, American Council of Learned Societies, Bulletin, no.15 (May, 1931), 73-77, at p.77.