I have been watching Ken Burn’s new documentary on the National Parks and thinking about the ways in which archives make this kind of project possible. Of course, the average viewer may not ponder where those beautiful images of our National Parks reside today and how they survive from generation to generation, but I do. I know that most of them survive and remain accessible because of the work of dedicated archivists, whose work is, in turn, often made possible and sustained by public support and enthusiasm.
October is American Archives Month and California Archives Month. The theme for American Archives Month is “Celebrating the American Record” and the theme for California Archives Month is “Celebrating Cultural Diversity.” In many ways, the documentary on the National Parks is a celebration not only of the American commitment to these glorious public spaces, but also a celebration of our dedication to preserving the historical record that allows us to continue to tell the story of Yosemite and Yellowstone and Death Valley.
And, in line with the California Archives Month theme, I say let’s celebrate and renew our commitment as Americans and Californians to preserving and making accessible a diverse historical record–made up of records from all the ethnic, racial, religious, and social groups who have built (and continue to build) this country and this state. The story of the National Parks, like most American stories, is best told from a diverse set of records. And those materials don’t survive without a public commitment to grow and nurture our great (and inclusive) American historical record.
To mark American Archives Month and California Archives Month, as well as the history of our National and State Parks and the history of the Jews of the Western United States, here are a few images of Yosemite from the wonderful archival collections of the Magnes.