Something New for Something Old: Innovative Approaches to Managing Archives and Special Collections

December 4-5, 2008 at the Union League of Philadelphia



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Max J. Evans
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Biographical Statement

Max J. Evans, a Utah native, began his career in the archives division of the LDS Church Historical Department, in Salt Lake City, his first professional position after earning a master's degree in American history at Utah State University. After six years Evans moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where he spent nearly ten years at the Wisconsin Historical Society, working first in the archives as head of processing, deputy state archivist, and acting director of the archives and manuscripts division; and then in the Society's library as its director. His professional interests include the uses of technology in archives, electronic records, and promoting the wider uses of archives. Evans was elected Fellow of the Society of American Archivists in 1984.

Clearly unable to stick to just one job, he left blue lakes, fall colors, and white snow of Wisconsin to return to his native state as director of the Utah State Historical Society in Salt Lake City. After 16 years, he abandoned his editorial, historic preservation, and fund raising duties, as well as hiking and skiing in the mountains, for the inside-the-beltline allure of the NHPRC.

Now "retired" from Federal employment, he is having a Groundhog Day experience, returning again to the LDS Church History Department as Director of Collections and Research. He hopes to truly retire in a few yearsóbut, like Bill Murray, only if he gets it right this time. He will then travelófor pleasure, not for workówith his wife, Mary, enjoy their five children and ten (at last count) grandchildren in Utah, Maryland, and Florida, and tend to his hobby of perpetual home improvement.

member of Digitization panel

Presentation Abstract

When it comes to digitization, I will argue both sides of the case:

On the one hand, the archives in a democratic society have an affirmative duty to make their collections as widely accessible as possible. Publishing digital images of collections is, today, the most effective means to that end. On the other hand, American archives do not have the resources to digitize their entire holdings (estimated at some 33,000,000,000 pages held by all U.S. archives). Furthermore, they shouldn't try, but must avoid creating expectations that cannot be met.

On the other hand, since "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways" (James 1: 8), I will try to reconcile these positions. I will suggest strategies for (1) selection and (2) simplification. I will draw on my experience with an NEH-funded project at the Utah State Historical Society, with the NHPRC grants program, and with my current work at the LDS Church (which is noted among archivists for its microfilming, and, more recently, its digitization of records related to genealogy).



Last updated November 11, 2008 Questions may be directed to Christine Di Bella,