Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Hoeflich on Serendipity in the Stacks, Fortuity in the Archives
To follow up on Emily's topic of archival work, there is a new SSRN posting, Serendipity in the Stacks, Fortuity in the Archives. Historians often describe their finds in the archives as serendipitous. Michael Harlan Hoeflich, University of Kansas School of Law, takes up the history of serendipitous discoveries. His essay appeared in Law Library Journal (2007). Here;s the abstract: Professor Hoeflich explores the notion of serendipity and its components as they relate to historians, particularly legal historians, and to those institutions - libraries and archives - that present the opportunities for serendipity to work its magic. He also discusses the ways in which libraries and archives can help to encourage serendipitous discoveries, and the dangers he sees in over-efficient and economically rational disposal policies, including reproduction instead of preservation of originals.