We are often asked “what is an archive” or “why have an archive” and “why don’t you have this or that”? Like most things in this world it is never a black and white answer. Lets look at these questions in brief and how the Bhaktivedanta Archives fits into them.
What is an Archive?
“In its most common form it can be described as… Materials that have been created by individuals, groups or organizations during the course of their life or work and deemed to be worth keeping permanently as evidence of their activities, or kept because of the long-term importance of the information they contain. Some examples of archive material:- letters- diaries- certificates- photographs- plans- publications- reports- working papers”.
“However, the word 'archives' is used for so many different things, and varied definitions. 'Archives' is sometimes used simply for materials that are stored, such as a back-up. You may also hear the term 'manuscripts' used to refer to the papers of individuals or families, as opposed to 'archives', which may be used specifically for the papers of businesses or organizations”.
“To add to the confusion, the term 'archive' can mean a place where archives are stored, as well as a collection of materials. You may hear 'archive', 'record office' or 'repository' to refer to a place that preserves and makes available materials for research”.
As you can see the term “Archive” can be quite generic and broad spectrum.
Our meaning for the Bhaktivedanta Archives is outlined in its most common term. Materials that have been created by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founder Acharya of ISKCON or about A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada founder Acharya of ISKCON by individuals, groups or organizations during or about the course of his life or work and deemed (everything) to be worth keeping permanently as evidence of his activities, or kept because of the long-term importance of the information (Krishna Consciousness) contained therein.
Why Have an Archive?
In the broad sense all the archives from the past, and the archives now being created, are the raw material of history. They tell us what people and organizations did, how and sometimes why they did it, and sometimes what they thought. By having archives we can connect directly to past generations.
By extension the Bhaktivedanta Archives will connect with future generations who will look back on Srila Prabhupada and his teachings and mission. So our primary job is to gather, conserve and preserve the “raw material” for now and the future. The days of relying on word of mouth are being over run by Kali Yuga. It is evident that our memory over time can and will be faulty. So the creation of an archive “as it is” was and is the driving force of the Bhaktivedanta Archives.
Why don’t you have this or that…
“History is full of, people and organizations that are less organized, and records may not be kept deliberately but may survive by accident. They may be found later by other people, who might decide that, some or all of the records are worth keeping because of their historical importance”.
Our early movement is a classic example of this situation. Its primary mission was preaching and not record keeping. So we found ourselves in the situation of “found later” for many documents, recordings, images, etc and we keep them all. We also find ourselves searching for lost genuine items.
So when someone asks why don’t you have “this or that” its because the BA was born out of a need at the end of Srila Prabhupada's time with us and not as a systematic gathering of materials during his life.
What we have today one could ague would have been in large part also lost to time if not for the founding of the BA and those who contributed and supported it. It should be noted here that the BA was founded as the archives of Srila Prabhupada and not ISKCON or BBT, even though we have some of their items.
Bhaktivedanta Archives Staff