Monday, February 20, 2006

Знаешь ли ты кто ты?

Always keen to protect the interests of qualified, professional archivists, wherever they may be, for whichever employer they may work, we were interested to discover that certain individuals employed by the Foreign Office at the UK Embassy in Moscow, rejoice under the un-Jenkinsonian job title of secretary archivist.

This titulature is entirely new to us. We wonder whether they are on secondment from the UK National Archives, perhaps, or are they departmental records officers as defined under the Public Records Act 1958?

Caution: archivists at work

The individuals have been named as Christopher Pirt and Andy Fleming.

Unless by some chance carrying out descriptive listing of collections of archives, or applying palaeographical expertise in the deciphering of secret messages at the embassy, both of which which we find implausible in the extreme, we can't quite fathom what qualified, professional archivists would be doing working for the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, part of the Foreign Office, especially abroad. While it is true Dame Stella Rimington, a qualified and former local government archivist went on to become head of the Home Office's Security Service (MI5) there is no direct connection between archive work and spying.

Archivists are not engaged in intruding on the privacy or activities of any country, organisation or individual. At most, they are the guardians of their employers' confidences, which is not the same thing.

Dame Stella Rimington

Far more likely we have an instance of the civil service playing fast and loose with the term and concept of archivist and demonstrating ignorance of archivists and archives. This interpretation is borne out by our similar concerns expressed in previous blogs Who do you think you are?, Archives and the Terrorist and Yes Sir Humphrey.

The secretary archivists were supposedly communicating with friendly non governmental organisations (NGOs). That the UK government should be allying itself with pressure groups and reformers inside Russia is ironic in the extreme as the EU is preparing the official registration of NGOs for precisely the same reason as Russia, state control of opponents.

We are also concerned about comments made in the media to the effect that the second oldest profession, spying, is alive and well. We in SQA would have you know that spying is not the second oldest profession after prostitution, archives is. This must be the case, because only two professions survive revolutions: prostitutes and archivists, the former because they are biologically easily available, require no resources and serve human lust in all predicaments and the latter because incoming regimes need access to the evidence of their predecessors' actions.

In the meantime, we hope the Foreign Office will consider changing the job title of spies from archivist secretaries to something more appropriate.

On the other hand....

Общеизвестно, профессия архивариуса может быть связана с риском для жизни, если не быть осторожным и прозорливым - достаточно открыть Шварцевского Дракона, чтобы убедиться. Архивариус может слишком много знать и посему представлять реальную опасность для многих. Скорее всего, именно эта характеристика и связывает архивариуса со шпионом, так что должность секретарь-архивариус в Министерстве Инностранных Дел выглядит вполне логичной (хотя и опасной для жизни).

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