Squint for victory

September 1, 1995

The academic historian has a new enemy - and rather a sad one, as it should be a natural ally. Nothing in the World History Congress session on imperial archives won more fervent assent than a Canadian speaker's assertion that the proliferation of genealogists researching their own family histories is creating competition for scarce resources in important archives.

One United States archive often has a two-day waiting list for microfiche readers. Even once ensconced, the academics' problems may not be over: "You tend to find yourself wedged between Uncle Edward and Aunty Doris," said the speaker, "both trying to decipher 18th-century documents which may or may not concern their family and periodically asking you if you can assist as 'your eyes are younger than mine, dear'. Your chances of unbroken concentration on your own work are pretty limited."

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