For the Record’s “Meet the Staff” feature is an opportunity for our archivists to connect directly with the community which we serve.
Name: Charles Busby
Title: Records Management Archivist
Specialties: Local government Records Management & Preservation
How did you end up working at the Alabama Department of Archives and History?
I ambled into the world of archives as an aspiring historian but got lost and never looked back. After studying history and English at the University of Tennessee at Martin, I earned my MA in history (with an archival and public history specialization) at Auburn University. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working in academic archives at Auburn and Denison universities; corporate archives with Zaner-Bloser, Inc.; and government archives for the National Park Service (NPS) and now the State of Alabama. My work within these different archival arenas coupled with an historian’s eye means I approach records management from a unique perspective.
What is your role?
I help local government entities with the development, revision, and implementation of their records disposition schedules.
What is something you enjoy about working in records management?
I’m fascinated by the “big picture” character of records management work. Whereas museum artifacts or archival manuscripts are handled mostly with respect to their uniqueness, a rough inverse is true of government records whose value lay in their collective. Think of government records like motion picture film—individual stills might not seem important, but when viewed together they illustrate a fluid, evolving process. Likewise, discrete government records contextualize one another to produce a documentary film of how government works.
To continue the movie analogy, because governing processes yield the same type of materials year after year, the application of RDAs would be like post-production in moviemaking, where information managers trim excesses and clarify major plot points. There aren’t Academy Awards for records management yet, but it’s on my list.
For people who don’t think about their records every day, why is records management important?
If we only preserve documentary materials we consider old or interesting – manuscripts, clay sherds, photographs, leather-bound tombs – and forgo humdrum spreadsheets and emails, we neglect to build the archives of tomorrow. A couple centuries ago, the Declaration of Independence was a daring message on some mundane parchment – that is, the medium is less important than the information!
What are your hobbies outside of work?
I enjoy doing basic restoration work on fountain pens and typewriters, writing letters, cooking, playing board games with friends, and reading Pratchett novels.