South Dakota State Archives
Those who are unfamiliar with the South Dakota State Archives, and archival institutions in general, can often overlook their important role in modern life. It can be perceived as a stuffy, dusty place containing records from the past that need to be kept. But why do they need to be kept? The preservation and use of archival materials are so important to the function of our government, the development and growth of South Dakota’s culture and communities, and the enrichment and betterment of our selves.
Archives are an essential part of a democracy. Archival material and records make it possible to hold lawmakers and public figures accountable and protect citizens’ rights, and the documents held in archives serve as evidence to inform the direction and nature of future policy. Knowledge contained in archives also helps to form individual and common identity, and our understanding of our selves in the context of history and within our communities through genealogical and historical research. This is especially valuable and important in South Dakota to understand the histories of Native Americans and Euroamerican settlers.
Archival institutions help shape collective memory and our understanding of history as the source materials from which interpretations of the past have been based. The records held in archives document human experience, and our understanding of history as well as our current selves is reliant upon them. Also, archival materials can provide a powerful, tangible connection with the past not easily attainable in other ways. Holding a letter written by your favorite author could impact you so much more than simply reading a copy.
The South Dakota State Archives, and in turn, the public, would benefit a considerable amount by receiving additional funding from the Department of Tourism. With additional resources, the archive could facilitate better access and visibility of the knowledge they contain by holding longer hours of operation. Staff could develop more outreach programs to engage the public. The institution could be better equipped to provide further preservation, and gain the capability to process and hold more materials by increasing staff and physical space. The only way to benefit from the archives is to put them to use.
The South Dakota State Archives are an essential part of a successful, democratic society. The records held in the archive document the human experience of all the peoples of South Dakota, and our understanding of history as well as our current selves is reliant upon them. As well as giving insight into the past, they help us understand the present, and better our future.