From the Archives: the periodicals of pot
There are more medical marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks locations in town -- and any number of publications that focus on the state's booming MMJ business. The Auraria Library has an archive of these publications, as well as more historic materials dealing with cannabis.Pamphlets and publications have been a mainstay in many political causes. Suffragists had the Suffrage Journal; abolitionists had the Liberator (so did Socialists, as it was evidently a pretty popular name for a magazine -- see below); anti-Prohibitionists had smaller pamphlets like the Anti-Prohibitionist Monthly. With a ballot initiative this year that would make marijuana legal, Rosemary Evetts, Auraria Library's archivist, saw the current publications focusing on MMJ as future historical artifacts, and started collecting them.
Evetts has been stashing magazines ranging from Kush Magazine to the Hemp Connoisseur, Ganja Gazette, Cannabis Voice, Culture Magazine and Westword's own Chronic-le, among others. Each month, she makes the rounds to the dispensaries that carry copies of these publications and takes them back to the archives to be catalogued for future research. Some of the dispensaries have started setting them aside for her in advance, so that they're ready for her collection when she comes in.
Traditionally, archivists don't go looking for items to fill their shelves. But occasionally, they're in the unique position to shape history by determining what has merit for preservation -- and that may include items that other archives have yet to recognize as having merit. Evetts is doing original cataloging of these journals; a survey of WorldCat (a searchable online database of library collections) shows that Auraria is the only library in the world with such a collection. Evetts has already had to pull the publications to help a student with research -- an international student who was assigned to write about some point of cultural contrast.
Should it be left completely up to archivists to try to predict whether certain contemporary materials will have historical merit, given the space limitations in archives? There is a good case for the relevance of publications in the medical marijuana subject heading, but who should ultimately decide if they get a place in the archives while other things must be "deaccessioned"?
For more from Auraria Library's Archives and Special Collections department, check out last week's column on Ed White and Allen Ginsberg.
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