Archived ways of (thinking about) knowing

I am IMG_0009spending this week in the Smithsonian Archives in Washington. As I was walking by the James Madison Building, which is part of the Library of Congress, I noticed the quote in the picture on the right engraved beside the entrance.

For my part, I think that the sort of faith in knowledge governing ignorance perhaps had a place and time in which it made sense. But that time is not now.

Today it seems more apt to say that accepting our ignorance, and exploring the virtues of ignorance, is an important part of coming to terms with the bewildering complexity of many environmental problems.

That said, we are entangled with the laws, policies and effects of a time when ideas typified by Madison’s quote held the day. And so I am excited to see what will crop up from the archives this week – who knows what will be stuffed between the pages, written in the margins or scribbled on the backs of pictures or telegrams?

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