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Abstract

Years ago I sat in a crowded theater and watched the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy and his companions escaped from a crashing airplane by inflating a rubber raft and using it to sail out of the plane, slide down a snowy mountainside, and float down a river. The audience reveled in every stunt, save one, throughout the movie. As the main characters make an escape by charging along a roller-coaster of railroad tracks in a mining cart, the cart takes flight over a crevasse, lands on the next set of tracks perfectly, and rolls forth at breakneck speed. Expressions of disbelief emanated from every row and even I thought, "What kind of rubes do they think we are; any four-year-old knows how difficult it is to align those miserable little train wheels along the tracks."

What does this have to do with building planning? I think Mr. Spielberg grabbed our attention with the exotic bits but he slipped up when he based a stunt on something that was familiar to everyone who had ever played with a train set. The audience reverted to memory instead of remaining open to possibility. I think we run into a similar problem in working with architects and engineers in designing archival repositories. Archivists are soaring along in a mining cart of lofty archival standards and practices, and the architects, relying on what they already know, are trying to land us on familiar tracks.

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