There is a wonderful short story by Emmanuel Boundzeki Dongala called “Jazz and Palm Wine.” In it, the earth is invaded from Outer Space and the advanced ships land in Zaire. Aliens conquer the world. Spacemen explore the various cultures and societies on this planet and decide, quite rightly, that the only things of value are palm wine, a West African intoxicant, and Jazz. The tipsy, hip and benign rulers make Sun Ra the president of the United States and John Coltrane the Pope. “A Love Supreme” replaces the “Gloria” in the liturgy.
We view the past through the artifacts that survive, and future societies (spacemen?) will reshape the past, creating their own version of our culture(s). So the ARChive collects and preserves everything that’s issued, hoping to define ‘what happened’ in terms broader than those usually described by selectiveness or availability. Taste, quality, marketing, Halls of Fame, sales, stars and value are as alien to us as they are, well, to Aliens. The ARChive’s job is to make sure “A Love Supreme” will be there when it’s needed.