Archives, historical societies, libraries and museums are the institutions created by our society to play the role of selecting, conserving, and providing access to the record of our culture.
To an extent far greater than the society admits, these professional keepers of cultural evidence are not simply custodians of our recorded past, but shapers of the cultural memory.
The cultural record is continuously being deposited and eroded.
It is deposited at different rates by different groups within the society and at different times in the life of the culture (reflecting the socio-economic and cultural-political requirements of the society).
It is a hallmark of human societies that they seek to preserve a memory of the past, and have always done so.
Indeed, keeping and using the past is central to our concept of human cultures and civilization.
In the process, the first four chapters have been substantially rewritten, but the underlying structure of the argument, and its conclusions, have not been affected.