Are They An Archivist?: Blathers
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Welcome to a new type of article where I attempt to determine whether or not a character in popular culture is in fact an archivist. There are actually a few candidates who I'll be looking at in the near future, but because I'm trying to stay somewhat culturally relevant I thought I'd go with an unadvised deep dive into the life of Blathers from the Animal Crossing franchise of video games.
Full disclosure: Video games are the category I have the least amount of experience with, so expecting me to comment on game play or any kind of gaming history would be ridiculous on your part. I'm just here to tell you whether or not a pixelated owl is an archivist. Cool? Cool.
So, is Blathers an archivist? In the very literal sense, the short answer is no. According to the various wikis, Blathers is at all times a museum director/curator, a paleontologist, an archeologist, or all of the above. I suppose it depends on which Animal Crossing game you're playing.
The long answer, however, is a definite maybe so let's entertain the idea otherwise this will be a very short article.
First, some basics about Blathers according to the wikis:
He is a male owl.
His birthday is September 24th.
He has a younger sister, Celeste, who works in the Observatory and/or becomes the manager of the museum's second level.
As of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, he has a doctorate though the discipline is suspect as he is thought to be both an archeologist and a paleontologist. Just know that he could easily introduce himself as Dr. Blathers, but he doesn't because he's humble like that.
He is afraid of bugs/insects/arachnids, etc., but he'll still accept them as specimens for the museum. That won't stop him from commenting on how ugly he finds them. He doesn't even like butterflies!
His name comes from the word "blather," which means to talk long-windedly with no real real substance. So, either Nintendo was going for the easy joke or they have a real bone to pick with academia and the institutional power over information and access.
Just know that however you cut it, Blathers is a smart bird who won't shut up
Okay, now that we've got the basics down, let's look at what exactly Blathers' purpose is within the Animal Crossing game-verse. Within each iteration, you the player are tasked with collecting and presenting Blathers with specimens for the museum he's setting up in your city or island or whatever location you happen to be occupying at the time. Once he's received the required amount, a museum is built and then you can go visit the things you found.
In New Horizons, the most recent game, you are not compensated for the time and effort put into collecting said items, so welcome to the world of unpaid internships! Blathers doesn't appear to care where you got the specimens either, but he'll talk your ear off about them regardless of their provenance. And what is Balthers' collecting policy, you ask?
Our main purpose is to provide a place for the exhibition of items we feel have some significant paleontological, artistic, and/or zoological importance... (Animal Crossing)
So, yeah, a bit broad in its scope but it seems as long as the item isn't a forgery he'll take it anyway. Apparently his accessioning process is a mystery as well. In New Horizons the specimen collection is more heavily focused on bugs and fossils, mostly so you can watch Blathers freak out whenever you hand him a beetle. And for an owl who doesn't seem to have a degree in entomology, he sure knows a lot about the creepy crawlers you find. Know your enemy and whatnot.
Once you've forked over the specimens to Blathers the turn around on building the museum to display said specimens appears to be about 24 - 48 hours, which brings up the question of funding. Where exactly Blathers is getting the astronomical amounts of money necessary to build a rather elaborate museum? Is it Tom Nook? A clandestine Animal Crossing Illuminati? Is it the Freemasons? Yeah, it’s probably the Freemasons. Also, he seems to have plenty of cash to spend on construction, but you receive no cash reward or bonus for giving him the items that started the collection in the first place. Bad form, Blathers!
It's important to note that once the museum is built Blathers appears to be the only employee for most of the games. Celeste eventually joins as the second level manager when the museum is renovated and Brewster works in the museum cafe, but it's basically Blathers running the show. You can't say that he definitively isn't an archivist since he'd likely have to be one in order to do all of the jobs that go into maintaining a museum and its collections.
There was a thing where players, in anticipation of the museum opening, continued to collect specimens and stacked them outside the construction site purely for the sake of fucking with Blathers. If you want to see how insane some people were, read this Polygon article and witness the glee with which people decided to torture this poor owl. It's the most relatable aspect of Blathers, by a long shot. He's trying to put together a museum and all of these weirdos are giving him crap for taking more than five seconds to create an institution of higher education! Ungrateful island-hoppers! Other than the exploitation of free labor, I'm on Blathers' side! It's hard trying to meet expectations while still providing a service to the public, so why don't y'all back off and let the owl do his job!
Given what we've learned we can tentatively call Blathers an archivist because he's literally the only anthropomorphic being in the museum. If he isn't doing some kind of archival work, then that museum is engaging in some wildly dubious practices. So welcome to the club, Blathers! We're all underfunded and grasping at relevancy here!