Learnt today that the French Ministry of Culture has sent out an appeal for sponsorship to raise 3.5 million Euros to purchase the Foucault papers, which have already been given the status of National Treasure in order to inhibit their export.
Presumably somebody is asking that amount for the papers? this is not clear from the reporting.
I would rather hope that any sum raised will include the consideration of processing costs, an often-overlooked invisible necessity to make archival collections actually usable by researchers.
The trouble with these enormous sums being reported in connection with the papers of super-starry names is that it leads other people who are perhaps not quite such luminous figures in the pantheon to get an entirely unrealistic idea of the amount of money that repositories will pony up for their records.
It has also been my experience, over my years in the archives, that the papers of Big Names, while bringing a lot of cred and media coverage to a repository, may by no means earn their keep in the task of pulling in the punters over the long term, whereas other collections, by names less familiar to the general public, e.g. the papers of Frederick Parkes Weber (who he? probably most people's response), which have been for many years reliably among the most requested holdings in Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library, prove far more valuable to a wide range of researchers.