The greatest risk in preservation is lack of motivation. Why we should be in need of preservation at all, why we should need the enduring access to information, is far from agreed upon. Correspondingly, preservation institutions are continually in danger. Thus one of the most important functions of institutions is to survive. The public motivation of preservation is one of the foremost tasks of preservation institutions. It is important to analyze the pros and cons of some of the most popular current motivational discourses – those based on the terms cultural treasures , cultural heritage , and cultural memory – and examine the lesser known but more effective alternatives such as intergenerational justice , tradition as an ongoing conversation , and keeping the present accessible. In doing that, the article addresses fundamental questions concerning the function, the raison d’ȇtre , of libraries and archives. The paper concludes with a proposition for further research.