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Archive Fever by Lorena Allam

In audio, Australia & Oceania, books, history, humanities, information, interview, research, theory on September 24, 2013 at 00:29

From: Archive Fever by Lorena Allam, Hindsight, ABC Radio National, http://www.abc.net.au

Australia is leading the world in a new approach to archives. It is challenging traditional archivists to embrace a more multilateral approach, one which suggests many versions of the past. But what does this mean archives are about become? Do they describe our past or our future? If we are to believe in Archive Fever then we might find our archives produce our history as much as they record it.

Listen to the broadcast

Archive Fever is the title of a book by Jacques Derrida that has caused much debate around the world. Years later archivists and researchers are still disseminating its meaning. It came at a time when archives were just beginning to face the challenge of the digital age and so were ripe for an new definition. This new definition is still being debated, but so far it looks like it will involve archivists being more open about their practises, and institutions being more open about the gaps in their collections.

Modern archival theory and practise is based on organisational and government records. So the rules for archiving personal papers, oral histories, pictures, ephemera etc, are all adaptations from this dominant model. This is one reason why there are gaps. The histories of minority groups, indigenous communities, women, children and even sports stars, are all underrepresented in our national collections. These are big gaps, but there are also small gaps for instance when a correspondence suddenly breaks into a phone call. Even today archives are essentially about paper, and if the correspondents speak to each other then, the chances are, there’ll be a gap in the record, and a gap in our knowing, and a gap in the conclusions we draw from that knowing.

Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National

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