Historians, Archivists and the Archive

Historians and archivists share an interest in records and evidence but think about archives in fundamentally different ways. In recent years they have begun separately to develop conceptual ideas of the archive as a constructed reality and to explore notions of the archive as a site of political power and a site of contestation around identity and community. These two events seek to bring together historians, archivists and scholars from other cognate disciplines to explore shared understandings of the nature of the archive, which is highly topical as archives shift from the traditional fixity of text to the fluidity of multi-faceted digital objects.

IHR Winter Conference 29 January 2016- The Production of the Archive

The first event will focus on the Production of the Archive. It will consider the agency of the archivist whose actions, including appraisal, selection, description and the operation of closure or open access, are now seen as part of the co-production of the archive. Historians and other users of the archive, rather than simply seeing the archivist as a neutral ‘servant or handmaiden of history’, are interested in the record creation and curation activities undertaken and the effect of the creating context on the production of the archive. Historians can also be seen as co-creators of the archive when they use and reuse the archive through their personal selection and interpretation and through a more conscious engagement with the archive in their work.

Following a keynote by the esteemed international archival science scholar, Professor Eric Ketelaar, the conference will offer three provocative sessions, on Text, Text to Digital and Beyond Text, in which speakers from different disciplines will present their reflections and engage in discussion. The day will conclude with a round table, including Jeff James, Chief Executive and Keeper of The National Archives.

To register for this event visit the University of London Online Store

Gerald Aylmer Seminar 29 April 2016-The Experience of the Archive

The second event will consider the Experience of the Archive. It will focus on the critical questions which surround the individual, personal and community experience of the archive and the ways in which that experience affects how the archive is understood and used. Just as the production of the archive is not neutral or static, the use of the archive is a matter not only of the content found there but also of the process by which the archive is experienced. In a digital world, the experience of ‘reading’ the archive may be very different from the traditional engagement which required a scholar to travel through time and space to read the archive. Is there something of the physical experience of being in the archive which is still valuable? What other insights does the experience of the archive bring?

Following the keynote by Professor Carolyn Steedman `In the Archive, Hearing Things: Lord Mansfield’s Voices’, the seminar will offer four thematic sessions in which speakers will address issues from multiple archival and scholarly perspectives. Speakers include established partnerships between historians and archivists, such as historian Filippo de Vivo and archivist Claudia Salmini who have collaborated on the ERC-funded AR.C.H.I.ves project on early modern Italy. Other speakers will reflect on the experience of the archive from disciplinary perspectives including biography, literary and feminist studies, and ways in which the archivist experiences the archive.