Hanna Sophie is an anthropologist from Munich, who is currently working towards a Master´s degree in archives at Simmons College in Boston. She is doing research on the production of knowledge, its connections to Science and Technology Studies, and Material Culture Studies. You can find her on twitter @hannasophiefrey.
Without further ado, here is Hanna Sophie.
Remember The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman? Remember the ghosts and their stories lost to most human ears?
Medhum Fiction | Daily Dose has shown me so many of the ghost-stories of history. Just last week, Anna reviewed From Eve to Evolution, a book detailing the female voices confronted with the possibilities and changes to the category “woman,” instigated by a new general discussion around evolutionary theory. This story has not been told yet, but Anna found another silence within this closed gap: the issue of race as part of feminist discourse between Darwin and theology.
The relationships between the voices heard and the realities forgotten are part of the political aspect of archives and history, which is exactly why I am on my way to becoming an archivist. I have seen archives as both spaces full of dusty boxes and shiny new shelves on wheels, I have seen ink fingerprints on manuscripts from the nineteenth century, and I am reading about the struggle to preserve technologies that evolve faster than our budgets. In all these experiences and readings, I have never seen archives as neutral spaces. Archives collect, they preserve, they make accessible, and they do so as institutions and as individuals. They (we) are tied to their backgrounds and biases as political beings, and as such, we work in a sensitive spot in our society´s memory-practices.
These political interactions with primary sources are vital to the keeping of memories, and I use the plural here on purpose. Sources carry multiple stories in them, which can again be read in a multitude of ways. These pluralities are communicated in a political space, as we negotiate meanings by interacting with the sources, both as researchers and as archivists.
Archivists can perform these interactions almost invisibly to their patron´s eyes, but this does not have to be the case. The way we process the collections gives us unique views on the content of the dusty boxes and shiny shelves, and our biases and general humanity shapes the way we arrange and describe the collections. This fact does not have to be invisible. We can talk about it. We can have discussions, as patrons and archivists, on the way we see and experience the collections we interact with. If we bring multiple perspectives together in the writing of history, everybody profits. That is the potential of archives. They give us the possibility to interact with each other and past stories, to create multiple perspectives of the past. Archives are the place where we can find the stories that show us history as a web of experiences.
So go into your local archive, use their excellent online databases, and engage in a conversation.
Let´s collaborate in archives as political spaces, and build intersections of perspectives.
We can also start the conversation right here, in the comment section, or through your submission to our CfP! Or you can join the DERAIL forum at Simmons College, a student organized conference about highlighting critical approaches to Library and Information Science practice and education.