September 11: Archaeologies of the Archive

Scanning @ National Archives, 1961

FIELD TRIP: New York City Municipal Archives, with Marcia Kirk, Archives and Research Associate, NYC Department of Records and Information Services.

  • Meet at 4:00 at 31 Chambers @ Centre St. Take 4/5/6 to Brooklyn Bridge. Please bring picture ID.

READINGS [here’s a summary handout]

To provide some context for our field trip:

Some canonical archival theory, and some insight into how archives work:

Applications: on processing unorthodox collections:


Municipal Archives, via NYC Dept of Records


Ariella Azoulay, “Archive,” trans. Tal Haran, in Political Concepts: A Critical Lexicon 1 (2012); Antoinette Burton, “Introduction: Archive Fever, Archive Stories” in Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions, and the Writing of History, ed. Burton (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005): 1-24; Terry Cook, “What is Past is Prologue: A History of Archival Ideas Since 1898, and the Future Paradigm Shift,” Archivaria 43 (Spring 1997): 17-63; Wolfgang Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, ed. Jussi Parikka (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012); Arlette Farge, The Allure of the Archives, trans. Thomas Scott-Railton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013); Sigmund Freud, “A Note Upon the Mystic Writing Pad” (1925) In General Psychological Theory: Papers on Metapsychology (New York: Collier, 1925); Geert Lovink, Interview with German Media Archaeologist Wolfgang Ernst, Nettime (26 February 2003); Tim Maly, “Dark Archives” Contents 5 (March 2013); *D. T. Max, “Final Destination” New Yorker (June 2007) [on the Ransom Humanities Research Center]; Jussi Parikka, “Archive Dynamics: Software Culture and Digital Heritage” In What Is Media Archaeology? (Malden, MA: Polity, 2012): 113-122; Part 3 of The Hairpin’s “Ask an Archivist” series (September 4, 2012); Sven Spieker, “Freud’s Files” In The Big Archive: Art from Bureaucracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 2009): 34-49; Carolyn Steedman, “Something She Called a Fever: Michelet, Derrida, and Dust” The American Historical Review 106:4 (October 2001): 1159-1180; Kate Theimer, “A Distinction Worth Exploring: ‘Archives’ and ‘Digital Historical Representations,’” American Historical Association Conference, Washington, DC, January 3, 2014.

ON ARCHIVAL LABOR: Hillel Arnold, “Critical Work: Archivists as Maintainers,” Hillel Arnold (August 2, 2016); Michelle Caswell, “’The Archive is not an Archives’: Acknowledging the Intellectual Contributions of Archival Studies,” Reconstruction 16:1 (2016); Eira Tansey, “Archives Without Archivists,” Reconstruction 16:1 (2016) [on archival labor + processing].


One Reply

  • What I find most baffling (to the point of amusement) reading Derrida is what appears to be a complete refusal of epidemiology in favor of metaphor. Thankfully, Carolyn Steedman notes this oversight, calling attention to the missed opportunity in characterizing (or perhaps more appropriate, in diagnosing) “archive fever.” Notwithstanding Derrida’s critical engagement with psychoanalysis, his ontological framing of the archive fails to take into consideration another obvious archive: Freud’s collection of antiquities.* In her book, Freud’s Jaw and Other Lost Objects, Lana Lin reveals that the efforts in archival practice are very much like the archives themselves: requiring persistent labor and maintenance.** Both Jessica Lingel’s and Region of Peel Archives blogs acknowledge the very human forces behind the objects, places, and processes we often take for granted when walking into a library or museum – or, similarly, when entering the virtual spaces that allow us to access memories of meaning.

    * Maybe he does write about the Freudian archive. I should admit that I haven’t read much Derrida. I would rather read him through someone like Patricia Clough.
    ** Does this brush against your recent work, Shannon?

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