Archival Silences and Digital Debates

Wednesday, April 18, 12:00-1:00 pm
Williams Building, Skybox conference room (fourth floor)
With special guest Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections and Archives, FSU Libraries

Archival Silences and Digital Debates

Notions of the archive have been foundational in the development of the digital humanities. So too does “archive” have a rich history and rapidly evolving conceptual and material life in libraries and information studies. These realms frequently overlap in the interdisciplinary projects that digital humanities and libraries often share. But sometimes, as recent online discussions about “archival silences” have suggested, the term means different things to different constituencies. What do we talk about when we talk about archives? How might we reconcile our concepts of the archive, its silences, and its digital dimensions?

For the next meeting of the Digital Scholars reading group, we will consider several recent positions on archival silences and disciplinary configurations of archives, including one blog post that touched off some controversy within the digital humanities and libraries communities. We will also have a special guest: Katie McCormick, Associate Dean for Special Collections and Archives at FSU Libraries, who has deep experience across the digital and library domains. Recommended background materials:

[Context for the discussion]
“Editor’s Choice: Archival Silences Round-up.” Digital Humanities Now March 2012. Web.

[The controversy?]
Theimer, Kate. “Two meanings of ‘archival silences’ and their implications.” ArchiveNext March 27, 2012. Web.

[DH convictions]
Kirschenbaum, Matthew. “Digital Humanities Archive Fever.” Plenary lecture, Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI), June 6, 2011. Web.


4 thoughts on “Archival Silences and Digital Debates

  1. Great to see this topic here. Just a quick note, I don’t consider my DHSI talk a “rebuttal” to Kate in any sense; indeed, it was given many months beforehand, so how could it be! While she and I disagree about some of the routes in to the debate, and perhaps some of its terms, I think we are in complete agreement on the stakes, and the need for DH folks to collaborate with the archives profession; and indeed, to recognize it as precisely that, a *profession* with its own traditions of practice and theoretical rigor to be engaged.

    • Thanks for the comment and the clarification, Matt. The intention was to track the chronology of the recent discussion with Kate pointing to your DHSI talk in her follow up. Sorry for the misleading term which has been changed. I anticipate participants in our own discussion will share your strong convictions about intellectual and methodological rigor as well as excitement that archival work brings so many constituencies into productive contact.

  2. Thanks for bringing this topic to the table, Professor Fyfe (and to the digital scholars’ table at FSU too). I will say I responded previously, but did not recall the password necessary, so the post went “silent.” Such is, perhaps, another sense of the “archival silence.” In any event, I contributed to the conversation on Kate’s blog and simply expressed what you have often heard from me, or often heard, yet another form of silence, as I thought through the layers of formal, traditional archival theory and practice and struggled to articulate or relate this disciplinary practice to the practices of digital humanities archives. This is an important conversation — traditional archives aim to and certainly do, though quite imperfectly — constitute an aspect of cultural memory. And, often what is not said — the silence — once brought to light often speaks more loudly than those documents selected, arranged and described as documents that will speak. In any event, I continue to relate these two concepts of archives and think through their common ground while also understanding that while on common ground, each is stepping to the tune of a different drummer — at least as I see it now.

  3. Pingback: The (New/Digital) Archivist: A Conversation with Katie McCormick and Krystal Thomas | FSU Digital Scholars

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