Article: Material Provocations in the Archives

A recent article by Dani Stuchel in The Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies 3:1 (2020) sets forth a particularly important intervention in terms of archives and materiality. As Stuchel outlines in the abstract:

While scholars in the environmental humanities, animal studies, and critical plant studies have been quick to both diagnose and propose new directions for our engagements with the material universe, scholarship on archival materiality has continued to focus on the archives as an institution for and about human intellectual endeavors. In other words, the archives continue to be an extractable resource. Within the archives, animal, plant, and abiotic changes which work against projects of human history are seen as failures, infestations, or disasters – they can never be properly archival. This essay offers a potential corrective to anthropocentric archiving, by bringing together Jane Bennett’s new materialist project of “vibrant matter,” Michael Marder’s vegetal philosophy, and Caitlin De Silvey’s curation of decay to suggest avenues of engaging archival materiality as meaningful and provocative. As an analytic schema, this focus on the “vibrant archives” does not aim to save records from planetary changes but to begin the work of re-thinking archival materiality (and its destruction) within the context of the Anthropocene.

He continues:

When we view archival things as having failed us, through degradation or decomposition, we have fundamentally misunderstood the archival thing, a thing which is not human. Though we may shape these material entities for human purposes, they are material things which change in ways proper to their materiality without regard for our desire to remember and prove — desires which drive the archival institution.

Read the full article here.

Archive Finland

Don’t forget the Library offers a list of readings on archives and materiality.

And on the question of materiality, you can also see the post on the book, Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page.