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"Reopening archives"

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on June 1, 2007 at 3:16:04 pm

Meeting #2 (UPCOMING): July 18, 2007, 4:30-5:30, SML 409


Tom Nesmith, "Reopening archives: bringing new contextualities into archival theory and practice," Archivaria 60 (Fall 2005), 259-274.


Discussion leader: Bill Landis


ABSTRACT: The opening of an archives is often an exciting occasion when access is gained to once inaccessible or previously unknown records. Archives today, though, are being reopened through growing interest in the history of records and archives. Approaches to this history have taken some radically new directions, influenced by postmodern insights. The profound implications for archival work of these new directions are still in conceptual infancy. This article offers an overview of this reopening of archives by outlining how archival ideas and work might be reconceptualized in light of these changing perspectives on the history of records and archives.

Nesmith quotes Christopher Butler in positing that "postmodernists are very good critical deconstructors, and terrible constructors." This article begins a conversation on what, practically, we can extract and apply to our work as archivists from the postmodern critique of archives in which many scholars, theorists, and practitioners have engaged over the past decade. In addition to the questions Nesmith raises in his article, we'll hopefully explore the following broad question: If we can't salvage something practical and applicable out of pomo critiques of our profession, are those critiques really at all worthwhile, or do they just serve to make us less transparent and more navel-gazing than we already are? (Bill Landis)


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