May 2017 | 224pp
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Evaluating archives in a post-truth society.
In recent years big data initiatives, not to mention Hollywood, the video game industry and countless other popular media, have reinforced and even glamorized the public image of the archive as the ultimate repository of facts and the hope of future generations for uncovering ‘what actually happened’. The reality is, however, that for all sorts of reasons the record may not have been preserved or survived in the archive. In fact, the record may never have even existed – its creation being as imagined as is its contents. And even if it does exist, it may be silent on the salient facts, or it may obfuscate, mislead or flat out lie.
The Silence of the Archive is written by three expert and knowledgeable archivists and draws attention to the many limitations of archives and the inevitability of their having parameters.
Silences or gaps in archives range from details of individuals’ lives to records of state oppression or of intelligence operations. The book brings together ideas from a wide range of fields, including contemporary history, family history research and Shakespearian studies. It describes why these silences exist, what the impact of them is, how researchers have responded to them, and what the silence of the archive means for researchers in the digital age. It will help provide a framework and context to their activities and enable them to better evaluate archives in a post-truth society.
This book includes discussion of:
This book will make compelling reading for professional archivists, records managers and records creators, postgraduate and undergraduate students of history, archives, librarianship and information studies, as well as academics and other users of archives.
Introduction to the Series –Geoffrey Yeo
About the authors
Foreword–Anne J. Gilliland
1. Enforced silences–Simon Fowler
The power of the written
Silence in informality
Conflict and oppression as a cause of silence
Selection as a cause of the silence
The wrong kind of silence
The silence of the secret
The silence of destruction
2. Inappropriate expectations–Simon Fowler
‘Writing lived lives’: the skewing of the archive record
When silence means silence: what records cannot tell us
Silence in other ways: cultural differences
The catalogue – hiding silences in plain view
3. The digital–David Thomas
More information equals less knowledge
Capturing the archive
An existential threat to archives?
4. Dealing with the silence–Valerie Johnson
Forcing open the doors: letting hidden voices speak
Filling the silence: allowing silent voices to speak
Acknowledging the silence as silence
Filling the silence: finding alternative voices
Reading voices back into history
Looking forward: listening to all the voices
Avoiding ‘white noise’: the need for some silence
Creating and welcoming the silence
5. Imagining archives–David Thomas
The slave trade
Further into the hall of mirrors
What does forgery tell us about archives?
6. Solutions to the silence–Valerie Johnson
Is legislation the answer?
Challenging silence in the archives: the archivists
Users as creators: taking back the power
Accepting inevitable silence
Changing voices in a new digital world
7. Are things getting better or worse?–David Thomas