Choosing What Goes Into the Archive

Choosing what goes into the archive is a tricky situation.  Choosing what to research in general is also a tricky situation.

The first point I want to make is that we definitely have to choose what we research.  We have limited resources (people, money, supplies etc.), and have to allocate them in such a way that we get the most out of them.  However, it should be noted that this takes into account the fact that research is more effective when researchers have autonomy and freedom.  If we just told all researchers what to research, that would lead researchers to be unmotivated and ineffective, and it would deter people from going into the field of research.  Still though, it is important that we’re mature and sensible in the way we allocate resources.  It would be stupid to spend 40% of the NIH‘s budget on analyzing cartoons.

I like the point that Judith Halberstam made: “Rather then just saying that subjugated knowledge is knowledge that has been suppressed, and that we must dig deep to find it – we need to understand subjugated knowledge as a form of thinking that has been suppressed. It is a set of topics that have become unimaginable as scholarly topics.”.  We must be careful not to let groupthink prevent us from exploring unconventional things.   Still though, unconventional things are unconventional for a reason.  I guess what I’m saying is that we should give them a chance, but not too big a chance.

“Many scholars (whether or not they describe themselves as postmodernists) have come to understand the historical record, whether it consists of books in libraries or records in archives, not as an objective representation of the past, but rather as a selection of objects that have been preserved for a variety of reasons (which may include sheer luck).”  This is a great point.  It is definitely noteworthy that our archives arise from biased individuals.  However, this might be changing very soon.

The second point I’d like to note is that we don’t really have to chose what we archive.  To some extent libraries and stuff have limited space and resources, but I think we’re quickly approaching an age where information is stored on the internet, in which case it’s basically unlimited.  Which brings me to an important question, which I’ll end with: “now that we have an infinite archive (essentially), how do we learn how to navigate it?”

– Adam Zerner


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