Negotiating archives (part 1)

Posted on March 16, 2015

Because of the huge amount of information there is to take in on the mining heritage (at Aylesham, let alone online and the other heritage sites etc) and the difficulty of knowing what to do with it, I’ve recently been thinking a lot more directly about the question of how one negotiates and navigates through archives or archival material…


This issue is already very central to my practice but has never really led me to work with material from an existing, historical archive. Instead, my practice has always been about more abstractly and self-referentially creating and trying to understand my own personal archive of work, in order to think more widely about how one negotiates and navigates their way through their own practice.

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I’m interested in the archive more in terms of how it is encountered, experienced and embodied as everyday, human practice and less in the generic terms of its form and relation to past events.

So generally, I’ve tended not to pay that much attention to reading the actual historical or formal content (the what) and instead focus on the experience around working with a collection (the how).

However, interestingly this project is in a way making me somewhat reverse or expand this perspective, as it’s now completely relevant and necessary for me to delve into the particular information embedded within an archive, place, community and history outside of my own private one.

This is by no means a negative, as it’s just bringing more depth, context and scope to my existing ways of working. For me, interpreting the experience of working with the archives is still the meaningful thing that I will explore in the work I develop, but the actual historical information is also now just as important.

I’m posing this question about how to negotiate archives very openly, and simply as a point of entry to some of the research and thinking that’s important to me as I move through this project.

I have much more to say and share on this subject of archives and archival experience, though will continue to discuss it in snippets rather than long-winded writings…