Archives as Places: Doors to privilege, places of connection, or haunted sarcophagi of crumbling skeletons?

Belinda Battley

Abstract

Verne Harris spoke at the 2015 ARANZ conference in Auckland, NZ of the hauntedness of archives: haunted by spectral authors, mediations, content, context and places of consignation, where the archive was born and lived outside archival storage. He said listening to these ghostly voices is an ethical requirement, and that our archival ethics should not be limited to what is easily achievable, but should be something we aspire to. Harris described the disenfranchised as the ghosts of our dominant global systems, refugees knocking on the doors of privilege and wealth, and that those of us who are part of the global elite should be especially haunted. He said archives can create spaces for the incredibly different ghosts / stories inside records to be heard and shared. As I listened, I thought about the power given to archival places and the expectations placed on them in bringing together so many different authors, mediations, content and contexts. I wondered how well they substituted for the places they came from, and how much our archival spaces and places would need to change to effectively achieve this aim.

I reflected also on community archival places, and how these often go unrecognized in the traditional archival discourse. In this research paper I will consider the synergies between records, recordkeeping and places, using as a starting point a grounded theory constructed together with my own communities of tramping club, archivists, academics and New Zealand citizens, which suggests that connections between communities, places, records, stories, collective memory, activities and events are the lifelines that maintain the identity of each of them. I will discuss the implications of transfer to archival institutions of community records, and finally suggest some possible methods and alternative approaches to deal with those implications.

Bio

Belinda Battley is a doctoral candidate in the Faculty of IT at Monash University. Her current research considers how a community with distributed archives maintains the records of its collective memory, with a particular interest in the synergies between records and community, places, events, stories, activities and individual and collective memories. Her research interests relate to participation and rights in recordkeeping and archival processes, the significance of place in recordkeeping, and participatory and grounded research methodologies. Belinda received a Master’s degree in Information Studies and Library Studies from Victoria University of Wellington (NZ) and a Bachelors degree in Biological Anthropology from Auckland University. She is employed as a Senior Archivist at the Auckland Office of Archives New Zealand, and is a Council member for the Archives and Records Association of New Zealand. She is also currently employed as a contract lecturer and supervisor at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ teaching and supervising students in archives and recordkeeping.