Books, manuscripts, libraries and museums. Before ARTS2090, when I thought of the word ‘archive’, those are the things that sprang to mind. I used to associate archives to the manuscripts I read while doing my HSC History Extension Project; I thought of documents of significant historical value that must be preserved for future generations and more often than not, these documentations were about important people and events of the past. However, in truth, archives merely describe the storing and arranging of information and/or data so that it can be accessed sometime in the future.
‘Archive fever’ is a term coined by philosopher, Jacques Derrida. It connotes that all media constructs archives, and also destroys other archives in different ways. Furthermore, they are important because they become the basis of what counts within both society and even our sense of self. I found Ogle and Enzer’s article which explores Derrida’s notion of ‘Archive Fever’ to be particularly persuasive and thus, I will explore the notion from this perspective.
Ogle (2010) states that “we’ve all become accidental archivists; our burgeoning digital archives open out of the future”, and this statement made me question – am I an archivist? He then questions, “what were you thinking about on November 22nd, 2009?” from that point, it didn’t take long for me to realise that I, like many others, have indeed become an accidental Archivist; all I needed to do was peruse my Facebook Timeline and I found that on November 22nd, 2009, I wanted winter to come back (and that I apparently could not spell “back”) (Ogle, 2010)
While as apparent above, archives allows for us to peek to our past, it has not been without criticism. Enszer (2008) notes that the “nature of archive is both authoritariantly transparent and authoritatively concealed” and, echoing Derrida, it was mentioned that in order to assure the possibility of memorisation, reproduction and re-impression, it must be consigned to an external space. What does this mean? What I gathered is that archive is in a position of authority in that it dictates, through data and information, what is preserved and has the potential to be remembered and recalled. What is the implication? Well, it has thus been argued, and rightly so, that this creates a sort of “in” and “out” group where some are forgotten, while others are focused on. This is perhaps best exhibited by this quote taken out of the Apartheid Archive page:
“There is tendency to focus on the more ‘dramatic’ or salient narratives of apartheid atrocities and the fact that it thereby effectively (albeit, perhaps, unintentionally) foreclosed the possibility of an exploration of the more quotidian but pervasive, and no less significant, manifestations of apartheid abuse means that much of the details of apartheid racism had not been publicly acknowledged or assessed.” (Apartheid Archive, n.d.)
However, I would argue that while the notion above has some merit, the new world of archives in a new world of digital publishing allows for an “amazing new tool for remembering” and that it is one of the most “widely adopted architecture for self-archival” (Ogle 2010). This notion triggered me to think of the YouTuber family, the Sacconejolys, who have essentially, created an archive of their day to day life for at least, the past 3 years. New platforms like YouTube, Facebook and as discussed in this week’s readings, Omeka, have allowed for this non-deliberate creation of archives. Additionally, the Hurricane Archive example have exemplifies just how archives allows for the remembrance of little idiosyncrasies that would otherwise be forgotten (Hurricane Archive, n.d.)
So in short, I like many others, have indeed caught the ‘archive fever’ and though it is not without it’s criticism, I think archives opens up an exciting opportunity for us to entertain our nostalgic musings.
Enszer, Julie R. (2008) Julie R. Enszer (personal blog), ‘Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression by Jacques Derrida’, November 16, <http://julierenszer.blogspot.com/2008/11/archive-fever-freudian-impression-by.html>
Derrida, Jacques (1995) ‘Archive Fever—A Freudian Impression’, Diacritics, 25(2), pp9-63.