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Across the divide:
David Finkelstein, Research Professor of Media and Print Culture (Queen
Margaret University, Edinburgh)
Working the Archives from a Book History Angle
Book History has a long tradition of archival research as part of its core activity.
Indeed, bibliography, from which Book History has partially evolved, saw the
material text as a major source of investigation, and so often drew on archival sources
for material evidence of value in such areas as typography, paper manufacture, press
developments, printing techniques, editorial intrusion and revision. This tradition of
material enquiry continues to this day in book historian work in such subjects as the
material text and its interpretation, readership, and studies of historical shifts,
technological change and new media and its effects on publishing and book
Book history researchers use archives to build up a picture of the complex links
between creators, producers, distributors and receivers of textual information,
following the general model proposed by Robert Darnton in the early 1980s. To
illustrate some of the challenges and possibilities inherent in using archives in print
culture research, this paper presents as case study a project currently ongoing
involving the extraction of information from printers' union records across Scotland,
part of a larger examination into migration, print culture skills transfer and identity.
David Finkelstein is Research Professor of Media and Print Culture at Queen
Margaret University, Edinburgh. His publications include The House of Blackwood:
Author-Publisher Relations in the Victorian Era (2002), the co-authored An
Introduction to Book History (2005), and two co-edited works, The Book History
Reader (2001; rev ed. 2006) and the Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland: vol
4: Professionalism and Diversity, 1880-2000 (2007). He is also editor of Print
Culture and the Blackwood Tradition, 1805-1930 (2006), which was awarded the
Robert Colby Memorial Book Prize for the publication in 2006 that most significantly
advanced the understanding of the nineteenth-century periodical press.
Jennie Hill, Lecturer in Information studies (Aberystwyth University)
Monuments on Quicksand: The Inscribing and Re-inscribing of Archival
Evidence and Context
In this session I will explore the nature of evidence and context in archival discourse.
Discussions on the nature of archives stress the importance of a record’s
‘evidentiality’, that is, evidence of the transaction it records, and its context – its
relationship with its author and its relationship with other records in its grouping.
Taking as a starting point Andreas Huyssen’s observation that our monuments are
only ever built on quicksand, I will postulate that evidence and context are forever
shifting. Archives, after all, must be kept for some purpose other than the reason they
were created, and archivists and users come to archives to collect or use them for
purposes very different to those for which they were originally created.
Moving on to explore user engagement with archives, this paper examines Van
Mensch’s exploration of the relationship between creator, user, curator, and visitor
and museum objects. In this exchange there is no inherent ‘evidential’ value in the
object itself, for this is ever changing; rather, the value lies in the different contexts in
which the object is viewed. Whilst we may not regard an object as being imbued with
the same evidential quality we would a written document, this paper argues that
archival evidence/context is not static either, but liable to shift.
Finally, this paper concludes by asking: if evidence and context are our intellectual
bedrock, how safe are these? Are they only ever built on quicksand?
Jennie Hill lectures in archives and records management at Aberystwyth University
after having worked in a number of archival settings for several years. Her research
interests include: collection theory and practice; interdisciplinary engagement with
archives; and public history. She is co-author of Archive-Text: An Interdisciplinary
Peter Krämer, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies (UEA)
Oskar Schindler and the Movies: Archival Traces of Hollywood
Blockbusters and Unproduced Films
In 1993, Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List, the second highest grossing film at the
worldwide box office released that year, turned Oskar Schindler into a household
name. In 1951, Schindler, a totally unknown German from the Czech lands then living
in Argentina, had written to Fritz Lang, an Austrian film director working in
Hollywood, about the possibility of turning his life into a movie. Between these two
dates, plans for a Schindler biopic were being developed on an almost continuous
basis, first in the US across the 1950s and 1960s, then in Germany from the 1970s to
the early 1990s, with the German project running parallel to Spielberg's Schindler
project which was initiated in 1982.
I want to use the successes and failures of my own research in American and German
archives - on Schindler's List and the earlier Schindler projects to reflect on some of
the opportunities and some of the problems of archival research in Film Studies. My
talk will focus mainly with documents relating to the production, marketing and
reception of films. I shall suggest that film scripts and material relating to their
development are central, yet often overlooked sources for film historical research. The
reason for this relative neglect in Film Studies may be a long-standing scepticism
about the importance of individual agency and intentionality in the discipline.
Peter Krämer is a Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia. He
has published essays on American film and media history, and on the relationship
between Hollywood and Europe, in Screen, The Velvet Light Trap, Theatre History
Studies, the Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, History Today, Film
Studies, Scope, Sowi: Das Journal für Geschichte, Politik, Wirtschaft und Kultu , the
New Review of Film and Television Studies and numerous edited collections. He is the
author of The New Hollywood: From Bonnie and Clyde to Star Wars (Wallflower
Press, 2005), and the co-editor of Screen Acting (Routledge, 1999) and The Silent
Cinema Reader (Routledge, 2004). He also co-wrote a book for children entitled
American Film: An A-Z Guide (Franklin Watts, 2003).
Alison Light, Research Professor (Raphael Samuel History Centre, University of
East London and the School of English at the University of Newcastle)
The Act of Recovery: Experiences in the Archive
I will use the session as a chance to reflect briefly on three apparently different
archive experiences: as a literary critic using the papers of Leonard and Virginia
Woolf at Sussex University; as a species of historian encountering official documents
and State records for the first time e.g. registers of children in the Whitechapel
Workhouse; and finally, as widow and chief Trustee for the Estate of the social (and
socialist) historian Raphael Samuel, whose papers - 400 boxes' worth – I assembled
and deposited at the Bishopsgate Institute in London, and whose archive I have been
involved with for the last eleven years (see I'd like to consider
what these archives might have in common, despite their different provenances and
purposes. I shall use the idea of 'recovery' as a jumping-off point for thinking about
working in archives: as a reference to the most basic historical practice of retrieval but
also in its sense of a psychological and emotional convalescence. Is working in
archives a process of cultural mourning but ultimately leading towards health and
recovery rather than, as Derrida might have it (in Mal d'archive), a longing for death?
Alison Light is Research Professor at Raphael Samuel History Centre, University of
East London and the School of English at the University of Newcastle. She is the
author Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service (Fig Tree,
Penguin, 2007) and Forever England: Femininity, literature and conservatism
between the wars (Routledge, 1991).
Roberta McGrath, Reader in Photographic Theory and Criticism at Napier
University Edinburgh
`Photographs as History’
‘Photographic archives can and should be subjects of social study in their own right.
While academic studies of museums, grand expositions and other repositories of
‘heritage’ have boomed in recent years, visual archives have been curiously ignored’
‘A library is something, archives are someone’ (Laborde).
Photographs and films are material forms of collective cultural memory, and if Le
Goff has suggested, collective memory is the ‘one of the great sites of developed and
developing societies, of dominated and dominating classes, all of them struggling for
power or life, for survival and advancement’, then the construction of alternative
histories is absolutely fundamental to the democratization of social memory.
The work that I will present here grew out of an antipathy to the disembodied
approach of the humanities within which the human body had become alienated,
suspect and denigrated. In its drive for fixed standards, the ‘human sciences’ has
subordinated body to mind, emotion to reason, thus foreclosing crucial sensory
aspects of knowledge and creating an incapacity to acknowledge the wide diversity of
our different modes of knowing.
Increasingly questions of the subject’s participation, cultural location and perspective
in constructing any ‘field’ or ‘terrain’ have become important and the relationship
between experience and theory has consequently been re-thought. Understood as
subjective and embodied, situated and partial, the approach I take acknowledges the
sensory, emotional and imaginative dimensions of looking at photographs as history.
Roberta McGrath is a Reader in Photographic Theory and Criticism at Napier
University Edinburgh. She is author of Seeing her Sex: Medical Archives and the
Female Body, Manchester University Press, 2002 and a contributor to the book/DVDROM Projecting Migration: Transcultural Documentary Practice, Aine O’Brien and
Alan Grossman (Eds), Wallflower, 2007.
John Regan, Lecturer in History, University of Dundee
Archives the last refuge of a scoundrel?: Archival positivism & modern Irish
To what extent are historical research agendas determined by archival policies?
Experiences in the Irish Republic may suggest a strong relationship between state
sponsored archival policy, and the outputs of some modern historians. Two decades
after the implementation of the 1986 Archives Act in the Republic it is worth
reflecting on the influence reform and increased access has had on historical
understanding and professional practices within the community of Irish historians.
Has access to the state’s cache ushered a period of new insight, and learning? Or has
it enhanced the debilitating veneration of the archive as the font of historical truth?
This paper will both explore the advances and problems archival reform, and explore
some possible responses.
John Regan is a lecturer in History at the University of Dundee. His current research
reflects on the impact of the war in Northern Ireland (1969-1997) on the way
historians view modern Irish history, in particular, the way historians have handled
the concept of political legitimacy in relation to the state and the use of violence. He
is the author of The Irish Counter-Revolution 1921-36: treatyite politics and
settlement in Independent Ireland (1999) and Ireland: the politics of Independence
1922-49 (2000).