CFP: Failure in the Archives

Have you discovered something is not available that you thought would be? Have you found unresolvable conflicts between materials? Have you discovered a dead end in your research?

Failure in the Archives is for you.

Call for Papers

The Centre for Editing Lives and Letters (CELL) is pleased to announce ‘Failure in the Archives’, a conference celebrating the frustrations of archival research, to be held on 30 October 2014 and featuring a keynote address by Natalie Zemon Davis.

‘Failure in the Archives’ will provide a forum to examine everything that doesn’t belong in traditional conferences and publications, from dead-end research trips to unanswered questions.

How do we respond to the resistance, or worse, the silences and gaps, that we find in the archives? Scholarship tends toward success stories, but this conference seeks presentations from a range of disasters that arise when navigating the depths of the archive: damaged, destroyed, mislabelled, misrepresented materials, forgeries, exaggerated significance, and gaps in the historical record. Overall, the experience of failure in the archive is truly interdisciplinary, skewing the warp and woof of close reading and big data alike, not to mention posing everyday problems for archivists and librarians working on the frontlines to make their collections accessible

We welcome proposals on any aspect of early modern archival work, manuscript or print, covering the period 1500-1750. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

Materials which challenge cataloguing standards
Uncatalogued material – how to find it, how to access it, how to use it
Inaccurate cataloguing – tensions between past and present.
Broken or dispersed collections
Damaged, destroyed, or compromised collections
The ethics of maintaining archives
The ethics of archival research – especially when working with sensitive material
Absences and silences in the archive
Difficulties conserving and preserving materials
Conflicts of information between archival sources
Digitisation and its discontents
Agents in the archives: collectors, archivists, researchers

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