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HARN 2017 – Abstracts, Part 1.

October 20, 2017

Just 14 days to go!

I have put together a handbook thing and as soon as I remember how to put it up on the blog I’ll post it with the previous conferences. Bear with me, I am technologically challenged. However, I can give you a taste of HARN 2017, the lovely delegates have agreed to let me share their abstracts with you so here goes with Part 1, Kate and Jason will be talking about some of the issues arising from archive investigation:

Kate Hill, University of Lincoln,

Museum Archives: Undisciplined and Undisciplinary?

This paper engages with the nature of museum archives specifically, as a kind of undisciplined ‘other’ to the disciplinary archive of Derrida and Foucault. Museum archives are, in some senses and as asserted by some scholars, designed to discipline museum objects, and by producing orderly objects, to discipline museum visitors and indeed knowledge itself. Yet we can find uncontrollable objects, buildings, visitors and staff in the records of museum archives. The paper will look at some historical examples of these; objects whose meaning can’t be pinned down, visitors who refuse to pay attention, staff who squabble and drink; and ask why museum archives seemed to be unable to consistently impose disciplined categories and concepts. It will suggest that it is the nature of museum archives to be working archives which are both at the heart of what a museum is, but also secondary to the objects. This means they are unlikely to have or to always spend time in their own space, and the haphazardness and busyness of their existence allows space for juxtapositions which as well as allowing ‘rabbit holes’ to appear can also allow unheard voices to emerge. The paper will also interrogate the developing forms of museum documentation which can be found in museum archives to show how these too, being driven by improvisation and necessity, also open up channels to hear unexpected tales from the archives.

Jason Bate, University of Exeter,

Archives that Push Interpreters to the Limits of Historical Analysis

One important area of tension or imbalance in the archive continues to be the problem of continuity and discontinuity. These terms refer to the historical distance between ‘the past’ and our engagement with it in the present. This paper explores how photographs of facial plastic surgery cases from the First World War can challenge our assumptions about certain historical artefacts and make us rethink our notion of history. The photographs in question seem in some sense to disrupt historical understanding, they unsettle the way a viewer can understand, negotiate, and articulate their perceptions and sense of the past. The archive quickly creates problems of context and viewing because one’s reading of the photographs keeps shifting between an objective medical study of the patients’ injuries and surgical reconstruction, and a more subjective human response that seeks to find out about the injured men and their experience. I shall argue that seeking out family photographs and stories help to answer the questions that cannot be resolved in the medical archives by revealing what happened to some patients once they left the military hospitals and reintegrated back into domestic life. Private family collections mark the distance between recognised and silenced medical knowledge, between written and recorded accounts and those deemed inappropriate or problematic for exchange, the ‘displaced histories’ that hover in the archive’s shadows.

I’ll post more next week, in the meantime, have a great weekend




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