Losing Yourself in the Archive: A Cautionary Tale

Conference Paper

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When entering the heterotopic archive space it is easy to become engulfed by it, to trust in the order and to believe that it contains the truth amongst its mysteries and secrets. In carrying out archive research we must repeat Derrida’s (1996) theory that the archive only contains traces of what happened, not the thing itself. To understand the cultural significance of the archive and to question its existence through Foucault, Derrida, Baudrillard, Steedman, Sheringham and others is as vital to the research process as navigating the archive catalogue.

The Stanley Kubrick Archive provides a rich and plentiful resource for film researchers but as with any archive there are limits and limitations to the data. The researcher must constantly question their interpretation of the information and consider the context in which documents and images were created. We must be aware that the archive does not exist in a vacuum and that triangulation of data from sources outside the archive is essential to thorough research.

This presentation uses examples from the researcher’s own experiences and mistakes to discuss the risks of interpreting archive data, the value of developing a robust theoretical framework to underpin your methodology and the importance of drawing on other sources to verify your findings.

Researching Film and Television Through the Archive Symposium 2012, University of Warwick, UK.

9 Nov, 2012

Catriona McAvoy




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