Select Page

Among the most valuable lessons I have learned in this class is that archiving is not wholly individual work. In fact, collaboration and creating “networks, not monuments,” to borrow from Helton’s [1] 2019 work, is integral in designing and upholding a new era of cataloging and archival work that attempts to disentangle and fight back against the institutionally corrupt systems, terminologies, and hierarchies already in place within academia, museology, and archival work. It is evident that as either or both a student archivist and active viewer of these images, there is a responsibility and power involved in ascribing descriptive meaning to photographs, especially within an institutional setting. When Wendel White visited our class and discussed his artistic process, he engaged thoughtfully with our discussions of cataloging and descriptive processes. Among the most impactful statements coming from this session was White describing the archivist’s  job as the “power to frame imagination.” By describing it this way, the weight of the task at hand began to dawn on me. As a novice archivist without even an undergraduate degree, I glanced around at the horseshoe-style table at my classmates, of whom are various Ph.D. and Master’s candidates and students, who often have just as much (if not more) insight and critical theory skill than some of the authors we discuss in class. As I did, I saw my network. The collaborative and communicative process that took place throughout the creation and revision of the metadata aided me in realizing just how crucial Helton’s statement is. The network I encountered in this seminar is one of thousands, many even millions, within the field of archival work, and it is vital that these networks engage with objects and histories in a meaningful way that disrupts the hierarchies and biases that infect the museological and historical world. 

Helton, L. E. (2019). On decimals, catalogs, and racial imaginaries of reading. PMLA/Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 134(1), 99–120.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email