Archives and Afterlife

November 9, 2017 @ 2:30 pm – 3:30 pm
Tier 307, University of Manitoba
66 Chancellors Cir
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Archives and Afterlife: Conceptualizing Recordkeeping as Grief Work

By Jennifer Douglas

Thursday November 9, 2:30

Tier 307

This talk explores the affective dimensions of personal recordkeeping, and specifically, the relationships between grief and recordkeeping. I will suggest that recordkeeping can function as a type of grief work and that records and archives can provide a way for the living to continue a relationship with their dead. Drawing on the theory of continuing bonds (see Klass, Silverman & Nickman, 1996) and the concept of continuing social presence (Mitchell et al., 2012), I will describe the way that recordkeeping allows bereaved parents to maintain relationships with their deceased children in two different contexts: first, in the non-traditional archives that form around online grief communities and second, in the decidedly traditional context of a well-known writer’s archive. I will suggest how an awareness of the roles of records and recordkeeping in grief work requires archivists to rethink the archives as a type of “contact zone” (Burton, 2006), and to reimagine how we describe records and make them available. Along the way, the talk tells a research story: one about both the inherent difficulties and the transformative possibilities of doing what Denise Turner (2015) has called the kind of research no one wants to talk about.

Jennifer Douglas is an Assistant Professor at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, where she teaches courses in the Master of Archival Studies program. Jennifer’s research and teaching focus on issues of archival representation, evolving interpretations of foundational archival concepts (such as original order), and on personal archives. Her current research seeks to conceptualize the relationships between recordkeeping and grief work and to explore the implications for archival interfaces of such relationships. Jennifer is the editor of Archivaria from 2016 to 2019.