Derrida writes about archives: “…if we want to know what that will have meant, we will only know in times to come”.
Archives are places (physical and non-physical) where data is stored. They are the basis for individual or collective memory and for what becomes individual or collective experience.
From Michael Ogle’s blog, based on Freud’s psychoanalysis “We are made up of the sum total of all the experiences in our lives and in the lives of those we love”.
Everything we experience and encounter throughout our lives is archived in our brains, called upon when needed for future reference. We archive our friends, family, social encounters, thoughts and experiences. Archives are a constant build and rebuild.
Traditionally, when we think of archives, we have in our minds a picture of long rows of dusty shelves filled with boxes or books (hardly a “place of dreams”, as written in Carolyn Steedman’s “Dust”). While these versions still exist, archives are found in plentitude in cyberland. Websites, such as archive.org and documentsmanagement.com.au, offer services in facilitating archives to anybody. Centuries ago, monks recorded important events of the time for historical preservation, the most famous and influential being Bede, who was nicknamed ” The Father of English History”). Now, every literate person can archive.
Archives carry with them a great amount of power. They record the kind of society we are. They tell us the kind of society we were and are the basis to the society of the future. Archives are created for cultural preservation and remembrance. Significant moments in the past that cannot and should be forgotten are archived. For example, the Apartheid Archive Project and the ITS are web-based archives that include information and documentation relating to the experiences of racial segregation towards the Black South African’s during the apartheid years (Apartheid Archive Project) and the Jewish community in Europe during WWII (ITS).
A consequence or result of archives is, what Derrida refers to as “archive fever”. He says: “It is to have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement”.
Archive fever is tracing archives to their provenance. To quest through the constraints of memory or inscription to the original moment in order to seek out truth. There is no archive fever without the threat of the death drive. The threat that the truth will not be completely understood and you will not be able to further proceed unless you find its origins.
A look at some colourful examples of archives.
The man who owns the world’s largest vinyl-record collection
The travel film archive
Archive of American TV