'It’s not just about being a good archivist': Exploring the possibilities of liberatory archival futures


Meilleure présentation orale pour maîtrise | Best oral presentation for Master’s student
How can archives and archival approaches change? How can they better incorporate critical approaches which are geared towards liberatory practice? Working from a social constructivist paradigm and using data collected through semi-structured interviews with archivists, this symposium paper addresses 2 major findings around implementing critical archival approaches in practice. First, participants discussed feeling powerless to change archival practice at traditional archives due to job precarity and discouraging workplace dynamics. Many recounted experiences of resistance and negatively described administrative cultures as de-incentivizing experimentation with new archival practices and perspectives. And second, interviewees highlighted the importance of the possibility of creativity, which was conceived as the ability to experiment with outside-the-box approaches and radically re-think archival problems from a multitude of perspectives. Conversely, participants articulated concerns about barriers in archival environments excluding the possibility for creativity, without which a liberatory archival praxis cannot be envisioned. They noted that the absence of creativity reduces the possibilities of radically different archival approaches and ultimately harms archival transformations.
This paper will explore the relationship between the findings of powerlessness and creativity and clarify the difficulties of putting critical perspectives into practice. From that discussion a larger exploration of archival transformations will emerge, and the paper will theorize how archival environments and archival practice can be disrupted and changed to build a critical, liberatory archival praxis.

Apr 28, 2022 10:40 AM
Josh Wilson
Josh Wilson
Master of Information Studies, McGill University

I have a BA in Creative Writing and Philosophy from Concordia University. Interested in interdisciplinary research, currently focused on the relationship between critical theory and practice, how archivists use theory, how theory and practice can co-inform one another to build a critical, liberatory future