For immediate release | June 12, 2017

The silence of the archive

CHICAGO — “The Silence of the Archive,” published by ALA Neal-Schuman, provides a groundbreaking discussion of a major but little considered issue: Why do archives, sometimes seen as the repositories of truth, often fail to satisfy users because they do not contain information which they expect to find? As authors Valerie Johnson, Simon Fowler, and David Thomas point out, silences range from details of individuals’ lives to records of state oppression or of intelligence operations. This book brings together ideas from a wide range of fields, from contemporary history through family history research to Shakespearian studies. The authors describe why these silences exist, discuss their impact, and survey how researchers have responded to them in the digital age. Marking the first time that the question of silence in the archives has been discussed holistically and from a broad perspective, this book examines the causes, responses, and implications both for researchers and for the archive itself. Featuring a foreword by Anne J. Gilliland, this book covers such key topics as:

  • enforced silences;
  • inappropriate selection;
  • dealing with the silence;
  • possible solutions; and
  • the meaning of the silences.

Johnson is Interim Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives. She was awarded the Alexander R. Myers Memorial Prize for Archive Administration, and has worked as an archivist and a historian in the academic, corporate and public sectors. Fowler is an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee where he teaches a course on military archives. Previously he worked at The National Archives for nearly 30 years. Thomas is a Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria where he is involved in research into access to contemporary records. Previously, he worked at the National Archives where he was Director of Technology and was responsible for digital preservation and for providing access to digital material.

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Related Links

"The Silence of the Archive"

"Preserving Archives, Second Edition"

"Participatory Heritage"


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