Research Field E
Written artefacts hardly ever come alone. In most cases, they are part of collections that occupy delimited spaces: a box, a folder, a niche in a wall, a shelf, a room, or a separate building. Written artefacts are continuously archived and (re-)archiving is a constitutive element in almost any manuscript culture. ‘Archiving Artefacts’ takes a global perspective on the archiving of written artefacts on a comprehensive scale in order to connect the various discipline-specific traditions that have emerged as a result of the ‘archival turn’. To enable this conversation across regions and periods, we focus on archival practices as processes rather than on archives as institutions. In turn, we account for the fact that collections of written artefacts are inherently instable and manuscripts are continuously on the move. Such a global perspective is particularly appropriate at a moment when, all across the globe, wider public attention is being given to the cultural and legal ambiguities of manuscript collections (in particular with reference to provenance) and the political hazards of manuscript preservation (in particular with reference to cultural heritage).
Archiving too often is seen simply as a self-evident pragmatic activity. To balance this view, and appreciate the full complexity of archiving as cultural processes, the Research Field ‘Archiving Artefacts’ addresses questions like, What technical, spatial, and material options were and are available for archiving, and why were specific solutions chosen? In which ways were and are archival practices embedded in cultural, social and political contexts? Addressing these questions will lead to a better understanding of how archiving affects the cultural impact of writing. Furthermore, the growing presence of digital archives calls for a broad analysis of archival practices in order to further a better understanding of the specific opportunities and challenges provided by new technologies.
Spokesperson: Konrad Hirschler