Written artefacts hardly ever come alone. In most cases, they are part of a collection that occupies a delimited space: a box, a niche in a wall, a room, or a separate building. Written artefacts are archived and archiving is a crucial element in most manuscript cultures. Archiving Artefacts will implement a global perspective on the archiving of written artefacts on a comprehensive scale, encouraging pertinent research in those fields that have remained unaffected by the recent ‘archival turn’ and refining insights for the better-studied areas in the light of new cases. Such a global perspective is particularly appropriate at a moment when, all across the globe, wider public attention is being given to the cultural ambiguities of manuscript collection, the political hazards of manuscript preservation and the inherent fragility of archives. Moreover, 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.
Archiving too often is seen simply as a self-evident pragmatic activity. To counteract this view, and appreciate the full complexity of archiving as a cultural process, we will address questions like, What technical, spatial, and material options were and are available for archiving, and why were specific solutions chosen? How was and is archiving related to knowledge? 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. To achieve this goal, we focus on archival practices rather than on archives.
E1 | Material and spatial dimensions of archiving highlights the role of physical objects in archival practices, like files, scrolls, or charters. Among other things, we will study the shapes of archived written artefacts, storage facilities (furniture and architecture) and the physical dimension of working with documents.
E2 | Epistemic dimensions of archiving focuses on the effects of archival practices for the production of knowledge and vice versa. This research direction is concerned with the logic of inventories, the organisation of knowledge, the specific opportunities that archives provide for comparing different written artefacts, and the specific relevance of archives for authenticating ‘truth’. We are also interested in studying the relationship of collections of written artefacts with other objects, e.g. in museums.
E3 | Cultural, social, and political contexts of archiving aims at detailing the ways in which archival practices have always been embedded in specific forms of meaning. Archiving fulfils specific functions, be these religious, political, economic or else, and these have calibrated the how, who, and why of archiving. We will compare different contexts and functions of archival practices across time and space.