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2013 February

Madhu Narayan

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February 10, 2013

What we talk about when we talk about archives:

February 10, 2013 | By | One Comment

On January 4th, I attended an MLA panel titled “Representing Race: Silence in the Digital Humanities.” Adeline Koh – a speaker on this panel – talked at length about her current project “Digitizing Chinese Englishmen: Representations of Race and Empire in the Nineteenth Century. (This panel provoked a great deal of discussion. For now, here’s a storify version of the panel: xhttp://storify.com/crunkfeminists/representing-race-silence-in-the-digital-humanitie?utm_campaign=website&utm_source=email&utm_medium=email. Koh has also discussed her project on the CHI Blog: http://chi.anthropology.msu.edu/2012/05/28/race-in-dh-postcolonial-studies-and-digitizing-chinese-englishmen-an-interview-with-adeline-koh/#respond). Koh introduced “Digitizing Chinese Englishmen” as a postcolonial archive intended to digitize and annotate “the Straits Chinese Magazine, a journal produced by the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” She talked persuasively about the need to decolonize archives and to also interrupt the logics of imperial archives that try to consolidate knowledge and power by effectively silencing and co-opting representations of the Other.

Koh’s discussion of this postcolonial archive got me Read More

Madhu Narayan

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February 1, 2013

On Archival “discoveries”: What does it mean?

February 1, 2013 | By | No Comments

In June 2012, The Atlantic published an article by Suzanne Fischer titled “Nota Bene: If you ‘Discover’ Something in an Archive, It’s not a Discovery.” [http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/06/nota-bene-if-you-discover-something-in-an-archive-its-not-a-discovery/258538/]. Fischer wrote the article in the aftermath of the publication of the Leale Report. Briefly, Charles Leale was the Surgeon-General when President Abraham Lincoln was shot. He was the first doctor to arrive on the scene after the shooting. His report of the shooting was found by Helena Iles Papaioannou, a researcher who has been working on a project titled “The Papers of Abraham Lincoln.” The Leale Report has the potential to change the way historians write about the days following Lincoln’s assassination.

Fischer’s contention is interesting: the Leale report was “discovered” by researchers within the National archives because “(a) 19th-century professional knew about the Leale report and decided that, as a part of the Surgeon General’s correspondence, it was worth keeping in the nation’s collections.” Read More