Why do archival silences exist?

In considering how to explain this topic, I had come up with preliminary list of circumstances leading to archival silences:

  • Information was not created
  • Information was not kept (at the time)
  • People/events were not mentioned in records
  • Materials were destroyed (intentionally or accidentally)
  • Materials are preserved but not well described, or significant aspects of them are not apparent from the description

So, I think that’s a good starter list. I’ll have to determine how to differentiate between the second and fourth ones. By the second, I mean people just didn’t think the material was significant enough to keep–just as we often toss out receipts or junk mail, etc. By the fourth, I mean that the materials were retained, but then later on were destroyed–again either by accident or deliberately.

The last one reflects what’s often referred to as an archival discovery. Silences can also arise when the materials exist, but are not known, or at least not known by those who would be interested in them. There should be a lot of good examples of this, I think.



Why do archival silences exist?

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