The Kibitzing archive

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This essay investigates how nonfiction authors use archives. Whereas scholarly historians adhere to broadly agreed-upon research procedures, and generally work within the context of extant debates and existing, or new, research questions, writers (as well as artists and museum curators) more likely enter archives relatively ‘agenda-free’. This essay draws on the author’s experiences working with the Forensic Photography Archive (Justice and Police Museum, Sydney), and the personal papers of journalist-musician Merv Acheson and policeman Brian K. Doyle. It charts the ‘value-adding’ process whereby the writer-researcher examines archive material at sufficient depth, and for sufficient time, to order raw archival material into groupings and sequences. These, with the necessary background research, might become finished, published narratives. Working with two smaller archives, however, the author finds that the processes of surveying, reflecting and background-researching are somewhat thwarted by the residual ‘authorial’ presences of the original compilers. The Acheson and the Doyle archives, although seemingly random collections, prove to be the outcome of careful selection. Both compilers were adept narrators, and their personal papers, rather than being raw material, might be considered ‘voiced’ and, in a sense, already authored.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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