The archive of the archive

The secret history of the Laura Boulton Collection

Authored by: Aaron Fox

The Routledge Companion to Cultural Property

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  July  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138812642
eBook ISBN: 9781315641034
Adobe ISBN:


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Professional archivists of ethnographic collections 1 assume ethical responsibility for the management of “records,” both in the objectified sense of documents, sound recordings, images, digital files, or artifacts, and in the ideational sense of the contents, meanings, and creative intentions those records may encode. Archivists also manage, in increasingly self-conscious ways, the rights of others to access, to study, to publish, to circulate, to remake, to destroy, and to benefit from the objective and ideational contents of the archive, but within structures not merely of our own design and bound to a very troubled history that produced the archives we manage. Certainly when we work in public or public-facing private institutions, we are bound by explicit canons of compliance policy and broad canons of privileged access. 2 And in many aspects of our job, we conceive of ourselves, and our institutions, as bound by the law, or rather, by many different laws and systems of legal understanding and interpretation, which refutes any notion of “the” law’s uniformity or rationality.

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