ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL


Archiving and Reusing Qualitative Data: Theory, Method and Ethics across Disciplines

Seminar 3: Methods and Archives, 10 November 2008, University of Sussex

Seminar 4: The Epistemology of the Archive, 11 November 2008, Pelham House Hotel, Lewes.

Seminar 3: Methods and Archives, 10 November 2008, University of Sussex

Certain social science concerns with validity, sampling, representativeness, generalisability, with the now and with mapping the future, seem to map uneasily onto the archive, and the historian’s solitary search for unique and eccentric documents in an apparently archaic and dusty repository of texts. This seminar focused on the methods used by those who routinely turn to archives for research, addressing:

The seminar asked how these techniques might enable us to think innovatively about data linkage across the social sciences, about integrating methods, and about the possibilities of comparative research.

Programme

10:00–10.15 - Registration and refreshments

10.15–10.20 - Introduction and welcome to CRESC and the workshop

10.20–11.15 - Session 1: Constructing re-usable qualitative data

Dorothy Sheridan, Director, Mass Observation Archive

Respondent: Bill Bytheway (OU; Timescapes)

11.15-12.30 - Session 2: Sampling, validity and the longitudinal archive

Mike Savage (University of Manchester; CRESC)

Respondent: Libby Bishop (Essex/Leeds; Qualidata)

12.30–13.30 - Lunch

13.30–15.00 - Session 3: Workshop in the Mass Observation Archive

With Archivist Fiona Courage

15.00-15.20 - Tea

15.20-16.00 - Session 4: The commissioner, the re-user and the director

Dorothy Sheridan (Sussex); Claire Langhamer (Sussex); Anne-Marie Kramer (Warwick)

16.00-16.30 - Methods and the qualitative archive: open discussion

Chair: Molly Andrews (UEL)

Seminar 4: The Epistemology of the Archive, 11 November 2008, Pelham House Hotel, Lewes

This seminar turned our attention to the production of the archive. In the social science literature archived data appears as ‘secondary data’, or ‘pre-existing data’, or even ‘found data’, as it is understood to have been generated in a different project by another researcher. Given the centrality of context and the reflexive production of data and analysis for social science researchers, the use of archived documents, particularly interview transcripts, has raised the challenge of research using data when the original context of the production of the data is not necessarily easily accessible. Here we examined what could be gained for the social science researcher by treating archival work as an ethnographic project in its own right, by understanding archival data not as found, but as generated by a particular archive. We asked how understandings of archival research change when we focus on such work, not as a project of recreating the ‘original’ research, and original research relationship, but as involving a new relationship, between researcher and the archive, and the artefacts in the archive, as an embodied and situated project. We were thus returned to questions about the temporality of archives, which we explored in Seminar One. Such attention to the production of the archive, for example through even a cursory comparison of archives such as Qualidata and Mass Observation, reveals very different epistemologies at play. In calling for a new epistemology of the archive, we also examined how ethical questions are reformulated.

Programme

10:00–10.15 - Registration and refreshments

10.15–10.20 - Introduction and welcome to CRESC and the workshop

10.20–11.30 - Session 1: Archiving in the digital age: Towards a post-documentary sensibility

Michael Frisch, President-Elect The Oral History Association, University at Buffalo, State University of New York

Respondent: Rob Perks Director of National Life Stories, British Library National Sound Archive

11.30-12.15 - Session 2: Multi-media and the mediated archive

Jack Latimer (QueenSpark) Community Archives

Jeremy Johns (British Library) Digital Lives Research Project

12.15–13.15 - Lunch

13.15–14.30 - Session 3: Heritage politics and the epistemology of the political archive

John Hay (Wolverhampton) A National Deaf Archive

Teresa Doherty (The Women’s Library) GENESIS - Developing Access to Women's History Sources

14.30-14.45 - Tea

14.45-16.00 - Session 4: Do archives have lives? And feelings?

Carolyn Hamilton (University of Witwaterstrand and Digital Innovation South Africa) Biographies of Archives

Ann Cvetkovich (University of Texas) The Archive of Feelings as Research Method

16.00-16.30 - Epistemology and the qualitative archive: open discussion