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

Seminar 1: The Ontology of the Archive, 25 April 2008, Manchester Museum

The first seminar focused on examining conceptualisations of ‘the archive’ across disciplines. The friction between the novelty of the archive for social scientists, and the very ordinariness of the archive for historians, was a productive tension with which to start. The sense that the archive is the site of the trace of the old, the place of collective memory, underlies anxieties about the suitability of the archive for researching the sociological present. Questioning assumed temporalities of the archive were key to unpacking our understandings of the possibilities of archival research. As well as examining the key disciplines engaged in archives, we also considered the impact of the work of Foucault and Derrida on archives, and Latour and ANT on laboratories, and the work of those informed by these theorists across disciplines. Whether the archive is understood as a place, a site of texts and artefacts where history is documented, or as a process whereby knowledge is produced through the assemblage of artefacts, archiving techniques and disciplinary research practices, the aim was to unpack how these different ontologies of the archive inform how the possibilities of archival research are imagined.

Seminar Programme


Registration and refreshments



Introduction and welcome to CRESC and the workshop

Session 1

What is the Archive? Where is the Archive?

Louise Craven (The National Archives)

George W. Bush and the War on the Archive

Till Geiger (University of Manchester)

Tracing the intangible: censorship, performance, and the archive

Helen Freshwater (Birkbeck)




Session 2

Constructing and Deconstructing a Digital Data Archive

Libby Bishop (University of Leeds/University of Essex)

Fiction of the Archives: Anxiety and Authority in Writing Nigerian History

Steve Pierce (University of Manchester)

Romance in the Archive

Carolyn Steedman (University of Warwick)

15.30–15.45 Summary and Close