Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory

Essays from the Sawyer Seminar
Francis X. Blouin, Jr. and William G. Rosenberg, Editors
Essays exploring the importance of archives as artifacts of culture


As sites of documentary preservation rooted in various national and social contexts, artifacts of culture, and places of uncovering, archives provide tangible evidence of memory for individuals, communities, and states. Archives also define memory institutionally within prevailing political systems and cultural norms. By assigning the prerogatives of record keeper to the archivist, whose acquisition policies, finding aids, and various institutionalized predilections mediate between scholarship and information, archives produce knowledge, legitimize political systems, and construct identities.

Far from being mere repositories of data, archives actually embody the fragments of culture that endure as signifiers of who we are, and why. The essays in Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory conceive of archives not simply as historical repositories but as a complex of structures, processes, and epistemologies situated at a critical point of the intersection between scholarship, cultural practices, politics, and technologies.

Francis X. Blouin Jr. is Professor of History, Professor of Information, and Director of the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan.

William G. Rosenberg is Alfred G. Meyer Collegiate Professor of History, University of Michigan.

Praise / Awards

  • "Blouin and Rosenberg's collection makes an important contribution to debates about the political and historical context of record keeping that underwrite evidence-based scholarship. It sheds light on the hidden, unacknowledged intimacy between historians, other scholars and archivists to adapt a European formula and places archives closer to the centre of empirical and theoretical discussion of history, politics and society."
    —Brien Brothman, Rhode Island State Archives

  • "This book lets the secret out: archives are prisms of the past, shaping narratives historians mistakenly think they themselves create. . . .No student of the past can afford to neglect the issues raised by this book."
    —Jay Winter, Department of History and Civilization, European University Institute

  • "A wide-ranging, timely and interdisciplinary examination of the critical roles that records play in the construction of memory. Archives, Documentation, and Institutions of Social Memory is a critical examination by leading theorists of the major social themes of the twenty-first century as seen through the lens of records and primary sources. This book should be included on the core readings for historians, social theorists, archivists and all students of collective memory."
    —Jeannette A. Bastian, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College

  • "Why do we remember—and keep records of—the past? Why is this necessary in any society? This volume crosses boundaries of time, nationality, and scholarly disciplines to address these questions. Unraveling the mysteries of human memory, these scholars show why archives are essential in all societies. This is an indispensable guide to social memory of the past and its impact on the present, and the best of current international and multi-disciplinary scholarship."
    —Randall Jimerson, Professor of History and Director of the Graduate Program in Archives & Records Management, Western Washington University, and Past President, Society of American Archivists

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Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 512 pages.
  • 1 drawing.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2011
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02672-2

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