The Intimate Archive: Journeys through private papers
National Library of Australia, $34.95 pb, 198 pp
‘What is it that distinguishes “the experience of being in the archives” from other types of research?’ The introduction to The Intimate Archive indicates that this is a crucial question underpinning the book. Neither dry repositories of records nor merely the random detritus of lives, archives are understood as constructed artefacts, shaped by cultural and political practices as well as by chance. Their meaning also depends on the historical moment: what is overlooked by one generation of researchers may be important to another. What is regarded as evidence by a researcher trained in literature may be questioned by an historian. Particular interests, as well as factors like gender, may also influence the materials researchers select from papers and how they interpret them.