🌱 seedling

archival silence

the unintentional or purposeful absence or distortion of documentation of enduring value, resulting in gaps and inabilities to represent the past accurately[^1]

In particular, archival silence often happens in collections relating to Indigenous people and enslaved people. How do we ethically describe resources about people we have power over, historically or otherwise, if information about them was never never collected? How do we bring attention to these silences?

I also want to argue a bit with the “represent the past accurately” portion of the SAA’s definition here. Can we ever represent the past accurately? All collected information is biased and was created from particular viewpoints. The metadata record for a historical item creates a biased, interpreted surrogate of that item. The surrogate is what a patron will likely interact with first.