“When brought together as a public archive in the form of a state institution, archives are amplified into a grandiose narrative of nationhood—a metanarrative. Indeed, some theorists go so far as to claim there is no state without archives. This is because archives have power. And in turn, archives are created and shaped by ever-contested power relations. Public archives are not ‘passive storehouses of old stuff, but active sites where social power is negotiated, contested, confirmed.’ Their holdings ‘wield power over the shape and direction of historical scholarship, collective memory, and national identity, over how we know ourselves as individuals, groups, and societies’. Archives allow people to marshal stories and to make meaning. Archives are the very possibility of politics.”
From Archive Stories, Archive Realities, first published as a chapter in Public Knowledge by Freerange Press.