Women’s letters and memoirs were until recently considered to have little historical significance. Many of these materials have disappeared or remain unarchived, often dismissed as ephemera and relegated to basements, attics, closets, and, increasingly, cyberspace rather than public institutions. This collection showcases the range of critical debates that animate thinking about women’s archives in Canada.
The essays in Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace consider a series of central questions: What are the challenges that affect archival work about women in Canada today? What are some of the ethical dilemmas that arise over the course of archival research? How do researchers read and make sense of the materials available to them? How does one approach the shifting, unstable forms of new technologies? What principles inform the decisions not only to research the lives of women but to create archival deposits? The contributors focus on how a supple research process might allow for greater engagement with unique archival forms and critical absences in narratives of past and present.
From questions of acquisition, deposition, and preservation to challenges related to the interpretation of material, the contributors track at various stages how fonds are created (or sidestepped) in response to national and other imperatives and to feminist commitments; how archival material is organized, restricted, accessed, and interpreted; how alternative and immediate archives might be conceived and approached; and how exchanges might be read when there are peculiar lacunae—missing or fragmented documents, or gaps in communication—that then require imaginative leaps on the part of the researcher.
"Archives work is pretty lonely and up until this book there was little concrete guidance and reassurance about the possibilities and limits of archival research. Simply put this book became dynamite in my hands. Familiar voices from archives conferences and L.M. Montgomery studies like Devereau, Lefebvre, Tiessen, and Panofsky, opened up new aspects from the very first page of articles.... The panorama of texts presents Canadian women's archival research as a minefield of possibilities, but the intersection of film, politics, women, and archives in Hannah McGregor's text ‘An Archive of Complicity: Ethically (Re)Reading the Documentaries of Nelifer Pazira’ jettisons archival research into new spheres to address Canada from new even more complex perspectives."