On the fifteenth day of CoDI Rachel got me to surprise… what would I put in my archive?
Rachel Hosker: Is This Your Life?
Ever thought about your own personal archive? Ever wondered about the skeletons that might find their way into it? Or are you certain all your skeletons will die with you? Well, don’t be so sure about that, why? Well don’t just take it from us…
I am Rachel Hosker, Archives Manager at the University of Edinburgh. As an archivist I make the University’s rare and unique collections available to researchers and anyone who is interested. I love my job as with each day you never know what you will uncover or share working with collections that hold the evidence of real people and real life within them.
And it is the sharing them with others that makes our work truly enjoyable and exciting; especially when they surprise people or you get an unexpected reaction to a discovery!
So with the real life and real people recorded in our collections in mind, I chose my ‘Dangerous idea’, which is that we all leave a trace of ourselves in the world. Some people leave an almost complete documentary of their lives, while others leave as little as possible. But what if you were to leave an archive? Would this reflect you, your life, thoughts, personality, work, interests, and relationships? What would be destroyed and forgotten? Would it solely leave your own perspective of yourself? What would others put in an archive about you?
So does everyone have an archive?
Some people actually want the right to be forgotten and to leave no trace, but I would suggest that would be very difficult to achieve. We all have birth and death records, some have marriage or civil partnerships recorded. Maybe you were caught in a photograph in 1975 that was published in a newspaper or you wrote a poem for a school magazine and you certainly would have been recorded in the school registers. Maybe someone wrote a letter and mentioned you and your role in an event. The list of possibilities goes on and the potential for unknown traces to be left in archives grows and grows as you think about it.
So I will propose that no-one is immune from this, no-one can escape leaving their trace.
What I’ve also see in my work with archives is that gaps are left too. Sometimes this is because someone purposely does not want particular mentions, opinions or evidence to survive. Sometimes it is just due to the natural loss of items as time moves on. But people will fill these gaps, supposition will find a place and someone’s history is changed, even subtly. We’re all guilty of filling these gaps. It is interesting sometimes finding out different people’s theories and seeing what evidence or lack of they are based on. It is like looking at one photograph to tell the whole story of an event without thinking of what was out of shot.
How are you feeling about taking part in CoDI 2016?
I hope people will join me to discuss, debate and share their thoughts and own stories on this. This will be my first Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas outing. I’m very excited to be part of this year’s line up to explore the idea of archives and the personal impact they have on all of us. So I’m hoping that this will encourage people to share some of those ‘skeletons in the closet’ or think about their ‘This is Your Life’ moment or obituary with a bit of humour in the mix!
Rachel’s show takes place on Thursday 18th August, Stand in the Square (Venue 372), 3-4pm, £8 (£6)
Purchase tickets at: http://www.outstandingtickets.com/show/112/performance/1552/book-tickets