Back to the Future

Today I’m talking to Rachel Hosker all about the past, and the silences we have to deal with when exploring it. Her show ‘Silence in the Archive’ will be on in The NewTown Theatre on the 5th and the 22nd of August!

Which period/ moment in the past would you return to?

Wow, that’s a tricky one. I totally loved growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, but would never want to relive teenage years again! Perhaps the 1970s,


Partly because Women’s liberation and the equal pay act came in, so it would be an interesting time.  And because of flares and music!

Who would you speak to and what about?

I’d love to speak to students at the University I work for, so I could see the changes through their eyes, here their views on politics and equality. It was a time when students did undertake sit-ins and actively protest.

Why would you need to time travel to find this information?

The technology of the 1970s such as photographs and with the dawn of computing in a more widespread way, we know that much has been lost in terms of archives and documentary evidence. People didn’t wander around with cameras in the way we do now on our mobile phones, and if they did take photographs or film the quality of the printing could be poor that it has now disintegrated.

What are some of the other reasons for silences in the archives?

There are so many. Willful destruction for politics, power, embarrassment, public image, discrimination, the law such as data protection, suppression, lack of realising the value of events or decisions at the time, information overload, cultural and societal bias or view, accident or act of nature, war, terrorism and violence, personal choice not to be documented.  The list could go on and on.

How should we be changing these issues of silences in history?

Archivists as a profession are very much about the democratisation of this form of evidence. Thinking about and challenging bias’ and reflecting on who’s voice is being heard or who is being affected, when records are being created or decisions being made is important. Everyone has a role, from your family archives, to creating documentary evidence in work it is interesting to reflect if a silence is there.