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  • Publication
    Lost Unities: The materiality of the migrated archives
    (2023)
    Lowry, James
    ;
    Using images from the Museum of British Colonialism’s ‘Lost Unities’ virtual exhibition, this brief photo essay elaborates the material aspects of the displacement of archives to London from 37 former British colonies. The journey of the so-called Migrated Archives has been discussed by historians and archivists in political and technical terms, but through the lens of materiality, this piece seeks to understand these records through the space they occupy, the presences and absences they instantiate, their distances and journeys, to uncover insights into the meanings of their material displacements. It does this by exploring the spaces the records occupy and the spaces they leave empty. It applies the notion of ‘records-in-motion’ to chart how the Migrated Archives changes meaning, value and substance through the decontextualisations and recontextualisations of the processes of displacement. The essay then turns to the affective experiences of being close to or far from archives, the significance of place in displacement and the work that these papers – as material supports rather than as texts – do while they are displaced. Finally, the essay engages with the digital, to trouble the concept of digital repatriation by demonstrating the way that the digital introduces and sustains distance.
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  • Publication
    Ngaadzoke Please A Dare/Inkundla for the Rhodesian Army Records
    This chapter uses ideas of communal listening in traditional Zimbabwean jurisprudence to consider the affects of archival displacement from Zimbabwe to the United Kingdom. Providing a space for the responses of archivists to this ongoing dispossession, this chapter echoes the calls to radical empathy now being made in Western archival discourse. While previous debates and writings concentrated more on Zimbabwe's migrated archives, this chapter focuses on Rhodesian Army archives whose situation is even more complex because it is unclear which British entity has custody of the archives and there are many questions about their ownership. Not only is the archive obscured from view, but the metadata that describes it is hidden from us too. Through the decades, the African perspectives on the question of archival displacement have been characterised by a sense of loss, a desire for the return of records and custody over the traces of our history. Britain's elders have not heard our elders. Our archives are still displaced. Will they hear us now? The fact that we are imploring Britain, first invoking our rights and now invoking empathy, reveals the limits of the Dare/Inkundla (Communal listening approach to solving disputes). If we make room for all to speak and be heard, as has been done before and as I am doing here, what then? the community has decided that the records should be repatriated, whether the community is construed as Zimbabwean archivists or archivists in Commonwealth countries (including Britain): there is no disagreement in the literature, yet the records have not been returned.
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