Making the record from memory: A case for documenting the personal

Vivian Wong


Conceptions of records have progressed from their institutionalized beginnings as documents of the affairs of the governments that produced them to a more progressive and inclusive present. Individuals can make records of themselves – records that have evidentiary value that document their lives. These personal records preserve individual histories, memories, and experiences in the archive that has the potential for anyone and everyone to be remembered in the record. Archival theory and practice have made strides toward inclusion and multiculturalism in the late 20th century and into the new millennium as postmodern thought entered the debate regarding the archive. While the postmodern perspective underscores the mandate of the archive to work with neglected and marginalized, as well as traditional groups, the record keeping and documentation processes are still ones centered on physical records. 
    To challenge the textual proclivity and assumption of fixity in the notion of records, this paper explores the relationship of memories and records – a dynamic process where each makes the other and one is the other in some form. Records make memories and memories make records, while memories are themselves a kind of record that represents personal identity, history, and experience. It advocates for other kinds of things to be regarded as records when documenting, collecting, and preserving the personal. For certain individuals in the Diaspora, the ability to produce tangible and textual records of themselves is denied through political, social, or economic circumstance. Although these groups cannot create records of themselves, their experiences are nonetheless real. The understanding of the archive and archival theory and practice should be broadened to include the past in recorded memory of previously marginalized groups such that the archive becomes an inclusive representative of all people and their diverse histories and experiences.

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