Inspired by “Failure in the Archives,” a conference held at University College London, I talked to researchers and archivists about some of the frustrations and wrong turns they encounter in their work:
Humanities scholars rarely talk about their failures. Publications and promotion depend on making discoveries in the archives, not losing one’s way in them. But as researchers try to recover lives and experiences absent from the official record, they work within archival systems that weren’t set up to help them find what they’re in search of. And digital-era scholars with a world of information at their fingertips don’t always have the patience or the know-how to pick through the idiosyncratic records of the past.