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Who Do Archives Think They Are?: Archives, Communities and Values in the Heritage City

Hoyle, Victoria Elizabeth (2018) Who Do Archives Think They Are?: Archives, Communities and Values in the Heritage City. PhD thesis, University of York.

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This thesis critically explores ontological values ascribed to archival heritage in England, interrogating the archives field from a cultural heritage perspective. Using change-oriented research approaches, within a constructivist framework, it considers the ways in which archival institutions, archives practitioners and communities define and value archives. A critical discourse analysis of strategic documentation from 1997 to 2017 examines professional and institutional conceptions of archival values. Following Smith (2006), an ‘Authorised Archival Discourse’ that naturalises certain ways of thinking about archives is theorised. It is argued that this discourse, which privileges some cultural subjectivities over others, shapes the activation of archives for political and social agendas. The theory is validated and extended through analysis of semi-structured interviews with archives practitioners. Alternative values emerge in cases studies of archival engagement and participatory research projects with communities. The City of York acts as a ‘heritage laboratory' in which to observe how both authorised and alternative values are expressed through engagement programmes and community-based activity. Two typologies of values are identified. An evidential typology, grounded in dominant Western epistemologies, encompasses juridical, historical and rights values and is conceptually dependent on notions of authenticity, integrity, authority and truth. An affective typology, generated through individual and communal encounters with archives, includes social and emotional values. This typology calls upon place, ownership, autonomy and lived experience for legitimacy. Values-based tensions arise between archival institutions and communities when evidential values are authorised by the discourse whereas expressions of affective values are marginalised. The thesis suggests that the dissonance generated by differing regimes of values impacts communication and collaboration between values-holders, and thus the potentiality of archives in society. In making this dissonance visible the thesis contributes to the theorisation of the “archival multiverse” (McKemmish, 2016) and the emerging field of critical archival studies (Caswell, Punzalan and Sangwood, 2017).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: archives, archival value, critical heritage studies, authorised heritage discourse
Academic Units: The University of York > History (York)
Depositing User: Miss Victoria Hoyle
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2019 12:22
Last Modified: 25 Mar 2019 12:22
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/23153

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