Shaking the Archive - Reconsidering the Role of Archives in Contemporary Society

A hybrid, multidisciplinary conference that interrogates the power of and in archives

The event will be in person / Hybrid on the 23rd and 24th June with the last day (25th) being held on-line.

The last decade has seen an exponential rise in scholarly work on archives and preservation.

This 3-day hybrid conference aims to engage with diverse sectors and subject areas to explore how archives can be interrogated, reimagined, and represented.


Books on a shelf

Hosted at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh on 23-24 June and online on 25 June 2023, this conference aims to critically appraise the current state of and research on global archives. Alongside the presentations, there will be an exhibition, film screenings, and networking opportunities for those attending in person.

The last decade has seen an exponential rise in scholarly work on archives and preservation. Certainly, the contribution of archival research and practice has brought about individual and sometimes heroic efforts to safeguard the future of a little-known or under-explored history and its ephemera.

This approach is relevant to most disciplines: culture, the arts, healthcare, sociology, and governance expend significant energy on archives, archiving, and safeguarding past objects and knowledges.

Questions around the role(s) of memory and archives in the present challenge sectors to reflect on how we can collectively rethink the (opportunistic) use of these individual and institutional archives.

Physical materials are increasingly pertinent in the face of the ubiquity of our digital world. The questions we want to ask are:

  • Where is ‘history’ located if we’re constantly looking to the future?
  • How can contemporary communities engage with ‘old’ ephemera?
  • What is the role archives play in remembering?
  • How do institutions make visible and accessible their archival materials? How can personal, national, and global archives better act as a collective memory?
  • What are the gaps in knowledge and how do we deal with unknown histories?
  • What practices and methodologies are in place to engage with the vulnerable materialities of and in archives?
  • How do we ethically deal with ownership and how do we effectively decolonize archives?
  • How do we deal with the embodied memory of the past in the form of living and vulnerable archives?
  • What tools would allow us to engage and interact with the polyphonic documentation of archives?
  • How can archives better serve the specific communities of which they are the cultural product?

We invite a deeper reflection around elements that are left out of mainstream historiography and expand knowledges beyond the surface of the visible. We effectively want to challenge, deconstruct and expand the power dynamics inherent to general or institutional knowledge.

QMU Campus


Welcome Refreshments available
09.30 - 10.00 WELCOME 
Prof. Richard Butt
10.00 - 11.30 KEYNOTE | Helen Fothergill
Playing with Fire: The Limitations, Fears, Politics and Fun of Working with Complex Heritage Collections
Chair: Prof. Anthony Schrag

Archives and Social Practice 1
CHAIR: Stefanie Van de Peer

  • Staging Disobedience: Performance Making as a form of Generative Transgression in Scottish Theatre Archives, Andy Henry
  • Artefacts Live: The Legacy of Leather, Mary O’Neill & Gillian Proctor
  • “This place is actually fun”: Using filmmaking to engage young people with archives in Northern Ireland, Laura Aguilar (online)

Oor Mad History
CHAIR: Benjamin Wold Birmanis

with members of CAPS Independent Advocacy “Oor Mad History” Collective Advocacy group
13.00 - 14.00 LUNCH



Archival Environments
CHAIR: Karl Johnson

  • Exploding the Archives: lost histories of advertising the atom, Elaine Mercer-Jones
  • Morocco’s Long Fight for Water Rights: The Hegemonic Haunting of Imider’s Counter-Archive, Rachel Santarsiero
  • Seeds as Archives, Stan Blackey

Archival Practice
CHAIR: Uschi Klein

  • How can artists draw from archival material to inform and contextualise creative practice, Kyriaki Sigala
  • In search of a framework for academic-industry collaborations with archival institutions: Experiences from a partnership with the National Library of Scotland Moving Image Archive, Nelson Correia and Kay Foubister
  • Archives de l‘invisible: the invisible archives of participatory arts practice in the northern Paris Banlieue, Sarah Harper
15.30 - 16.00 COMFORT BREAK


Living Archives
CHAIR: Bianca Mastrominico

  • What Is a Living Archive: Curating the ‘unruly’ materiality of Contemporary Art, Judit Bodor
  • Living Archives for the Future, Lydia Beilby and Sana Bilgrami
  • Developing Living Archives through Embodied Practices, Jayne Batzofin (online)

Lost and Forgotten Archives
CHAIR: Kieran Taylor

  • Queering the Map: A Digital Archive of Queer Histories, Vlad Butucea
  • Shaking the Scottish archives in search of Magdalene Asylums, Jo Thor
  • The Archive in Control of its Silences: the Case of the Securitate Archive in Romania, Uschi Klein
  • “This programme does not exist anymore… if it was ever even recorded!”: A reflection on my work in and around the TV archives, Ana Tominc
17.30 - 18.30



Welcome Refreshments available

Archives and Social Practice 2
CHAIR: Andy Henry

  • Activism, Art & Archiving at the Edge, Karl Johnson
  • Place as Archive - Archive as Learning Artefact, Shreyas Srivatsa
  • Writing women between the lines: A creative search for the Countess of Kilmarnock with local primary school children in and out of the archives, Victoria Bianchi

Materiality and Immateriality 
CHAIR: Rosie Al-Mulla

  • New Materialism and Memory of Matter: Istanbul City Museum, Serpil Karakaya Dogan
  • Material Memories - Material Secrets: Scrutinising Switzerland's Role in the Second World War through a Counter-archive, Vera Zurbrügg
  • Avisuality in the atomic archive: The forgotten history of uranium mining in the Congo, Min-Kyoo Kim
  • ‘Good or useful things’: exploring objective value in an unlikely archive, Christopher Silver



Feminist Archives
CHAIR: Victoria Bianchi

  • Feminist Archival Research Practice and Shaking the Archive, Mary Irwin & Kevin Geddes
  • Writing Around Wounds: Female Fan Voices in Silent Film Archives, Diana W. Anselmo
  • Feminist Care for the Archive: Art History Text(ures) and Methodologies, Jocelyn E. Marshall & Katherine Guinness (hybrid)

Activists Archiving the Internet

Social Justice Informed Approaches to Digitally Born Content

  • Shana MacDonald
  • Mina Momeni
  • Nick Ruest
  • Shawn Walker
  • Brianna Wiens
13.00 - 14.00 LUNCH

De/Post/Anti-Colonial Archives
CHAIR: Sana Bilgrami

  • A People’s Archives: Historical Connections, Power Discoveries & Correcting the Record, Rasul A. Mowatt
  • Ancestral Place, family heritage and archives: genealogical geographies for people of Punjabi descent, Chandan Mahal
  • Onyeka Igwe: archive, remediation, worldmaking, Laura McMahon (online)
  • Bluecoat, Liverpool: Echoes and Origins, Bryan Biggs and Michelle Girvan (online)

CHAIR: Lauren Bouvier

  • Brazilian digital archives: the preservation of national memory and the reconstruction and resignification of history, Talita Souza Magnolo (online)
  • Digital Visual Culture and Memory Practices: Modern Uses of Damnatio Memoriae, Semay Buket Şahin
  • Making archival work ‘public’: Wikipedia as a global memory place, Linnea Wallen
  • A Walk through Desmemòria: Silence in the family, questions for the archive, Mireia Ludevid i Llophuhj
15.30 - 16.00



Building Archives
CHAIR: Stefanie Van de Peer

  • Dust & Metal: a cine-poem journey through Vietnam's film heritage, Esther Johnson
  • Scottish Political Archive, Rosie Al-Mulla
  • Pop Oral: An Edinburgh Post Punk Archive, Mark Percival and Marian Jago
  • Processing Images from Caracas, Lorena Cervera

Embodying the Performance Archive: from Living Legacies to Collective Heritage
CHAIR: Jerri Daboo

  • Bianca Mastrominico
  • Francesca Romana Rietti and Luca Ruzza
  • Filomena Campus



Digital Archives
CHAIR: Vlad Butucea

  • Bending the Archive of the Chemical Past, Alaz Okudan
  • Traumatic Memories on the Desktop: Videographic Examination of Holocaust Footage, Jiří Anger
  • National Film Archive of India and digital possibilities to connect it for public use, Swati Jaywant Rao ButeJust One Click: DVD Menu and Ephemerality of Digital Artefacts, Veronika Hanáková


The Power of Audio: 
Presenting archives via podcasts

  • Bruce Ryan
  • Marianne Wilson
  • Hazel Hall
  • Iain McGregor
11.30 - 11.45 COMFORT BREAK

Challenging the Archives and Fabulating Life Stories and Trajectories

  • Paulo Augusto Franco de Alcântara
  • Juliana B. Valente
  • Larissa Nadai
  • Marília B A Ariza

Resistance, Power & Activism  
Linnea Wallen

  • "Fuck around and find out": lively encounters with/in London's 'Radical’ archives, Madeline Routon
  • The Climb: Women and Gender Diversity in Climbing, Emily Ankers
  • Archiving Practices and Activism: The Arab Uprisings’ Archives as a Case Study, Alessandra Fredianelli
  • Archives of Resistance of Intersectional Feminist Activists, Meryem Choukri
13.15 - 14.00 LUNCH


Silent Archives
CHAIR: Stefanie Van de Peer

  • From an Ottoman bank to a contemporary art institution: Salt, Turkey’s cultural space, as an opportunity for co-existence, Taner Dogan
  • Locating marginalised communities in the archives: a case study of the Belgian Refugees in First World War Scotland, Kieran Taylor
  • The Politics of Archiving and Digital Repatriation: Hussein Shariffe, Samar Abdel-Rahman

Curation and exhibition
CHAIR: Anthony Schrag

  • De-colonising the archive: staging under-represented and sensitive histories, Dominic Hingorani & Naida Redgrave (hybrid)
  • Shaking the Archive through Exhibition, Peter Lester
  • Feeling the Heat: Archive Curation and Historical Research in the context of Climate Crisis, Kathy Davies (online)
15.30 - 17.00 KEYNOTE | Abigail De Kosnick
Archiving, Librarianship, and the Individualization of Media Infrastructure
Chair: Rebecca Finkel


Photographs of various people


Playing With Fire: The Limitations, Fears, Politics and Fun of Working with Complex Heritage Collections

Helen Fothergill

Service Manager – Archives, Gallery & Museums, Aberdeen Art Gallery

Having worked with museum, art gallery and archive collections for 30 years, Helen has seen collections grow and new methods of managing and interpreting these objects emerge, but the very reason we hold them or what they say about us as a nation, society or collecting institution has been challenged – and rightly so. In this keynote, Helen engages with quandaries around how to face the practical challenges these wonderful, historic, often controversial and sometimes down-right offensive objects present us with.

John Maynard Keynes said: “Ideas shape the course of history” but perhaps we have to pay closer attention to a quote attributed to Winston Churchill “History is written by the victors.” For those dealing with historic collections, we face a legacy of well-to-do, middle-aged, white-male dominated selections. How can we reinterpret these amassed artefacts in a more inclusive way? Sometimes it feels impossible. We are also faced with the challenge of why they were collected. What were they intended to “do” for the visiting public: “improve”, “educate”, or subtly “indoctrinate”? Add to that the way in which objects are described. What is sacrosanct and immutable? What are we as a “woke” workforce allowed to challenge? Are we robbing the objects of meaning, hiding controversial histories, or simply removing terminology that is no longer appropriate or required?

Whilst we won’t answer any of these challenges quickly or easily, as museum and archive professionals we are in a unique position to make considered changes to rebalance this historic legacy and include a broader narrative with multiple voices. Other challenges might get in the way – politics, what to collect now, tightening budgets, increased expectations, digital-born collections, limited space – but with consistent actions we can, perhaps, move mountains.

Archiving, Librarianship, and the Individualization of Media Infrastructure

Abigail De Kosnik

Associate Professor, Berkeley Center for New Media and Department of Theater, Dance & Performance Studies

In the U.S., anti-piracy efforts became famous and notorious between 2003 and 2010, when the RIAA threatened to sue tens of thousands of individual users for large sums of money for alleged violations of copyright, and, in most cases, received settlements in the low thousands of dollars. I will argue that this period of what Joe Karaganis calls the “mass-lawsuit strategy” being applied by media corporations to solo consumers signalled a new era in the history of  copy culture and copyright culture, when one end user carries as much responsibility for the profitability and legality of an entire media circulation system as the multinational corporations that produce and distribute media goods.

This era, in which media infrastructure has been individualized, continues to the present day. I will present cases of individual founders of digital archives and libraries (Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive and Alexandra Elbakyan of Sci-Hub) being characterized as pirates and legally targeted by the media industries. I will also describe cases of individual anti-pirates taking it upon themselves to enforce copyright via social media “call-outs” of what they perceive to be pirate practices and organizations. I will trace the origin of this tendency of individuals to shoulder (or to be perceived as shouldering) the weight of massive archiving and library projects to Reagan-era dismantling of government support for infrastructure. I will cite oral history interviewees who spoke of their individual histories of pirate archiving and librarianship, and illustrate how contemporary media pirates build and maintain rogue archives and libraries in ways that that are monadic but also collective, performing a new style of infrastructural labour.



QMU On Campus Accommodation – available 22, 23 & 24 June 2023

For delegates wishing to be a convenient 2 minute walk from the conference venue we would recommend you stay on site at Queen Margaret University where campus accommodation is available.

We have single, en-suite rooms (with shared kitchen and living space) available at £66 B&B per person per night.

Accommodation Booking Form



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Event Details

Location Online or in-person (QMU Campus)
Date & Time Start
Cost Sliding Scale (based on in-person or online attendance)

In-person attendance (employed): £50*
In-person attendance (student): £30*
In-person attendance (unemployed): £15*

Online attendance (employed): £25
Online attendance (student) £10
Online attendance (unemployed): £5