HomeClayoquot LivesOral HistoryWhy create an online archive

Why create an online archive

My work is informed by histories of feminist reach and activist practice and of oral history, where sharing the stories of others has been central. Oral history is always a collective project. When I started this research in the early 1990s it was not common to create archives of research data. This was long before people started talking about 'open data'.

While some might (mis)understand oral history as creating heroes, individual figures plucked out and made special in the process, but this would be to mistake my motivations, as well as the radical potentials of oral history. The urge to archive, and in particular to build an online archive, is inspired by rather different intentions. Donna Haraway has always been a guide:

'One person can build up a large repetoire of string figures on a single pair of hands; but the cat's cradle figures can be passed back and forth on the hands of several players, who add new moves in the building of complex patterns. Cat's cradle invites a sense of collective work, of one person not being able to make all the patterns alone.' Haraway, A Game of Cat's Cradle, pp.69-70

Archiving, especially online archives, are about bringing stories together, into conversation with each other, and then inviting others to participate in these stories too.

At the same time, when I began this research, archiving research data was not common practice in the social sciences, although this has changed considerably over the past two decades.

For me, building an archive is a way of doing justice to the stories I heard, a way of democratising social science, as well as an instance of archiving activism.