I often think about affect and the act of reading—how reading a publication can elicit deeply emotional responses as we engage with and are challenged by new ideas and knowledge. Indeed, it is important to not discount the ways scholarship can evoke deep-rooted visceral reactions. Perhaps inspired by the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, I recently read And the Spirit Moved Them: The Lost Radical History of America's First Feminists by Helen LaKelly Hunt (Feminist Press, 2017). The book evoked an affective response in me that I remember having at the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan. It was during my experience arranging and describing materials related to nineteenth-century reform movements at the Clements that I encountered the incredible abolitionists and women's rights advocates Sarah and Angelina Grimké.
The Grimké sisters figure prominently in LaKelly Hunt's tracing of the abolitionist women's movement, and in particular their role in the Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women in 1837 that sought to bring together women across race, age, and economic status. And the Spirit Moved Them brought me back to my formative experience engaging with archival materials that inspired me to pursue a career as an archivist. The book moved me to feel hope as I read the accounts of women who contested slavery and gendered power dynamics that sought to preclude such a gathering in 1837. And yet these women persisted.
We often experience a range of emotions as we agree, disagree, and engage with archival scholarship. One can also catch glimpses of affect in reviews. In this issue, Brian M. Watson reviews Bodies of Information: Intersectional Feminism and Digital Humanities, edited by Elizabeth Losh and Jacqueline Wernimont. Watson expands this review beyond the pages of American Archivist, live-tweeting a more extensive review (or, #tweetvaluation) in over 150 tweets (an impressive feat!). These complementary reviews open up a deeper evaluation of Bodies of Information, and Watson provides a space for readers to consider archival affect and engagement with digital humanities, and how we can collaborate to move historically marginalized groups to the center of digital projects.
Other reviews ask similar questions about archival involvement in the methods of other fields. In her review of Archival Afterlives: Life, Death, and Knowledge-Making in Early Modern British Scientific and Medical Archives (edited by Vera Keller, Anna Marie Roos, and Elizabeth Yale), Laura Outterside engages with the authors' notion of “archival afterlives” as a particularly apt concept for understanding scientific archives. Similarly, Alissa Matheny Helms evaluates a publication on afterlives, but of technologies. Helms's review of The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the Rise of Cyberculture, by Brian Dear, takes a history of a computer-based instruction platform and turns it into a call to the archival community to capture records not just by and about the creators of those technologies, but by the end users who interacted with the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) interface. Documenting the experiences of end users, Helms argues, provides a unique and important lens into the history of technology.
Several reviews take publications as a point of departure to consider the future of archives, archivists, and our profession. In this vein, Thomas A. Hyry skillfully reviews Archival Values: Essays in Honor of Mark A. Greene, edited by Christine Weideman and Mary A. Caldera, a reflection on the core values of the archival profession. In the course of evaluating the essays in this volume, Hyry imagines, along with the authors, new directions for these core values and the intellectual legacy of Mark Greene. In his review of Archival Futures, edited by Caroline Brown, Adrian Cunningham implores readers to be more critical as they consider current trends and challenges for archival theory and practice. The essays in this volume are not merely grappling with “the digital,” but also with the larger social and technological forces that have implications for recordkeeping and preservation. Cunningham harkens back to the work of David Bearman, whose ideas and observations seem particularly prophetic in this context. Kyle Rimkus analyzes Trevor Owens's The Theory and Craft of Digital Preservation, which offers practitioners a common ground on which to stand and seeks to anticipate the next evolutionary steps in digital preservation practice. Rimkus finds resonance in Owens's advice to eschew technological panacea and overly complicated solutions as he paves new pathways forward for the profession.
Last, two reviews examine histories of institutional archives. Jasmine Burns assesses Michelle Elligott's René d'Harnoncourt and the Art of Installation, an analysis of the imprint left by René d'Harnoncourt on exhibition installation practice as told through the institutional records at the Museum of Modern Art. Burns notes that the volume is a welcome addition to the literature on exhibition design, and discusses the absence of Indigenous and non-Western voices in exhibitions of their own cultural heritage. In her review of Photographing Tutankhamun: Archaeology, Ancient Egypt, and the Archive, by Christina Riggs, Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer revisits the excavation of the tomb of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun, where photographer Harry Burton created an extensive photographic archives that document the famous expedition to the Valley of the Kings. Bailleul-LeSuer considers the colonialist legacy ingrained in these records, which took two different trajectories as they were split between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Griffith Institute at Oxford. As Bailleul-LeSuer notes, an examination of the after-lives of these photographs is simultaneously bound up with the oppression of Indigenous perspectives and the history of gender and labor in archaeology and archives.
Scholarly reviews are as much an opportunity to reflect on the state of the archival profession as they are a way to explore the affective dimensions of new scholarship. These reflections are an important part of the process by which the archival community grows and adapts to a complex world. As a reviews editor, nothing makes me more optimistic about the state of the archival profession than the fact that archivists continue to express a desire to review new archival and archives-adjacent publications. If there is a publication you would like to review, please contact me: ReviewsEditor@archivists.org.