Archival Silences

The Archival Silences Working Group convened in Fall 2019 with the goal of fostering a campus-wide conversation about the limits, freedoms, frustrations, and complications presented by the biases inherent in both past and present archival practice. Conducted through monthly discussion of readings by academics, archivists, librarians, and community activists, the group drew wide interest across disciplinary and professional fields and welcomed the participation of faculty, staff, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and community members.

The pandemic that brought the group’s work to an abrupt halt in Spring 2020 remains a concern for the University this year. However, the question of archival silences is more relevant than ever and the group’s format has pivoted to meet the challenges of the moment. This academic year, the Archival Silences Working Group will present a public webinar with two meetings per semester. Speakers will be invited to discuss how their own work engages or redresses the question of archival silences, especially in light of the inequalities brought to light by the Covid-19 pandemic, institutional reckonings over structural racism and historical memory, and the violent intersections of policing and militarization.

Instead of a lecture format, each session will be curated to put speakers in conversation with each other and with the audience.

For more information, please contact organizers Emma Sarconi (Reference Librarian, Special Collections) at or Kinohi Nishikawa (English, African American Studies) at



October 7, 2021 at 4:30pm

  • Amy Hildreth Chen, author, Placing Papers; technical editor; former librarian
  • Ryan Flahive, archivist and Museum Studies faculty, Institute of American Indian Arts
  • Rebecca Romney, bookseller, Type Punch Matrix
  • Rachel E. Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist, The University of Texas at Austin

November 18, 2021 at 4:30pm



October 20, 2020 at 4:30pm

Watch the video.

  • Dorothy Berry, Digital Collections Program Manager, Houghton Library, Harvard University
  • Ashley D. Farmer, Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies and History, University of Texas at Austin
  • Edgar Garcia, Neubauer Family Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing, University of Chicago
  • Ashton Wingate, Digital Archivist, NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund

November 17, 2020 at 4:30pm

Watch the video.

  • Matt Cohen, Professor of English and Co-Director of the Walt Whitman Archive, University of Nebraska, Lincoln
  • Athena Jackson, Director of Library Special Collections, University of California, Los Angeles
  • N. S. ‘Ilaheva Tua’one, Assistant Professor of Native American and Indigenous Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
  • Joyce Pualani Warren, Assistant Professor of English, University of Hawai’i, Mānoa

March 2, 2021 at 4:30pm

Read the recap

  • John Keene, Distinguished Professor of English and African American Studies and Chair of African American and African Studies, Rutgers University, Newark
  • TaraShea Nesbit, Assistant Professor of English, Miami University
  • Namwali Serpell, Professor of English, Harvard University



October 14
Saidiya Hartman 2006 article:  “Venus in Two Acts”

November 4
Rodney G. S. Carter: “Of Things Said and Unsaid: Power, Archival Silences, and Power in Silence”

November 18
Anjali Arondekar: “Without a Trace: Sexuality in the Colonial Archive”

December 2
Lauren F. Klein“The Image of Absence: Archival Silence, Data Visualization, and James Hemings”


February 10
Michelle Caswell: “Dusting for Fingerprints: Introducing Feminist Standpoint Appraisal.”

February 24
Jarrett Drake: “The Urgency and Agency of #OccupyNassau”
Ashley Farmer: “Archiving While Black”
April C. Armstrong: “What Archival Silence Conceals—and Reveals: Recovering Princeton University’s 19th-Century African American Graduate Alumni” (Mudd Manuscript Library Blog)

March 24
Workshop: (In)visibilities, Omissions and Discoveries: Archival Absences in Life Magazine and Beyond

April 6
Andrew Israel Ross: “Sex in the Archives: Homosexuality, Prostitution, and the Archives De La Préfecture De Police De Paris.”

April 28
Lunch discussion led by Kirsten Weld (Harvard)

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