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  1. Jun 2018
    1. In the first question posed above – (there may be a document (or documents) in an archive with the potential to bring down a government. If this hasn’t happened yet, does that record have power?) – the latency of the archive-as-content is assumed. In other words, there’s always the possibility that somewhere in the repository is the single, golden item that will reveal itself as ‘the one’ – whatever that may be – and then the injection of agency, the transition from inherent to active power occurs, as Mike notes. More broadly though, I think there’s an ‘imagined’ power in archival repositories. Not only on the basis that they are often mythologized as the store of potentially ‘golden’ items, but also in the way that they allow communities to potentially imagine themselves as communities. This is Benedict Anderson’s thesis – that to be part of a group there needs to be a range of shared or widely accepted attributes and/or elements that the group imagines themselves all sharing – and the archival repository, although it doesn’t feature in his work, I think is a key to fulfilling this role. And in this role, it’s not about the one item, series or accession, but the very existence of the thing called an archive that is key. It has its mysterious ways, supported by a range of cool stereotypes (cardigan, ‘dust’, things ‘lost only to be ‘discovered’, ‘reading rooms etc…) which help to establish the archive as more than a thing, and all those attributes help to give it the air of mystery. If you need something, it’s likely to be ‘in the archive’. Even if you don’t, there’s safety in the knowledge that someone, somewhere, has carefully archived it. And it’s that mythologising I think that creates a peculiar type of archival power, at once active and activated, latent and potential.