Women’s letters and memoirs were until recently considered to have little historical significance. Many of these materials have disappeared or remain unarchived, often dismissed as ephemera and relegated to basements, attics, closets, and, increasingly, cyberspace rather than public institutions. This collection showcases the range of critical debates that animate thinking about women’s archives in Canada.
The essays in Basements and Attics, Closets and Cyberspace consider a series of central questions: What are the challenges that affect archival work about women in Canada today? What are some of the ethical dilemmas that arise over the course of archival research? How do researchers read and make sense of the materials available to them? How does one approach the shifting, unstable forms of new technologies? What principles inform the decisions not only to research the lives of women but to create archival deposits? The contributors focus on how a supple research process might allow for greater engagement with unique archival forms and critical absences in narratives of past and present.
From questions of acquisition, deposition, and preservation to challenges related to the interpretation of material, the contributors track at various stages how fonds are created (or sidestepped) in response to national and other imperatives and to feminist commitments; how archival material is organized, restricted, accessed, and interpreted; how alternative and immediate archives might be conceived and approached; and how exchanges might be read when there are peculiar lacunaemissing or fragmented documents, or gaps in communicationthat then require imaginative leaps on the part of the researcher.
About the Author
Linda M. Morra is a full professor in the English Department at Bishop’s University and the forthcoming Craig Dobbin Chair of Canadian Studies at UCD (2016-2017). She and Deanna Reder co-edited Troubling Tricksters: Revisioning Critical Conversations (WLU Press, 2010). Her most recent book, Unarrested Archives: Case Studies in Twentieth-Century Women’s Authorship (2014), was a finalist for the Gabrielle Roy Award. Canada.
Jessica Schagerl ’s research focuses on Canadian studies, drawing heavily on archival material; she is also invested in questions of professional concern, including mentoring and the futures of arts and humanities. She is the alumni and development officer for the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Western Ontario.
Table of Contents
Introduction: No Archive Is Neutral Linda M. Morra Jessica Schagerl 1
Of Mini-Ships and Archives Daphne Marlatt 23
Finding Indian Maidens on eBay: Tales of the Alternative Archive (and More Tales of White Commodity Culture) Cecily Devereux 29
"Faster Than a Speeding Thought": Lemon Hound's Archive Unleashed Karis Shearer Jessica Schagerl 47
"I remember… I was wearing leather pants": Archiving the Repertoire of Feminist Cabaret in Canada T. L. Cowan 65
"In the hope of making a connection": Rereading Archival Bodies, Responses, and Love in Marian Engel's Bear and Alice Munro's "Meneseteung" Catherine Bates 87
An Archive of Complicity: Ethically (Re)Reading the Documentaries of Nelofer Pazira Hannah McGregor 107
Psyche and Her Helpers, under Cloud Cover Penn Kemp 125
Archival Matters Sally Clark 133
Keeping the Archive Door Open: Writing about Florence Carlyle Susan Butlin 141
The Oral, the Archive, and Ethics: Canadian Women Writers Telling It Andrea Beverley 155
Halted by the Archive: The Impact of Excessive Archival Restrictions on Scholars Ruth Panofsky Michael Moir 169
Personal Ethics: Being an Archivist of Writers Catherine Hobbs 181
Invisibility Exhibit: The Limits of Library and Archives Canada's "Multicultural Mandate" Karina Vernon 193
Rat in the Box: Thoughts on Archiving My Stuff Susan McMaster 207
Letters to the Woman's Page Editor: Reading Francis Marion Beynon's "The Country Homemakers" and a Public Culture for Women Katja Thieme 215
Archival Adventures with L. M. Montgomery; or, "As Long as the Leaves Hold Together" Vanessa Brown Benjamin Lefebvre 233
The Quality of the Carpet: A Consideration of Anecdotes in Researching Women's Lives Linda M. Morra 249
"I want my story told": The Sheila Watson Archive, the Reader, and the Search for Voice Paul Tiessen 263
"You can do with all this rambling whatever you want": Scrutinizing Ethics in the Alzheimer's Archives Kathleen Venema 281
Locking Up Letters Julia Creet 303
Afterword Janice Fiamengo 319