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The Silence of the Archive
David Thomas, Simon Fowler, and Valerie Johnson; Foreword by Anne J. Gilliland
Item Number: 978-0-8389-1640-7
Publisher: ALA Neal-Schuman
Price: $76.00
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Customers outside of North America (USA and Canada) should contact Facet Publishing for purchasing information.

224 pages
6" x 9"
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1640-7
Year Published: 2017
AP Categories: A

Read a sample of the book and an article by one of the co-authors now!

This new book provides a groundbreaking discussion of a major but little considered issue: Why do archives, sometimes seen as the repositories of truth, often fail to satisfy users because they do not contain information which they expect to find?

Silences range from details of individuals’ lives to records of state oppression or of intelligence operations.  The book brings together ideas from a wide range of fields, from contemporary history through family history research to Shakespearian studies. The authors describe why these silences exist, discuss their impact, and survey how researchers have responded to them in the digital age.  

Marking the first time that the question of silence in the archives has been discussed holistically and from a broad perspective, this book examines the causes, responses, and implications both for researchers and for the archive itself. Key topics include:
  • enforced silences;
  • inappropriate selection;
  • dealing with the silence;
  • possible solutions; and
  • the meaning of the silences.

Table of Contents


1. Enforced silences

2. Inappropriate selection

3. Inappropriate expectations


4. Dealing with the silence

5. Fictionalizing and worse


6. Possible solutions

7. The meaning of the silences
About the Authors

Valerie Johnson is Interim Director of Research and Collections at The National Archives. She holds an MA with Distinction in Archive Administration, and was awarded the Alexander R Myers Memorial Prize for Archive Administration. She has worked as an archivist and a historian in the academic, corporate and public sectors.

Simon Fowler is an Associate Teaching Fellow at the University of Dundee where he teaches a course on military archives. Previously he worked at The National Archives for nearly thirty years. He has an MA in Archive Administration from University College London where his thesis was on income generation by archives.

David Thomas is a Visiting Professor at the University of Northumbria where he is involved in research into access to contemporary records. Previously, he worked at the National Archives where he was Director of Technology and was responsible for digital preservation and for providing access to digital material. He has written articles and book chapters on archives, focusing on the implications of the digital.

”Records managers, archivists, historians and other users of archives should read this timely and important book."
LSE Review of Books blog

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