What’s Missing in Archives

Here in PPL’s Special Collections, we do our best to talk openly about the gaps in our historical collections, as well as the ways that collecting practices and archival structures have created and upheld these omissions over time. “What can’t you find because it isn’t here,” we sometimes ask researchers, “and what stories do those absences tell?”

In that vein, we love the new exhibit at the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries called What We Don’t Have. The exhibit highlights a series of items/ collections that they (you guessed it) don’t have, and deals directly with issues like the myth of archival neutrality and the ways in which archival processing priorities have de-emphasized materials documenting the lives and work of people of color. We especially like the action steps included with each exhibit item!

What do you think? And do you know of other institutions that are highlighting the gaps in their collections in interesting and proactive ways?

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