Digital Archives: Unpacking Curatorial Vision and power

Archives are the register of the state. There is certain certainty regarding the nature/configuration of the archive, as the way historians wish to structure a particular story. The formality is the strength of the knowledge institution. This formality fashions History with a capital ‘H’.

The common man leaves the job of myth making of the nation state to the professional historian, a paid employee of a museum or an university academic. There is hardly any common man who visits an archive or a museum on a Sunday to learn.

This formality is however being breached or reconfigured by non state actors; civil society activists, educators, artists and solo writers. The entire advent of the Digital archive, in its online avatar is a possibility with multiple windows. Visual memory, multimedia through documentary and audio along with text, is adding new meaning to the ‘act of history making’ away from the register of the nation state. From People’s Archive of India to Calcutta Architectural Legacies to Instagram accounts noting Memory, prior to the hammer of development such as scholar Shaheen Ahmed’s work on Guwahati to Singaporean social Innovator Cai Yinzhou’s initiative on Dakota Crescent, a public housing estate undergoing real estate development, among many in Singapore’s history, notes the voices of the common Singaporean undergoing the transition; a bottom up perspective to understand the human impact of state policies.

A digital archive which is a real time register to map experiences at every stage of the project lifecycle, which attempts to capture insights for posterity. All this with a website and a Facebook page with Architects and Cai working together to register history with a small ‘h’ away from the Gahmen lah.

The power to direct the trajectory of the archive also lies in the ends the curators which to achieve. The process of curating embeds power even if it is decoupled from the state.


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