Narratives & Archives Project
In this project, you will explore important questions about how historical memory, historical archives, and historical narratives are constructed.
This document outlines your process and provides specifications for the deliverable that you will create. This deliverable may be a written document (e.g. a paper of 1000-1500 words), or you can use another format, as discussed below.
You will interview three people in your life and ask each of them to define five documents/artifacts they might select to preserve to represent the present-day for a historian 500 years in the future. Revisit “thought experiment #1” from the introductory week to guide your conversation.
Thought experiment #1:
Imagine you were able to select five primary sources representing your community to this future historian. This is like a time capsule. These primary sources could be all sorts of artifacts — clothing, tools, text messages, newspapers, songs, TV/film, artwork, etc. “Your community” can be your family, your friend group, your neighborhood, your workplace, etc. What are the five things you would choose to include in the archive for this future historian?
As you conduct these interviews, you will take notes. Make sure you clearly identify the five artifacts selected by each interviewee and ask them why they chose each one of those artifacts..
By the end of these three interviews, you will have an imaginary “archive” of 15 artifacts: 5 artifacts from each of your 3 interviewees.
There is exactly one restriction: your interviewees may not be your fellow students in this course, nor students who took this course with me (Prof. Poole) in the past two semesters. Otherwise, there are no restrictions — the interviewees can be any age, in any relationship to you, and, while your deliverable for this project must be written in English, you can conduct the interviews in any language.
Deliverable (what you will create and submit to earn your grade!)
Your deliverable for this project will have two component parts:
• a recap of your three interviews, listing the five sources each interviewee selected and briefly describing the interviewee’s reason for each selection.
• an analysis of how an imaginary future historian might use the “archive” of sources selected by your three interviewees to write the history of 2020. This analysis has four components, outlined below.
Note on Format
Typically, the deliverable is a written document, approximately 1000-1800 words, but I am open to other forms, such as a PowerPoint presentation with embedded audio, a Padlet, a video “show and tell” presentation, or other forms of your choice. I have developed the following guidelines assuming a written document.
Specifications for Deliverable
Part 1: Recap
Recap the interviews. Briefly, introduce your first interviewee in 1-2 sentences, and then list the five artifacts they chose, including 1-2 sentences summarizing why they chose each artifact. Then, repeat that for your second and third interviewees. This should look like a list, with three headings and five items under each heading.
Part 2: Analysis
Consider how the future historian in 2520 might construct a narrative about 2020 based on the artifacts your interviewees chose. Your analysis should address the following four factors:
What might be left out of the future historian’s narrative because of the limitations of this archive? What are the “gaps” in this archive? (1-2 paragraphs)
Identify one artifact from your archive that could be interpreted in at least two different ways. Briefly explain each of those ways. What might lead the future historian to choose one interpretation over the other? (1-2 paragraphs)
What might the historian inaccurately represent in their narrative of 2020, because they’re using only this archive to know about 2020? Identify some specific artifacts in this archive and discuss their potential for misunderstanding/misrepresentation. (1-2 paragraphs)
Your turn: select five more artifacts from 2020 that you would add to this archive, in hopes that your adding these five artifacts would fill in some of the “gaps” that might lead the historian to misrepresent 2020. Just as you did for your interviewees in the recap section, list your five artifacts with a sentence or two about why you selected each one.
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