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The Archive Unbound

Rummage to Bypass: Alternative Ways of Accessing the Archive.

Andrew and Danica delivered this paper to the Archive Unbound symposium at Cardiff University as part of the Digital Cultures Network group.


As material based researchers we are deliberately bypassing the digital archive catalogue to directly access physical material. We are interested in what is lost of the materiality through the digital? By presenting our ongoing research (Bummock: New Artistic Responses to Unseen Parts of Archives) in this symposium we seek to raise questions and discuss issues about the digitised archive in this context.

It is often only the important elements of archives and collections that are made public. We seek to give a platform for these stored and undervalued (or yet to be appreciated) parts. Often these are the items not on the digitized catalogue. Our project investigates, researches and uses unseen parts of archives as catalysts for the creation of new artworks. We also seek to generate new methods of access to archives for researchers based upon physical interaction. Through artists’ residencies within 5 varying archives we are investigating items and documents not regularly brought up for research and public exposure.

The project is examining issues around how artist approach access to archives differently to standard research practice. We are interested in bypassing the digital catalogue in favour of a ‘controlled rummage’ of the materials. Through this project we are interested in developing alternative ways to access an archive, to uncover unseen things that normal routes would not allow. A projected outcome for the project is to develop and disseminate new ways for researchers to access archives.

Our paper is a demonstration of this ongoing project, currently working within the Lace Archive and Tennyson Research Centre and 3 others in the future. Through it we will explore aspects, such as how much of stored items and documents are collected but remain unseen or uncatalogued; how or what would this be in relation to the digital archival arena; and what the importance of material archives are for artistic and other research.

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