No archive is perfect. No one, I assume, will contest this claim – especially, in this day and age, where archives are everywhere and everything is miscellaneous (Wiser). It is a reasonable claim that this new way of using archives, socially and privately, has created a new understanding of what archives are – and what they are not. At least, it seems much more logical today to claim that any archive including the ‘grand’ and professional (scientific) archives of national and international libraries and museum are imperfect and even selective. People are selective in their choices and tastes and their archives are a mirror of their biases and behaviours. Personal taxonomies are contextualizing social networks. As a mirror of professional and scientific networks, it is easy to assume similar processes of (in this case academically grounded) choices and tastes taking place in the formation and construction of ‘grand’ archives.
My claim is that there are huge lacunas in the construction of the ‘grand’ archives, as well as in the construction of our ‘collective’ knowledge, and it would be tempting - if we consider the other end of the argument that Mark Wiser makes, which indicates that we may never bridge or fill all of them (the idea would be absurd) - to claim that none of it matters. The ‘homemade’ logic being that there is not anything interesting to find, anyway – and if there were, ‘they’ (the professional and scientific networks) would certainly know about it.
This paper argues that this is certainly not the case. The professional and scientific networks did not find, and do not know everything (!) – a lot of dynamic and significant cultural knowledge remain unheard of. Therefore, it is important and should be a priority to examine the lacunas and gaps (if we can find them) and understand them in a cultural and scientific context. Somehow they were excluded or sifted out of the ‘official’ construction of archived knowledge, and how and why this happened is an important scientific question to ask. Furthermore, the notion (it does not qualify as an argument) that only the important stuff made it into the archives, and that it only made it exactly because it was important, is as absurd as it is, almost, a dangerous (and not scientific) point of view.