The first post is always the hardest to write. This blog is being begun as a space to 1) share findings from two research projects and 2) make some dedicated space in the archival community for discussion of the intimate and emotional dimensions of archival work. There’s a lot of stuff to talk about here, and a lot of it is stuff we haven’t spent enough time talking about in the archival field. Between May and October 2019, I interviewed archivists about how experiences of grief and other emotions impacted their work. One of the most commonly voiced sentiments of these interviews – voiced, in fact, by almost every archivist I interviewed – was that archival work is emotional work and that archivists are not prepared, through their education and training, for the emotional dimensions of their jobs. The archivists I interviewed referred frequently to the silences in the profession, the reluctance to talk about particular topics, including our feelings, the feelings of donors, creators and researchers, and how these affect our work.
This space is a space to speak to those silences.
The title of the blog is Hard Feelings. I’m aware that this title has some negative connotations, but I think it’s apt because it is hard to talk about feelings when you’re not used to doing so, when feelings are not considered part of a professional orientation to your work, when there is a risk of being belittled or denied. It’s hard, but it’s not bad. It’s hard, but it’s also necessary. As was made abundantly clear to me last summer, as we have seen in the increase of panels and publications on these topics, we need to talk. As a discipline and as a profession, we need to make space for conversations about care, relationships, grief, anger, love and more.
So, here’s to hard feelings and to lots of discussion. Welcome.