Faculty of Arts


Opening the Archive


Opening the Archive aims to develop practical research skills as well as critical awareness of what archives are and how they are formed, maintained and used. Treating archives as objects of interest in their own right, the course encourages critical reflection on the cultural history and provenance of such collections and the textual, material, visual and digital forms they take.

Key questions include:

·      In what ways do archives model and instantiate ideas of inheritance, patrimony, mātauranga, identity and nationhood?

·      What questions of ownership and access do archives raise?

·      How have conceptions of what an archive "is" or "does" changed in the digital era, and what are the differences between latter-day digitisation and the formation of collections that are "born digital"?

·      What kinds of unsorted archives still exist, and how do these cast light on formal processes of selection, inventorying and cataloguing, and on the larger workings of archives as memory-machinery?

·      How are archives produced and used by scholarly researchers and/or by wider communities, and what do these uses reveal about the public-making and place-making work of such collections?

A key focus of our work is the acquisition of practical, transferrable research skills, including scoping and pursuing a significant research project, seeking permissions and presenting findings, and developing advanced information literacy. In determining the specifications for your own project-work, you will learn to identify, filter and select objects, texts or images of interest from a range of possible materials, using these selections to pose and address research questions of social significance. You will also learn how to make formal approaches to institutions and/or owners of collections to request permissions and negotiate use agreements. Time-management and project management will be developed through a substantial self-directed research project.


Internally assessed, coursework only

Availability 2021

Semester 1


Lecturer(s) Associate Professor Linda Tyler


Course texts will include films, critical and creative commentaries and episodes from the television series Hoarders. We will utilise online archives such as the New Zealand Fashion Museum, the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) and Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision. We will make field trips to local sites of interest such as Waipapa Marae, the Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Central City Library and the Auckland War Memorial Museum — as well as 'living' archives such as the grounds of Old Government House.

Recommended Reading


ENGLISH 718: 30.0 points

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