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Historical Materials

Since at least the nineteenth century, archives and the documents they contain have been a privileged locus for historical research.  Today, however, historians look beyond written documents and official archives to explore the past in new ways. The archive, once approached solely as a place for research, is now also considered as an object to be confronted and analyzed.  The historians associated with this cluster challenge the hegemony of the archives in two ways: they explore visual, oral, and material cultures as alternatives to the document and the archive; they also interrogate the meaning, politics, and production of archives, and the role of archives in the production of historical knowledge.  The goal is both to challenge the archival record and to develop new interpretative strategies for historical understanding by exploring new sorts of evidence in new ways. These historians are thus engaged in scholarly reflection on the nature of historical inquiry and practice through a focus on the texts, sources, and institutions through which historical knowledge is produced. They are concerned with how experience is remembered, recorded, represented, and preserved; how social, political, and institutional authorities underlie and validate understandings of the past; and how non-textual ways of documenting and investigating the past may elude or challenge the hegemony of these authorities in the shaping of historical knowledge. This group is actively involved in developing new media as they work to build connections with the traditional "public goods" on campus -- its libraries, archives, and museums -- to engage with them actively and critically through a variety of interdisciplinary endeavors and initiatives that can both challenge and advance historical knowledge.