The essays that comprise Elusive Archives
raise a common question: how do we study material culture when the objects of study are transient, evanescent, dispersed, or subjective? Such things resist the taxonomic protocols that institutions, such as museums and archives, rely on to channel their acquisitions into meaningful collections. What holds the disparate things studied here together are the questions the authors ask of them. Each essay creates by means of its method a provisional collection of things, an elusive archive. Scattered matter becomes fixed within each author's analytical framework rather than within the walls of an archive's reading room or in cases along a museum corridor.
This book follows the ways in which objects may be identified, gathered, arranged, conceptualized, and even displayed rather than "discovers" artifacts in an archive and asks how they came to be there. The authors approach material culture outside the traditional bounds of learning about the past. Their essays are varied not only in subject matter but also in narrative format and conceptual reach, making the volume accessible and easy to navigate for a quick reference or, if read straight through, building toward a new way to think about material culture.