Silences of private archives orientating research

Looking at the nature of the materials and choice of research questions, Ulla-Maija Peltonen´s study will compare the Finnish and Nordic private archives and the way in which their materials have been accumulated. How are the silences and the memory politics, in other words, the wish to forget, change, or embellish the past according to one’s own thoughts and present-day interests, reflected in the private archive operations? Intertwined, the individual historical experience and collective awareness of history are passed on to the new generations through narration and silence.

The individuals and communities have their reasons to forget, change, or embellish their personal past. The researcher’s task is to elaborate on the conclusions that can be made from this. The core areas of this study include the interaction between the lay people, researchers, and archival professionals, the value given and valuation of private materials as a part of research policy, as well as the orientation of research and memory politics. What types of silence are generated by the class, the gender, sexuality, or ethnicity, and how is the accessibility of the archival materials influenced by them?

The hypothesis made in Peltonen´s study is that the formation and preservation of archival materials of private persons is subject to three-fold censorship: firstly, the self-censorship of the collator of the archives; secondly the censorship exercised by the outsiders, often relatives and family members; and thirdly the censorship by the institution/official handling the archives. However, the archives include abundant examples of materials that have been free of any censorship influence.