Publishing an archive: A meta-narrative of (be)longing

Author Identifier

Lelia Green Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-4587-4679 Catherine Hope Orcid: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9999-7194

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Australia and New Zealand Communication Association


Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts / Music Research Group




Australian Research Council

Grant Number

ARC Number : LP120100685


Green, L. , Mahoney, T., Hope, C. A., & MacKinney, L. (2014). Publishing an archive: A meta-narrative of (be)longing. Proceedings of Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference. (pp. 1-15). Melbourne, VIC. ANZCA. Available here


Tura New Music is one of a handful of arts organisations in Western Australia that has been contributing to that State’s arts environment for over 25 years, beginning in 1987. The organisation is headed by its charismatic Artistic Director and CEO , Tos Mahoney, whose life’s work in this field is encapsulated in Tura New Music , and in its quarter–century-old archive. This paper addresses Mahoney’s experiences of, and reflection s upon, the processes of digitising Tura’s archive and positioning it in readiness for public access. When Jacques Derrida deconstructed the notion of the archive (1996), he said that it was akin to memory, that it was a trustworthy source of identity. But it is more than an assemblage of things past, it anticipates a future to come. The archive is imagined and established for the researchers and users of the future, who will discover within it items that inform them about the coming into the present of their own time. The archive looks back upon history to bring a future identity into being. In a real sense, it is a machine for producing meaning, a cybernetic resource because it can (and should) take on its shape in the eyes and minds of its different users, assuming different identities according to their needs. Archives produce identity through the different arrangements and connections between their elements ,as seen and experienced by the people who rely upon them. But what of the person/organisation whose vision initially gave the archive form? What questions and issues arise when contemplating sharing a life’s work and passion with people who might simply construct it as ‘a resource’, with all kinds of caveats and concerns around accessibility, technical performance etc., and without any necessary appreciation of the history which would have led to the archive’s existence. An acknowledged component of the construction of an archive, as opposed to a collection, is the imposition of order and operating principles according to the requirements of specific repositories. These matters are generally delegated to professional archivists, but the (re)construction of the collection as the archive is the beginning of a process of loss for the collector, as other actors reposition and remodel key materials in ways which make them searchable within a hierarchical or networked frame. Similarly, according to the archivist’s organising principles, various materials will necessarily be included and excluded from the archive as it is developed. As these professional decisions are made so the archive may feel less as if it belongs to its creator and the longing to protect and preserve the originating vision may grow stronger. This paper is based on the guided reflections of Artistic Director and CEO of Tura New Music, Tos Mahoney’s experience of progressing the priceless Tura New Music archive upon a journey from private collection to public resource. It considers issues arising, including some which remain unresolved . It examines the impetus to return to an artistic community the heritage that belongs to it , and which arises from it, while at the same time acknowledging a longing to retain the original vision that made the collection possible

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