Touchstones: Considering the Relationship between Memory and Archives

  • Laura Millar


This paper considers the relationship between memory and archives by exploring the concepts of individual and collective memory and by examining the processes involved with creating, capturing, storing, and retrieving memories. The author considers the metaphor of archives as memory and relates our perception of memory to our understanding of the creation, preservation, and use of records and archives. She demonstrates that individual and collective memory represent only a fragment of life events and she reflects on the emotional, temporal, and political realities that affect what we remember and how. She concludes that records and archives are not in themselves “memories” but only touchstones upon which memories may be retrieved, preserved, and articulated.


Ce texte examine le lien entre la mémoire et les archives en explorant les concepts de la mémoire individuelle et collective et en analysant les processus associés à la création, la saisie, la sauvegarde et le repérage des souvenirs. L’auteure sonde la métaphore des archives comme mémoire, puis elle lie notre perception de la mémoire à une connaissance de la création, de la préservation et de l’usage des documents et des archives. Elle montre que la mémoire individuelle et collective ne représente qu’un fragment des événements d’une vie donnée et elle considère les réalités émotives, temporelles et politiques qui influent sur ce dont on se souvient et comment l’on y parvient. Elle conclue que les documents et les archives ne sont pas d’euxmêmes des « souvenirs », mais qu’ils sont plutôt des balises sur lesquels l’on peut retrouver, préserver et articuler des souvenirs.

Author Biography

Laura Millar
Laura Millar has been a consultant for twenty-five years: in archives as an archival and information management consultant and educator; in publishing as a writer, editor, and instructor; and in distance education as a curriculum developer, instructional designer, and course author. She received her M.A.S. degree in Archival Studies from the University of British Columbia in 1984 and her Ph.D. in Archival Studies from the University of London in 1996. She is the author of a number of books and articles on various topics in archives, publishing, and distance education. She has consulted in countries around the world, including Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, and Zambia, as well as in every province and territory in Canada (except Nunavut). Her present research interests include the concept of record-keeping and the relationship between information, knowledge, and personal and social memory. She is also studying the relationship between human rights and record-keeping around the world.
How to Cite
Millar, Laura. 2006. “Touchstones: Considering the Relationship Between Memory and Archives”. Archivaria 61 (September), 105-26.