“Archives require active curatorship”, asserts Pippa Skotnes in the foreword to Nick Shepherd’s The Mirror in the Ground: archaeology, photography and the making of a disciplinary archive. Implied in this assertion is the idea that archives are not fossils, passive bearers of meaning shelved in back rooms and moulded case files. Archives need not, should not, die with the age or people they record. Nor should they exist in stasis, their formulations and interpretations fixed and unmoving. If archives are “actively curated” as Skotnes suggests, if they are brought into the present moment through re-examination and re-evaluation, they can serve as powerful tools for new investigations into the past, and daring reflections on the present.
Curatorship honours student, Michelle Mlati, writes about her experience as an intern for The Mirror in the Groundexhibition, curated by Dr Siona O’Connell. This exhibition opened in conjunction with the launch of Nick Shepherd’s book The Mirror in the Ground: archaeology, photography and the making of a disciplinary archive.