1st Edition

Exhibiting the Archive Space, Encounter, and Experience

By Peter Lester Copyright 2022
    242 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Exhibiting the Archive examines the role that exhibition plays in archives and analyses the impact they are understood to have on how users and visitors experience the archive.

    Drawing on research conducted in Europe, North America and Australia, the book analyses the key theoretical and social influences on exhibition-making in archives today and discusses the role of exhibitions in the archives of tomorrow. This is the first in-depth study to consider exhibition as more than outreach or advocacy: it frames exhibition as an encounter with archives and with people, and interprets it as a mechanism for change within the archive. Against a backdrop of increasing digital activity, Lester asks what experience within the physical space of the archive could be. Drawing on ideas of spatiality and embodiment, as well as social justice and activism, Lester considers the role of exhibitions within the physical archive and the part they can play in reshaping how experience is understood to happen within it.

    Exhibiting the Archive offers a new perspective on the archive that will be of interest to academics and students engaged in the study of archives and records. The discussions of cutting-edge practice offer new insights into how exhibitions are conceived and made, and will therefore be of interest to practitioners around the world.

    Introduction; 1. Conversations about Exhibitions; 2. Spatial and Temporal Encounters; 3. Experience in the Archive; 4. Exhibition-Making in the Archive: Fragment, Context, Performativity; 5. Exhibitions as Sites of Activism: Reflecting, Challenging, Harnessing; 6. Archives+, Manchester: Reshaping Space; 7. The Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen: Encountering the Archive; Conclusion; Index.


    Peter Lester is a researcher and archivist. He recently completed his PhD at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. His research interests focus on the exhibition and display of archives, encounters with archival material and the design and experience of archival spaces. He is also a professionally qualified archivist with over ten years’ experience in the UK archives sector.

    Lester’s ability to deftly weave sensory narratives and complex theoretical texts together truly made this a pleasure to read. I foresee future exhibit research building on his work by pushing past the boundaries of Western constructs of knowledge sharing. 

    Claire Du Laney, University of Nebraska at Omaha