UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Archivalism : developing a new way to interpret stories about the archive Wood, Jamie Lynn


Archivists and archival records play integral roles as plot devices in many significant works of popular culture entertainment. In one example, George R.R. Martin's medieval-inspired book series A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) and its television adaptation, HBO's Game of Thrones (GoT), I have observed that records, archives, and archivists repeatedly contribute to forwarding the plot by providing critical pivot points for significant transitions in the story. Some archival scholars critique the way archivists and archival institutions are represented in pop culture contexts, citing overused stereotypes that unfairly or inaccurately represent archivists and the archival profession. Medievalist scholars have observed a similar phenomenon in popular representations of the Middle Ages. The field of medievalism studies - which examines the relationship between the historical Middle Ages and how it has been viewed, written about, and used as a backdrop in both popular and scholarly media – inspired me to consider archival representations in the same way. I call this the concept of archivalism, a term I coined that I define as the study of the relationship between perceptions of the archive, as expressed across a variety of media, and the real work of the archive, archivists, and archival practices. This thesis proposes the concept of archivalism as a new approach to studying the impact and perception of the archives in the cultural mindset. Paying particular attention to language and imagery used to represent archivists and archival institutions, I employ close reading of the series Game of Thrones and three different corpora of literature: studies on representations of the archives in popular culture, studies on Game of Thrones as medievalism, and stories about the archives and archival research written by scholars from disciplines outside of archival studies. I use this research to support the argument that, just as medievalist scholars have used Game of Thrones and the study of medievalism as a point of entry to medieval studies, so too can the study of archivalism be a valuable tool for educating the public about the archive, drawing more people to the field of archival studies, and inspiring interdisciplinary dialogue.

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