The common imagining of archives characterizes these spaces as monolithic,
hallowed sites of preserved truths, carefully catalogued and stored, static and frozen in
history and waiting to be uncovered. My thesis works to dispel this myth and identify
rhetorical elements of the archive’s structure in order to assess how the archive’s
arrangement privileges some narratives and obscures others.
According to literature originating from the fields of rhetorical theory, feminist
studies, library science, and archival studies, archiving practices are an ongoing feminist
issue (Moseley & Wheatley, Eichhorn, Birmingham, Allard & Ferris, Miller). Tension
exists between adhering to standard archival best practices, which emerge from a
historical lineage of whiteness and patriarchy, and finding ways to adequately represent
marginalized narratives in the archives.
In this work, I examine archival arrangement and structure through the lens of
feminist archival rhetorics to argue that disruption of archival original order allows us to
glimpse narratives — specifically 20th century women’s — that have been obscured by
the archive’s own structure. I build my interdisciplinary theoretical framework from
Tarez Graban’s system of diplomatic emergent taxonomies and case studies conducted by
Kate Eichhorn, and set my argument in motion via my own case study of the Ava Helen
and Linus Pauling Papers. With this approach I develop a set of actionable strategies to
prompt collaboration between archivists and rhetoricians and increase awareness of the
archive’s rhetoric among researchers, with the goal of rendering marginalized voices
more visible in the archive.