Private Archives

I’m currently in a village close to Oxford for a week. One of Barber’s great-great-granddaughter has secured those documents that might be of interest to me from her the widow of her father’s cousin’s son who has inherited the Barberton’s family archives. I have also had the chance to meet Alan Cohen whose fascinating articles and unpublished biography on Barber have been very helpful for my work. Working in these private homes with private archives has been a new and very interesting experience. I have not only found essential sources for my work, I have also established relationships with these families – unlike with professional archivists – and have met future readers whom I will bear in mind while writing. They have become a crucial part of my work and part of my life. This has been a thought-provoking and emotional process. Little have I read about historians’ reflections on how their experiences with private archives differed from public ones and how that influenced their work.

I will keep revising this post while reflecting more on this experience and am grateful for references on historians’ reflections on similar experiences.