The purpose of this paper is to report the results of an ethnographic study that used object biography with an archival collection of police surveillance files, the Police Historical/Archival Investigative Files, housed at the City of Portland Archives & Records Center in Portland, Oregon.
Document analysis, participant observation, semistructured interviews, and object biography were conducted over four years, from 2013 to 2017.
Using object biography with the Police Historical/Archival Investigative Files uncovered numerous personal and public relationships that developed between people and this collection over several decades as well as how these records acquired, constructed, and changed meanings over time and space.
This paper argues that the biography of objects is a useful way for studying the relationships records form, the values people assign to them, and how people and records mutually inform and transform one another in shifting contexts of social lives. Recognizing records as having social histories and applying object biography to them contributes to and grows the greater biography and genealogy of the record and the archive—a genealogy important not only for discovering something about the lives of those who create, encounter, steward, and use records and archives but about our shared human experience.
The author would like to thank the peer reviewers for their time and generous and constructive feedback.
Carbone, K. (2020), "A collection and its many relations and contexts: Constructing an object biography of the police historical/archival investigative files", Journal of Documentation, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JD-06-2019-0111Download as .RIS
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