Trish Skinner writes: 6-7 October is the Women’s Archive Wales Annual Conference in Swansea, and I’m participating in a panel on diversifying women’s history in Wales. My question: how does disfigurement turn up in the archives? With some difficulty, since it’s rarely a category that features in cataloguing and tagging (assuming that has even taken place, which in turn assumes unlimited resources for the work). And in an archive specifically devoted to the preservation of largely modern sources for women’s history in Wales, I wonder how a concern for appearance, so strongly (and sometimes negatively) associated with women, is represented? Would potential donors of material to the archive shy away from depositing painful memories relating to a relative’s disfigurement I wonder? Or – as in the case of the [male] WWI veterans whose photographic albums have been explored recently by scholars such as Suzannah Biernoff and Jason Bate – would keeping a record of their bravery and return to a relatively ‘normal’ domestic life be a matter for celebration and careful recording? An interesting conversation with the archivists – and colleagues from around the world – beckons…
Suzannah Biernoff, Portraits of Violence: War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement (University of Michigan Press, 2017)
Jason Bate, ‘Bonds of Kinship and Care: Photographic Albums of the Great War, from Surgical Records to Histories of ‘Other’ Domestic Lives’, forthcoming in Social History of Medicine.