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Fall 2018, 48.4, pages 327-351

The Rhetorical Power of Archival Description: Classifying Images of Gender Transgression

Abstract: Furthering the field’s attention to the rhetoric of archives, this article offers an extended consideration of archival description as an information infrastructure that provides powerful, although often invisible, orientations to the past. This article examines three stages of the archival process—selection, organization, and labeling—by focusing on a handful of historical objects, held in two separate collections, that depict transgressive gender presentations. Taken together, these examples demonstrate that archival description functions not only for bureaucratic and access purposes, but for epistemological ones as well.


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