Paper trails to private lives. The performative power of card indexes through time and space

Marijke van Faassen, Marieke Oprel

Research output: Chapter in book/volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


For centuries, paper card indexes facilitated the daily workflows of scholars and information managers such as librarians and archivists. Only recently, however, has their ability to facilitate the management of things in motion, as a result of their own uniform and mobile character, been fully studied in emerging disciplines such as information history. In this chapter, the Records Continuum Model, developed by the Records Continuum Research Group at Monash University, Australia, is explored as a potential method of analysis for getting to grips with card indexes, used in twentieth-century governmental administrations. Card indexes on Dutch Australian emigrants and enemy citizens of the Dutch state after 1945 function as examples to operationalize the model. Being a rather discrete part of the bureaucratic machinery, it seems difficult to isolate their role and reveal their potency in regulating power relationships between governmental organizations and the people involved. However, with the model, we can zoom in and out to the specific time and spatial dimension of the recordkeeping process, encompassed by the card indexes. It reveals the fact that these indexes are not merely technical devices but examples par excellence of records being re-created time and again in different places and by different actors, thereby establishing communication between them, and that even the smallest inscribed particles are a source of information and can tell stories of their own
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation and Power in History.
Subtitle of host publicationTowards a global approach
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Approaches to History


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