2 thoughts on “The stories we tell: (national) archives and myth-making

  1. Interesting post, Alix. When I look at the construction of Irish identity with my American students, I always ask them to consider first how their own national identity is created or shaped. I find they often have a difficult time defining national identity, or fully explaining it.

  2. These are interesting observations, and I agree we need to think about the continuing appeal of nations. In order to do so, I suggest we think about multi-national sports businesses – there is, after all, a history to big competitions that encourage participation and support along national lines. We might also think of other forms of culture that reinforce national identity, such as Nobel Prizes. I am sure there is a role for stories and myth-making, but it is urgent that there is critical public discourse around heroism, and the manner in which it serves ideological interests by significantly distorting the historical record. Films on historical subjects are particularly prone to do this. Heroism, whether individual or collective, is central to national stories. Considerable effort has been expended in recent years on studying myths of nationhood, and one issue might be the ways in which this feeds into institutions, such as archives, that present heritage to wide audiences. A comparison of the modes in which national archives across the world do this would be revealing. And in particular, we might consider the image of national archives in countries where genealogy is a major leisure pursuit, since family historians use them extensively. Another relevant area is banknotes – witness the current debate about the representation of women on British banknotes. All these comments imply the need to pay attention to forms of identification.

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