Published online by Cambridge University Press: 23 January 2021
The essays collected in this book all derive or continue from the recent work of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network and illustrate the innovative and exciting range of programmes and actions which it generated. The Network was conceived and planned by a team of archivists, researchers and scholars in the University of Reading during 2010– 2011, and came into existence on January 1, 2012, funded by a generous grant from the Leverhulme Trust. Although the Leverhulme Trust's financial support came to an end in 2015, the Network has continued many of its projects and activities in the subsequent years and retains a clear identity through ongoing cooperation between its members and through regular updating of its website.
From the beginning, the Network proposed to take a comparative, transnational and internationalist approach to studying literary manuscripts, their uses and their significance. It took as its prime starting point the notion that literary archives differ from most other types of archival papers in that their locations are more diverse and difficult to predict; they may have a higher financial value which will lead to their more frequently being purchased— as opposed to being deposited or donated; and acquiring institutions for literary papers have historically had very little by way of collecting policies. Consequently, the collecting of literary papers has often been opportunistic, unexplained and serendipitous.
The first points of comparison for this defining view of the unpredictable mobility of literary papers were the existing sections and the proposed future sections within the International Council on Archives. Using these benchmarks, assessments could be made in contrast with national and regional official papers; archives of local, municipal and territorial government; architectural archives; religious and faith tradition archives; archives of sports and games; political, business, and trade union archives; archives of educational institutions, hospitals, prisons, museums, and palaces; legal, notarial, and judicial papers; parliamentary and political papers; and the archives of international organizations. The comparisons confirmed that no category of archival material was more subject to uncertainty of location and to haphazardness of acquisition.
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