The session aims to tease out the implications for the writing of history of our recognition that if social histories shape archives then so do archives themselves have social histories. It looks at ecclesiastical archives in new ways: it tries to identify how and why clusters of documents formed and/or were embedded within ecclesiastical archives, and in particular investigates the archival practices – re-use and discarding in the case of the Piacenza archives examined by Costambeys, annotation and copying in Hodel’s study of Königsfelden – that shaped the kinds of histories that could and can be written, whether about pre-communal Italian cities, late medieval monasteries and their patrons, or early modern city elites. It considers too the ways in which the types of records deposited in an archive change its meaning, just as their preservation and subsequent use might change the records themselves. Whether we consider monastic records or those of families like the Behaims studied by Murphy, their preservation in household settings – but perhaps not only there – indicates that distinctions between ‘archive’ and ‘library’ are not always, or often, useful. Similarly, having survived to this day, the apparently ephemeral memories of the Behaims’ calligraphy books have turned out to be anything but.
Commentary on three substantive papers will be provided by Adam J. Kosto, whose meticulous work in (especially) Catalan libraries and archives has borne rich and varied fruit, most recently on documents of safe conduct and on finding aids and research tools.