Bates, Catherine (2008) Messing with the Archive: Backdoors, Rubbish and Traces in Robert Kroetsch’s The Hornbooks of Rita K. SubStance, 37 (2). pp. 8-24. ISSN 0049-2426

In March 2005 I visited the Robert Kroetsch Fonds in the University
of Calgary Special Collections. This consists of almost twenty linear
meters of material, including letters to Kroetsch from writers, publishers
and academics, letters to and from family members, multiple drafts of
his major works and unpublished works, print-outs of e-mails he sent
and received, plane and train ticket receipts, conference outlines and
drafts of papers, photographs, course outlines, pizza menus, notes written
on the backs of postcards, and more.1 Sifting through this material, I felt
a mixture of excitement, voyeurism, frustration, and embarrassment.
Dry academic correspondence sat beside intimate notes, which nestled
next to what in other circumstances would be considered junk mail. In
the first few days I tried to take it all in and to be as comprehensive as
possible, close reading letters and poring over drafts. When running out
of time, I developed a more ruthless, utilitarian approach, dismissing
potentially interesting, intimate details if they did not seem immediately
relevant, acutely aware of the time limit I had. I became conscious of my
role as selector and producer—attempting to turn the exciting chaos
into coherent stories, stifling the excess of the archive.

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