• Offered by Research School of Humanities and the Arts
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Classification Research
  • Course subject Humanities
  • Areas of interest History, Australian Indigenous Studies, Museums and Collections, Digital Humanities, Heritage Studies

This intensive course will introduce students to critical issues in archival practice in a rapidly evolving and expanding terrain. The course has a particular focus on archives associated with First Nations peoples and, on particular the legacy of colonial era archives. The course will explore archive practice in the contest of repatriation and restitution, in conjunction with examining the history of archives from the sixteenth century. Students will experience archival culture firsthand: how and why archivists work and think across a broad range of institutions and they will engage directly with diverse types of archival material including institutional records, personal papers, material culture, as well as sound and audio-visual archives. The course focuses on examining the intellectual processes rather than the mechanistic practices of archiving. Students will consider specific theoretical and practical issues raised by particular forms of archive such as the politics of selection or silencing, colonisation and the archive, archive governance and ownership, the impact of digital technology, conceptual frameworks such as DIY archiving and so-called ‘radical archives’, as well as different approaches to curating, exhibiting and using archives. These theoretical issues will be practically demonstrated as students use archives to conduct provenancing exercises for repatriation and restitution initiatives. Students will also take advantage of the university’s place in the national capital, this course will include field trips to major cultural institutions which could include the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Archive, ANU Noel Butlin Archives or special collections, the National Library of Australia, the National Archives of Australia, the National Film and Sound Archive or the National Art Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. In addition to traditional physical archives, this course will also get students to examine digital archival practice using the Return Reconcile and Renew archive as well as other online archives. This course is of interest to students of museum and heritage studies, history, anthropology, art history, music and digital humanities.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. demonstrate a critical understanding of contemporary archival practices and processes across a range of institutional frameworks and material types;
  2. gain a critical understanding of key issues, challenges and opportunities of archives and archival practice for First Nations and marginalised peoples;
  3. develop a proficiency in archival literacy across a range of platforms through the examination of repatriation;
  4. undertake independent archival research in the design and execution of an original research project;
  5. demonstrate the ability to develop a sustained argument synthesising theoretical concepts and 'archival work' based on a specialised archive/s; and
  6. gain a critical understanding of social justice and archives with a particular focus on colonialism.

Indicative Assessment

  1. Pre-reading and 5 key text summaries 300 words each (total 1500 words) (25) [LO 1,2,3,5,6]
  2. Reflective journal responding to the field trips to cultural institutions in conjunction with related issues raised in the workshops 2000 words (25) [LO 1,2,3,5,6]
  3. Major research project developed from a direct and critical engagement with an archive/s 4000 words or equivalent (50) [LO 1,2,3,4,5,6]

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


This will be an intensive course held over 5 consecutive days (36 hours). Students will watch pre-recorded presentations and then will discuss these with the presenters in 1.5 hour discussion seminars. Each day will involve between 1-3 discussion seminars. There will be two, 3-hour field trips at cultural institutions and 3 hour skills workshop. Students are expected to commit a further 94 hours of independent study over the semester (total 130 hours).

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

Prescribed Texts

Not applicable

Preliminary Reading

Anderson, J. and Christen, K. (2013) ‘Chuck a Copyright on it’: Dilemmas of Digital Return and the Possibilities for Traditional Knowledge Licenses and Labels. Museum Anthropology Review 7(1-2): 105-126. 

Archive Journal 2011-2015 http://www.archivejournal.net/

Burton, Antoinette (ed.) 2005 Archive stories: facts, fictions, and the writing of history. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

Caswell, M. (2016) ‘Owning Critical Archival Studies: A Plea’, Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), Kent State University. July 2016.

Christen, K. and Anderson, J. (2019) ‘Toward slow archives’, Archival Science, 19(2): 87-116.

Fourmile, H. (1989) Who owns the past? Aborigines as captives of the archives. Aboriginal History, 13, 1–8. 

Hamilton, Carolyn (ed.) 2002 Refiguring the Archive. Dordrecht; Boston, Kluwer Academic.

Harkin, N. (2020) Weaving the Colonial Archive: A Basket to Lighten the Load. Journal of Australian Studies, 44(2): 154-166. 

Kaplan, Alice Yaeger. 1990  ‘Working in the Archives’, Yale French Studies (Special Issue Reading the Archive: On Texts and Institutions).

Manoff, Marlene. 2004 ‘Theories of the Archive from Across the Disciplines’, Libraries and the Academy 4:1, 9—25

McKemmish, S., Chandler, T. and Faulkhead, S. (2019) ‘Imagine: a living archive of people and place “somewhere beyond custody”’, Archival Science, 19(3): 281–301. 

Ormond-Parker, L. and Sloggatt, R. (2012) ‘Local archives and community collecting in the digital age’, Archival Science, 12: 191–212. 

Osborne, Tom. 1999 ‘The Ordinariness of the Archive’, History of the Human Sciences 12:2, 51—64.

Ramsey, Alexis E. Wendy B. Sharer, Barbara L’Eplattenier, and Lisa S. Mastrangelo (eds) 2010 Working in the Archives: Practical Research Methods for Rhetoric and Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP.

Thorpe, K. (2019) ‘Speaking back to colonial collections: Building living Aboriginal archives’, Artlink: Australian contemporary art quarterly, 39(2): 42-49. 


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $4080
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2024 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

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Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
6389 01 Jul 2025 TBA TBA 30 Sep 2025 In Person N/A

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