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Archival Science

, 9:99 | Cite as

Recording ‘a very particular Custom’: tattoos and the archive

  • Kirsten WrightEmail author
Original paper

Abstract

This paper investigates the describing, dissemination and archiving of records, which have previously not been well described by archives. It asks if new methods of accessing the archive may be used to improve understandings of such records. Specifically, this paper will investigate the records created about tattoos in the nineteenth century following the European exploration of Polynesia, and the transmission of tattoos to the West. The ways in which this indigenous cultural practice was interpreted and recorded are discussed with reference to the records created. Tattoos are inherently physical records, which do not survive beyond the lifespan of their owner. The archiving process for tattoos has thus relied on preserving representations of the tattoo. This paper will ask what these representations of tattoos actually provide evidence of and will use two case studies to examine how records about tattoos have been archived. Finally, it is suggested that a more holistic understanding of tattooing records may be achieved through new ways of describing and classifying records, such as folksonomy.

Keywords

Tattoos Inclusive archive Folksonomy Polynesia 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.MelbourneAustralia

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