Sounding the Archive Sensory Lab


These voices are the first installment of the Sensory Lab for the Philadelphia Area Creative Collaboratives (PACC) project Sounding the Archive. Currently, the exhibit is a playlist curated by Visiting Assistant Professor Of English Thomas Devaney. Each set of headphones connects to an MP3 player containing a single audio file. The tracks contain tribal chants, ceremonial rituals, and traditional songs from various Native American tribes collected from the American Philosophical Society’s Center for Native American and indigenous research.

Photography by Anna Mehta ’18

The exhibit evokes somewhat haunting questions of archive and displaced preservation. Listening to these voices from the past through the modern technology of a MP3 player, in a stark white, otherwise empty room, I am struck by separation of this exhibit from the past it recalls. These voices are disjointed, played on loop in an empty room, displaced from their origins. As the songs and chants play in my ears, I recall a knowledge of a past which is not mine and is unreachable. This exhibit questions the relationship of archives to the past, as tools both of the present and of preservation.

Photograph by Anna Mehta ’18

This week of November 9th, the second week of the exhibit, images curated by Assistant Professor of English and VCAM Faculty Fellow Lindsay Reckson will be added. These images will expand these questions of archive to ethnography and the attempt impose boundaries on indigenous people through mapping, visualization, and documentation, and what it means to view through the past.

Anna Mehta ’18, English Major, Auburn, AL