Rebellion against the archival institution as the erasure of collective memory
A Consideration of Theater Archives in Albania
Today’s debates on archival practices, especially in the era of widespread digitalization, are focused on theories and practices aimed at making archives more accessible for all. Archiving today speaks to new dynamics. Theater archiving in particular brings its own specific problems, problems that derive both from the need to archive a whole collection of elements in a variety of mediums, and from the challenge of archiving the un-archivable: performance. However, the main problem that theater archives in Albania have faced is connected to the specific practices that characterized archiving before and after the 1990s. The loss of archives through destruction, theft, and neglect—a common occurrence after 1990—also affected theater archives, causing some actors to take materials from public archives and store them in their homes, if for no other reason than to protect them from obliteration and obscurity. This process was paradoxical, since in the moment that these materials passed from the public into the private sphere, they also entered into a territory of collective forgetting. Rendering these archives inaccessible to researchers, the relocation of these materials to the private sphere also contributed to the very actors who took the archives being forgotten themselves. The period following the shift in Albania’s political system in 1990, especially during the first decade after state socialism, was characterized by a collective rejection of communist heritage. This was reflected not only in the looting of buildings that represented the former regime, such as factories and warehouses, but also in the destruction of archives: dossiers were often thrown away or burned. These acts of destruction were part of a broader phenomenon in society at the time: theater archives, like other materials, were treated as private property that needed to be protected by their creator—although sometimes this came from the need to keep these materials from disappearing in the face of collective and institutional ruin. The problem of the individual preservation of
artistic materials lies in their corollary disappearance from collective memory, which in turn poses a a challenge for researchers, who often encounter archival lacunae in their efforts to conduct research. So: what is the state of theater archives today in Albania?