The Faroese Cultural Archive: The Archive as a Source and Theme in Local Historical Writing

Bergur Rønne Moberg

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The cultural Faroese archive consists mostly of local
historical writing. This article focuses on works of local history and
claims that the local historical part of the archive constitutes the
most extensive part of Faroese writing conventions. In publications
on local history, the archive progresses into book form without
undergoing any significant interpretation. This phenomenon is
examined here as an expression of the archive as active and as an
element of access, but one that is still used in a traditional culturalhistorical context. However, what does “archive” really mean in
this context? As a central writing convention, the cultural Faroese
archive transcends common notions of the archive as collection,
registration and unpublished source material. The article examines
the cultural Faroese archive as both source and theme. In other
words, it distinguishes between 1) the original archives as sources,
which are kept in museums and libraries without being published,
and 2) the use of archival sources as topics and cultural resources
within published works. Through employing an elastic conception,
the article understands the archive as a metaphor in Faroese
writing conventions. On this basis, it argues that Aleida Assmann’s
distinction between the archive as a source and subject cannot be
maintained in a Faroese context because the sources per se are
treated as a cultural-historical subject. Finally, it contends that the
active and totalizing dimension in the cultural Faroese archive
transcends abstract notions of the archive among leading archival
theorists, who potentially disregard the cultural archive. Their
view is countered by a study of the archive as a felt, experienced
and interpreted cultural reality related to the Faroe Islands as a
specific, ultraminor, geographical entity. By making geography
an independent explanatory factor – and not only as a metaphor for a powerful centre and a powerless periphery, as in classical
postcolonialism – it is possible to see connections between size and
structure. In the case of the Faroese archive, the (colonial) order
of things cannot be understood fully without acknowledging the
relations between size and structure. The size of the Faroese cultural
archive is associated with a lack of capacity, which in turn contributes
to an understanding of Faroese uses of it. This power of action in
ultraminor cultures is treated as a willingness to compensate for their
shortcomings. Thus, what seems to be deprivation only turns out to
be cultural capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-252
Number of pages21
JournalScandinavistica Vilnensis
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Archives
  • Historical writing
  • History
  • Culture
  • Faroe Islands


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