This chapter looks at the various challenges—both conceptual and methodological—that private archives pose to historical research. This observation is no mere esoteric exercise; many musician archivists explicitly situate their work as an intervention into historiographical processes—an intervention that mirrors the musician-run ethos of the lofts themselves. The chapter is divided into three sections that correspond to different storage media in the collection: audio tape, paper, and human memory. Each of these media carries particular affordances and limitations, and they converse with each other in interesting ways. Drawing from literature of the recent “archival turn” in the humanities, the chapter argues that engaging with these affordances is essential to understanding the role of the archive as a generative force in the writing of history.
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