Re-reading the Archive of a Nobody: On Florence Conard’s War Memories and Disciplinary Shifts

    • Presentation speakers
      • Erma Nezirevic, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, USA
      • José Aguirre Pombo, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Minneapolis, USA


    Beyond its traditional conception as a receptacle of objects, the archive is also a discourse that addresses “some of the thorny issues of disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge production and the artificial character of disciplinary boundaries” (Manoff 11). Given that many established theorists have discussed the archive as that which produces the event as much as it records it, or that it is even a fetish, it is important to also focus on what we actually do in and with the archive. For this study, we are using the family archive, a semi-public collection, with a focus on war, personal expression, and changing transatlantic locales. Florence Elizabeth Conard (1916-1951) was born in Montevideo, Uruguay to American parents who worked as YMCA administrators. During Spanish Civil War she worked in Murcia and later in Madrid for AFSC (American Friends Service Committee). There is an emphasis by the family to preserve her letters as to not only show her experience but to also provide evidence of how she gives an account of herself. Her father (Charles Conard) acts as Florence’s curator in selecting which fragments to publish among a closed circle of family and friends putting into question the integrity of the archive and the notion of privacy. An archive that is now semi-public facilitates contact between Florence’s life story, the war, and displacement allowing its readers in 2017 to examine the ways we read the archive. This leads us to consider what is legitimately included in the archive as the field shifts, who and what matters, while being aware that these decisions are contingent and temporary, as we cannot predict what our future needs/desires will be. Ultimately, reading an archive of a “nobody” like Florence Conard, provides insight into historical and academic transparency, considering that no archive is ever a direct representation of history, but rather it is an actively conscious selection, or sometimes just sheer luck as to what we come across.