Archiving Endangerment, Endangered Archives JUDITH KAPLAN and REBECCA LEMOV
Under the salvage paradigm of Americanist anthropology during the early twentieth century, researchers gathered up all the evidence of groups under study—probing subjective experience, fixing elusive gestures, surveying cultures more globally and thoroughly than ever before. Fears about the widespread loss of “world” cultures motivated a variety of efforts to collect the most fleeting phenomena—dreams, rituals, rhythm, even the “life” of language. This article investigates the tension between ephemerality and preservation through two case studies of Americanist sound archiving: Indiana University’s Archives of the Languages of the World, and the personal archive of Ishi (1861–1917), a Yahi speaker who became famous as the “last wild Indian.” We emphasize the latent potential of recorded sound to speak across time as the basis of cultural and linguistic revitalization. We show how recordings make up a cycle of suppression and emergence—fueled by the technologies of preservation, storage, and analysis.