What is one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure

You often hear archivists and historians desperately urging people who have lived astonishing lives as activists, artists and culture makers to rummage through their so-called junk and donate it to their nearest archive for posterity.

While that flier or minute book might seem like the clutter you need to cull from your life, it probably contains important information that can help researchers repair the uneven map of history for the future.

So it was when I went to visit three of Fabulous Dirt Sisters. With subtle horror I heard that I was just six months too late to get my hands on that gig book which detailed every performance the group made – an artefact that would have made my job of reconstructing their past significantly easier.

Luckily I was still able to delve into Deb’s tape collection to see if she had any demo tapes or recordings of Dirt Sisters’ practices.

I wasn’t disappointed as I found a 4-Track demo of ‘Wood Song’ and ‘Street Song’ as well as some other treasures.

For me, finding such ‘rough’ or ‘unfinished’ recordings is hugely significant, because women and queers working in low-budget contexts often do not make it into the recording studio to create a ‘final product’.

The Fabulous Dirt Sisters thankfully managed to record two excellent albums of their music, but many bands in their demographic are not so fortunate. Finding a demo, a recording of a practise or live performance could be the only living document of a band’s music. Such items are hugely important and can help convey a different understanding of history – one where women’s achievements are not systematically omitted.

This entry was posted in Documenting women's history, Research process. Bookmark the permalink.

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