The making of an AIDS archive: an account of expertise, inter/disciplinarity, and the process of researching

Nicholls, Emily Jay. 2017. The making of an AIDS archive: an account of expertise, inter/disciplinarity, and the process of researching. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis follows the making of an archive of the UK HIV/AIDS epidemic (AAU) through a collaboration between archival professionals; a clinician in HIV medicine; and myself, a visual sociologist and participant observer. By framing this process as the making of a boundary object, the thesis attends to the various forms of expertise that were enacted and fostered in creating the archive. The thesis argues for an understanding of expertise as implicated in but not limited to disciplinary concerns, demonstrating how various other experiences, particularly those stemming from personal histories and affective relationships, became relevant sources of ‘expertise’ in relation to the task of assembling the archive. Similarly, the thesis describes the specific advantages afforded by adopting stances that are oblique to, yet dependent on, that of the expert, such as those of ‘amateur’ or ‘apprentice’.

In the course of the research process the camera was employed in taking ‘fieldnotes’ and for the purpose of keeping present spaces and archival materials that I would come to lose access to. These photographs later came to be employed as storytelling devices and now constitute an archive in their own right – a repository of traces of processes and materials that will become invisible once AAU has become established. As such, the visual archive is employed and discussed through notions of translation; as navigating the in/visibilities of the archive; and in terms of the kind of account available through the constitution of this archive of photographs taken during the research process. In doing so, the thesis attends to the archive beyond the process of storing and classifying materials, and focuses instead on the implicit, often contingent forms of selection and interessement involved in the personal, professional and institutional relationships through which the archive comes into existence, before it is a clearly defined object.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


expertise, interdisciplinarity, actor-network theory, archives, archive theory, interessement, translation, HIV/AIDS

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 August 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Sep 2017 14:19

Last Modified:

20 Feb 2023 14:29


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