This project began for us while working in the Chicago Field Museum in 2013. The trace of a pastel drawing imprinted on the inside of a manila folder inspired us to look for active materials in archives closer to home. In 2017 we began working at the British Columbia Provincial Archive in Victoria, BC. There, Ann ten Cate, an archivist, and Ember Lundgren, a preservation specialist, walked us through the stacks, leading us to compelling objects and telling their stories. Ann referred to these objects as fugitives, which quickly became the foundation of our project. We gathered these fugitives and brought them to a makeshift photography studio we created adjacent to the public archival research room.
We found that like Dick’s androids, things in archives become fugitive in multiple ways. They may be (1) deemed to exist outside of the logic of the archive, exiled, without provenance or documentation, or (2) an anomaly with provenance or material composition that poses a threat to the archive or to archivists themselves. An item can become fugitive if (3) the archivist determines that it is no longer of value, and therefore anarchival, and by the same turn can be made archival again if new value is attached to it. It can also (4) become fugitive by nature of its inevitable material transformation, so that it literally cannot be preserved. Fugitivity is a form of anarchival materiality that helps us to explore alternate organizations within—and understandings of—archives. Fugitives make the state of change in archives visible.