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  • 1.
    Sköld, Johanna
    et al.
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Osvaldsson, Karin
    Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Social Work. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Andersson, Klara
    Linköping University, Department of Thematic Studies, Department of Child Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
    Letters Intended for Someone Else: Ethical Reflections on Access to Historical Experience in Private Collections2019Other (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
    Abstract [en]

    In her famous work Dust: Archive and the Cultural History (2001), Carolyn Steedman stated that “the Historian who goes to the Archive must always be an unintended reader, will always read that which was never intended for his or her eyes.” (Steedman 2001: 75). The fact that we are the unintended readers have ethical consequences, especially when the sources concern experiences of sensitive personal matters. In Sweden, when accumulating such sources from an archive, access will be regulated by rules enforced by law or by the archive. In order to safeguard the integrity of the historical subjects the archive might allow restricted access to sources, for example by redacting any personal information in the data made available to the researcher. However, when using private collections that are not stored in an archive, no professional gatekeeper is present to safeguard the integrity of the historical subjects. Instead we must rely on our own ethical judgements. Moreover, in several countries, ethical vetting boards now also have to approve of research projects on sensitive matters that involve individual historical – though possibly still living – actors. But what if the historian’s ethical judgement conflicts with the ethical vetting board’s? What happens to historical research if we adjust our knowledge interests towards queries and sources ethical vetting boards are likely to approve? In this blog post we discuss two cases from Sweden where the Regional Ethical Vetting Board at Linköping University has evaluated two research projects, which have dealt with letters in private collections. The respective decision processes illustrate the dilemmas and problems that the process of ethical vetting might pose to historians....

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