Scanning Experience: Taste, Scent, and Touch in the Immersive Archive


This article sets forth theoretical reflections rooted in my own archival experiences digitizing Julian Przyboś’s home archive in Warsaw under the auspices of the project Julian Przyboś – An Anthology of Uncollected and Unpublished Texts. This entirely banal archival work (scanning delicate sheets of paper; cataloging manuscripts edited by hand and smeared with ink spots or coffee stains; the various phantom drafts of Przyboś’s work; stylistic notes or spontaneous ideas quickly jotted down on the back of a business card or postcard) prompts the not-at-all banal question of the current scope and past potential for archiving experience in all its complex aspects. By eroding the archivist’s experience, the scan imparts no somatic or sensory dynamic by which we might reconstruct another person’s narrative, nor does it evoke a tangible memory of the archived experience. The mediator’s position between the archive’s creator and its target audience brings into focus the severe limitations of both practices.