Although archival records on disability—such as medical, institutional, and freak show records—can facilitate in telling one side of disability history, these records often omit the voices of disabled people. Considering the abundance of such documentation as well as how sick and disabled people may be difficult to locate in historical records, this article trains a critical lens on archival absences and partialities. By foregrounding the experiences of sick and disabled writers, activists, artists, and scholars alongside critical disability studies, this article conceptualizes “sickness” to develop a critical disability archival methodology. By illuminating the various ways in which sickness and disability can be unknowable and fluctuating, this article addresses the multiple, often illegible, layers of absences, subtleties, inaccuracies, and perspectives that are embodied in records, archives, and the lack thereof. A critical disability archival methodology underscores not only the multiple systems—social, institutional, colonial etc.—that have produced records about disabled people, but also the granular ways in which such values and absences are also created and embodied within archives and their processes. This methodology therefore provides a framework for both archivists and archival users to work in solidarity with sick and disabled communities in addressing archival representation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.