The following case method draws from my media practice–led doctoral research project of a private collector and his collection which focused on exploring alternative methods of conceptualising the idea of the archive and archival knowledge, and outlines how I cultivated a unique methodological approach (framed within an ethnographic study) in response to problems experienced in the archival field site. My initial interest in this project stemmed from the opportunity of experiencing and understanding a collection before its transition into an institutional context. As opposed to working with conventional classificatory methods commonly found within institutional settings, I had the opportunity of engaging with the private collector as a means of exploring meaning in the archive. I documented this encounter (through sound and photographic image) in anticipation of producing an ethnographic/archival film representing my experience. Here, I summarise how a particular method of ‘reading’ this collection was developed from obstacles I encountered during the field work which in turn led me to frame my analysis of this archive through the ‘performance’ of the collector.