This article re-stages on the page a dialogue between Arnolfini's archivist and the research fellow on ‘Performing the Archive: The Future of the Past’, which took place at the interdisciplinary conference Archive Fever/Archive Fervour (University of Wales, Aberystwyth, July 2008). This conference promoted opportunities for archivists and academics ‘to discuss the ways in which both fields intersect and to explore the ways in which mutual co-operation can benefit their future development’. Their dialogue started from two provocations put to one another: ‘How do performances remain? How do they produce traces, or document themselves?’ ‘How do documents perform and are archives performative; what do they do?’ Their responses interrogate the discreteness of the archive, the documents contained within, and the performance events that are its objects; questioning the distinction between acts of performance, documenting, archiving and using archives. In the context of this dialogue, ‘ephemera’ refers both to passing moments—the temporality of event-based art—and its residues. In the case of performance, the artwork cannot be collected as an original object, only traces, such as memory and ephemera, remain. The article presents a conversation between theoretical positions and practical propositions, made with materials selected from the holdings of both the Live Art and Arnolfini archives.