The precarious labour geography of shaping political left histories is raised in this article to engage with and deepen accounts of the archive within geography and beyond. The focus of the paper is on the provision of radical history in Glasgow through two archive collections within the city. The analysis raises the politics of archival research practices and is positioned within a context of increasingly difficult economic circumstances for libraries, archives and museums. The insights emerging from interviews with archive representatives reveal multiple issues relating to the provision of usable pasts and asserts the continued importance of archives within places such as Glasgow. In this regard, the archive is positioned as a place of collaboration, labour and activism to suggest an alternative understanding of archival practice.