I was trying this question of a Proficiency English Language Test (fill the blank), and for me both options are possible. But only one is marked as right. I cannot understand why one option would be right over the other. Can someone explain the difference? I looked at dictionaries but I haven't found the answer to my question. anyways, the possible options are either collection or archive.

This is the TEXT

Humans of New York, the photographic __________ of the amazing people roaming around the streets of the Big Apple, was started by Brandon Stanton in the summer of 2010. What began as a journey for a young photographer, exploded into a visual story, twisting its way through the tourist-filled streets, traffic-packed asphalt and winding subway tunnels of this manic city that millions of unique and beautiful individuals call home. Here are the 25 most romantic photos and stories throughout the history of HONY.

Thanks in advance.

  • An archive is a particular kind of collection. Either will fit in that context.
    – Andrew
    May 11, 2018 at 0:53

1 Answer 1


I think the key here is that an archive is a historical collection. Since this collection was started relatively recently (in 2010), it’s probably too modern for the word archive to be a good fit.

In fact, the text of the question seems to go out of its way to steer the reader toward collection being the better fit of the two possible words, by using modern phrases such as “Big Apple,” “traffic-packed asphalt,” and “manic city.”

Had the question instead talked about black-and-white daguerrotypes, horse-drawn carriages, and ladies wearing long dresses and fancy hats, that would make archive a more fitting word.

  • Per Merriam-Webster, an archive is "a place in which public records or historical materials (such as documents) are preserved · an archive of historical manuscripts · a film archive" (emphasis mine). I used to visit a "film archive" of one of the local Canadian TV stations. It had copies of (at the time) current shows. The word doesn't require that the material be of an historical nature—nor would I assume that a "photographic archive" would. One may be more common, but I would say that both are still right. And that it was a poorly worded test. May 11, 2018 at 3:40
  • @JasonB - I won’t argue with you on any of that. However, test-makers sometimes think it would be a good idea to illustrate how a word has certain nuances that make it different from a near-synonym, and they write a practice question to help emphasize that point. Unfortunately, as in this case, the result is often a test question that ends up being more misleading than it is insightful. I’m not defending the test question, but I do think that trying explain the thinking behind it can be more helpful than simply condemning it as a stupid question.
    – J.R.
    May 12, 2018 at 11:23

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