Recommended to anyone interested in archives and the cultural record: the documentary now streaming on Netflix called The Mexican Suitcase. It’s about the recovery of a cache of photographic negatives made by important photographers who went to fight the fascists with their cameras during the Spanish Civil War. (It’s called The Mexican Suitcase because it ended up hidden in Mexico for 70 years before it was finally discovered.) Robert Capa is the most historically significant of the three. The pictures ended up at the International Center of Photography in NYC. The documentary interviews people who knew the photographers, archivists, survivors of the war, descendents of refugees, and others. It balances attention to the history itself, the significance for photographic history, and a sense of how the lives of people now are connected to these photographs in various ways…
I have interviewed Chris D’Arpa for the News and Comment blog over at Library Juice Academy. Chris is in the instructor for a course being offered in November: “So Now I Am an Archivist, Too?! Introduction to Archives Administration and Management. Chris gave an informative interview that will provide some background about her to anyone who might be interested in taking the class.
Call for Papers: Identity Palimpsests: Ethnic Archiving in the U.S. and Canada
Forthcoming volume in the series Archives, Archivists, and Society.
Series editor: Richard J. Cox. Publisher: Litwin Books, LLC, Los Angeles, CA Volume editors: Dr. Dominique Daniel, Assistant Professor, Humanities Librarian for History and Modern Languages, Kresge Library, Oakland University (daniel [at] oakland.edu) and Amalia S. Levi, Ph.D. student (2014), iSchool, University of Maryland (amaliasl [at] umd.edu).
Deadline for submission of abstracts: August 30, 2012
Format: Contributions should be approximately 7,000 words (for theoretical contributions), and approximately 3,500 words (for practical contributions), prepared in Word, and should follow the Chicago Manual of Style, notes and bibliography documentation system.
Litwin Books invites original papers for a new volume in its Archives, Archivists, and Society series. The book?s main objective is to assess the ways ethnic identities and other forms of belonging are affected by, and also affect, current practices in ethnic archiving. The book will both provide a historical overview of the ways ethnic organizations and communities have collected, preserved and provided access to their heritage; and examine contemporary practices and theories in the context of a cultural heritage sector that is today defined by the digital medium and the Web. For the purpose of this book institutions involved in ethnic archiving may include libraries, archives, historical societies and museums that document the history of immigration and ethnicity in the United States and Canada. The book will contain both theoretical and practical contributions by practitioners in the field and scholars in history and archival science.
Archives shape the way we understand the past and we see the future. This has repercussions for the construction, writing, and representation of minority and diaspora histories in the North American context. Considering the variety and diversity of ethnic populations in North America, these repercussions reach beyond the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans as well. In an age of citizen-archivists, and citizen-historians, the changing ways we understand authority in archival settings signal a paradigm shift. Archivists and historians are called to reexamine and redefine their roles and professions in this process, while ethnic minorities have explored new, culturally specific and technology-rich ways to preserve, promote and display their heritage.
Archival science has long challenged the image of the archivist as a neutral guardian of the historical record and recognized her role as an active shaper of archives, but historians have yet to discuss implications for historical research. We invite contributions that bring new theoretical insight into the impact of the “archival turn” on ethnic archiving, that suggest ways historical research may be affected, and that begin to outline implications for the archivists? practice. Contributions that explore the impact that archivists have on the very ethnic identities they are trying to preserve are particularly welcome.
At the theoretical level, the contributions can adopt a contemporary or historical perspective. Topics can include, but are not limited to:
- the impact of ethnic studies and evolving theories of ethnicity on archiving practices
- new developments in archival theory that have or could have implications for ethnic
- the effects of ethnic archiving on historical research, and ? the emergence of memory and postcolonial studies as lenses for understanding identity formation, and diversity in a post-9/11 world.
For practical contributions, essays that do not only focus on particular institutions, but also provide comparative studies among cultural heritage institutions will be preferred. Practical contributions could deal with heritage institutions run by minorities themselves, and also others run through mainstream or official channels (government, academic, etc.). Topics include, but are not limited to:
- what is „ethnic archiving? today and who should be entrusted with the curation of ethnic collections in heritage institutions
- the purposes of archiving for ethnic minorities
- methods of ethnic archiving, and
- web and digital technologies that have been used in innovative ways for ethnic archiving.
Please send 500-word abstracts and a brief CV with relevant publications by August 30. Notification of acceptance will be sent by September 30, 2012. Accepted authors should submit articles for review by January 30, 2013. Deadline for submission of final articles with revisions is March 30, 2013.
For more information or questions, please contact Dominique Daniel (daniel [at] oakland.edu) or Amalia S. Levi (amaliasl [at] umd.edu).
Editors: Lyz Bly and Kelly Wooten
Published: June 2012
Printed on acid-free paper
Number 2 in the Litwin Books Series on Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies, Emily Drabinski, series editor.
Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century addresses the practical and theoretical challenges and advantages of researching, documenting, and archiving recent and contemporary activists in the feminist and queer movements. In the last few decades, the place and practice of activism has shifted from a physical “headquarters” where activists convene to plan and strategize, to the reality where planning happens at various desks and kitchen tables across the country (or world) and activists then convene at one site for an action (the prime example of this being the WTO protest in Seattle in 1999). So much of the work is taking place in the digital environment and/or within smaller do-it-yourself (DIY) and anarchist subcultures where ideas are often shared via zines and other ephemeral materials. The challenge of the archivist and the scholar, whose work is traditionally paper-based, is to keep up with the changing modes of communication of these individuals and organizations and to make sure these activists’ work is not left out of the historical record.
Activists, archivists, librarians, and scholars address the following issues and topics: the practical material challenges of documenting and archiving contemporary activism; theoretical perspectives and conversations; online communities and communications; “third wave” feminism/youth and queer cultures/subcultures; the move from paper to digital archives and documents; zines; and the work of activists who employ creative/artistic/cultural approaches to work for social justice.
(I’m usually pretty lackluster when it comes to generating blog post titles, but at least for this one I ignored my brain when it repeatedly suggested “A Radical Archive Grows in Brooklyn.”)
A few weeks ago, a group of librarians was invited to an evening at the new Interference Archive in Brooklyn, NY, not far from the Gowanus Canal. The Interference Archive “explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements,” according to its mission statement. The space opened in mid-December 2011 and represents 20-25 years of the collecting of countercultural and political memorabilia in the areas of feminism, punk rock, criminal justice, and more.
Two of the three collective members, Josh MacPhee and Molly Fair, met with us librarians and archivists and talked about the present and future of the Archive. (The third collective member is Kevin Caplicki, and the late Dara Greenwald is also an integral element.) The Archive began, inadvertently, around a quarter century ago when Josh and Dara independently started saving print and other materials related to the movements they were active in. When they decided to open a public space, the guiding question was how to translate longstanding personal collections into something accessible and relevant to other activists.
Josh and Dara felt that the collection they had amassed should be controlled by the community and not risk falling through the cracks if it were given to an institution. It should be accessible — literally and emotionally — to activists, non-students, and others who may not feel comfortable trying to use a university archive. The Archive’s philosophy is to privilege use over preservation (and, in the process, to get the stuff out of the living room).
Just how much stuff are we talking about? Josh and Molly estimated that the Archive includes 3000-5000 books, roughly the same number of pamphlets, 20 drawers of posters and prints, and hundreds of newspapers, plus t-shirts, buttons, and other items that social movements produce. At a guesstimate, they said that 40% of the materials are from outside the U.S.
The shelving and drawers that hold the items are in the middle third of the space. At the front is an open area for displays. Right now, they have a Squatting Europe Kollective Library exhibit up, and they’re organizing future exhibitions, to change on a quarterly basis or so. There’s even a small public coworking space in the rear. The collective’s vision for the Archive, besides the obviously archival function, is for it to serve as a space to socialize and engage with history.
The Archive’s inspirations include Brooklyn’s own Lesbian Herstory Archives and the Freedom Archives in terms of their autonomy, commitment to community, and representations of living history. Another model is “Signs of Change,” an incredible, wide-ranging exhibit that Josh and Dara themselves organized at Manhattan’s Exit Art gallery in 2008.
One key difference between the Archive and more traditional institutions is that while materials may be well-preserved in a museum, the staff there doesn’t necessarily know what they have, and they cherry-pick the highest-profile artists. Josh talked about visiting the archives at the Museum of Modern Art, which displays the Keith Haring and Claus Oldenberg work but leaves the American Indian Movement posters and other items “not cool enough to catalog” (a real staff notation, Josh swore) in drawers. As Josh and Molly put it, they don’t follow the “hero” model.
During our visit, there was a lot of discussion about how to build an Interference Archive catalog. Molly is looking into Collective Access for the database. They want whatever platform they choose to be able to store data that’s meaningful to activists — such as whether a poster was printed in a movement print shop. An archivist from a labor library pointed out, to several heads nodding in agreement, that archivists these days know a lot about metadata and the technology of archival access, but they don’t necessarily know — or care — about finding the context of the material. Projects are grant-driven, and the people who get hired are the ones with the data skills.
At any rate, digitization is not the answer here — it doesn’t automatically lead to permanence anyway, and the Archive collective is very sensitive to the fact that the experience of viewing a PDF is simply not as rich as handling the actual poster. They also recognize that images shouldn’t just be available online, floating around without context. Otherwise, they’re just “empty signifiers,” as Josh said.
The subject of copyright came up. Josh and Molly framed the issue as the question of whether they’re in the service of the movement and its inheritors, or of the producers of the materials. Essentially, the collective is still working out how to deal with creators’ rights regarding reproduction of their images — complicated terrain, to be sure. They also noted that their and others’ research on the context of production will help keep people from claiming ownership of collectively-produced pieces, which has happened in the past.
So, what’s next for the Archive? A major policy question they’re grappling with now is what to do about intake. Josh and Molly talked about needing a collection development policy as well as a referral list for people who are offering items that ultimately don’t fit in the archive. They’re also figuring out how to shelve materials. In the absence of a database that can assign multiple descriptors to an item, where it’s physically located is a key determination for the time being. More conceptually, they need to confront their own bias. The collective members come from anti-authoritarian, horizontal traditions and tend to privilege materials in that vein, but they don’t want to be just an anarchist archive.
If you’re in the NYC area and are now totally amped to help out at the Interference Archive, here are some things you can be a part of:
- The Archive is open only Sundays for now, and the collective is looking for reliable people to get involved and ideally allow the space to be open more hours.
- Right now all the funding is out of pocket, and they’re looking for funding models as well as a fiscal sponsor.
- They’re also looking for people to facilitate events that are connected to the collection — for example, themed critique and analysis sessions, art-making workshops, and cataloging parties.
- And they wouldn’t turn down DIY preservation tips. They need to balance preservation with a low budget, and buffer paper is expensive!
Richard J. Cox, series editor
The notion of archives and the archive and the work of archivists and related professionals are undergoing great changes today. While archives have been around for thousands of years, it is only in the past century or so that the notion of an archival profession has emerged in the modern sense. Despite the archival quest to preserve a documentary heritage, the mission, profession, and practices of archivists are anything but static. The emergence of digital recordkeeping and information systems and the rise of postmodernism have challenged everything from the notion of an archival record to the definition of archival work. Various societal groups, from LGBTQ to indigenous populations, have also pressed for new ways to consider archives and archivists. This publication series provides various perspectives from both within and outside of the archival community on the idea of archives, the education of archivists, the historical foundations and newer aspects defining archival knowledge, archival leaders and theorists, and new ideas (such as digital curation) influencing how we now see and value archives and archivists in our present age. These publications are intended for working archivists, scholars and others interested in the nature of archivists and the archive, and students preparing for archival careers – individuals interested in the past flux of archives and the predictions about their future.
The Series Editor is Richard J. Cox. Richard J. Cox is Professor, Archival Studies, University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences. He has worked as both an archivist and records manager in a private historical society and in state and local government. Dr. Cox is the author of sixteen books on archives and library and information science topics. He is the only three-time winner of the Waldo G. Leland Award given by the Society of American Archivists for the best book on archives in a given year. He is also a Fellow of the Society.
Published in the series:
- Archival Anxiety and the Vocational Calling, by Richard J. Cox
- From Polders to Postmodernism: A History of Archival Theory, by John Ridener
- Personal Archives and a New Archival Calling: Readings, Reflections and Ruminations, by Richard J. Cox
- Restoring Order: The Ecole des Chartes and the Organization of Archives and Libraries in France, 1820-1870, by Lara Jennifer Moore
Forthcoming in the series:
- Lester J. Cappon, Pioneer Public Historian, by Richard J. Cox
Also of interest:
- Sometimes You Have to Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century, edited by Lyz Bly and Kelly Wooten
- Ephemeral Material: Queering the Archive, by Alana Kumbier
Please submit queries, proposals, and manuscripts to Richard J. Cox, rjcox111 at comcast.net.
The most recent Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR had a story about a different kind of archive: a vault containing seeds from the world’s grains, for preservation purposes. Central to the story is the Global Crop Diversity Trust.
This is interesting in a number of ways. One rather academic question it raises is whether seed vaults are about preserving information or preserving life. It’s easy to make the case that seeds are a format for storing genetic information, but this involves an abstraction of the information they contain from the natural context where the DNA functions. We can think of seeds as carriers of information only because we have developed a technological mode of relating to nature that enables us to separate and extract information, made up of mathematical values or discrete signs (like the DNA code), from natural processes so that we can intervene in them. The seeds in the vault could be used to map their genomes at a later time (pure information), or they could simply be planted. If they are simply planted, we could say that we are retrieving the information contained in them, but this may only be to apply the abstraction of “information” that belongs to a more scientific way of using a seed. Is it information if it is never put in informational terms? Our concept of information has a history, and its history is linked to modernity…
Podcast on “Archives and Activism: The Contemporary Turn,” from a panel discussion moderated by Emily Drabinski and featuring some others you may know.
From the site:
Over the past two decades, the archive has emerged as a central site of feminist knowledge production and activism. Feminist archives and special collections have been able to document activist movements and make previously obscured forms of knowledge visible. This panel brings together a group of feminist librarians, archivists, scholars, and activists to explore this “archival turn” in contemporary feminism. Panelists include Jenna Freedman (Barnard College), Alana Kumbier (Wellesley College) and Kate Eichhorn (The New School). This discussion, moderated by Emily Drabinski (Long Island University), took place on the first day of Activism and the Academy: Celebrating 40 Years of Feminist Scholarship and Action, a two-day conference held September 23-24, 2011 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Barnard Center for Research on Women.
The talk is part of an event on “Activism and the Academy.” The talks are all available in podcast form (available from the page for this talk, linked above).
Call for Submissions: Special Issue on Archival Education and Human Rights
InterActions: UCLA Journal of Education and Information Studies
In a recent article in American Archivist, a group of some two-dozen archival faculty and doctoral students from programs around the world called on archival educators to develop a new educational framework that both reflects and reflects upon pluralist approaches to archival theory and practice.1 This article added to an ongoing conversation in archival education regarding the ethical imperative of faculty to engage students with culturally sensitive curricula and to promote a social justice agenda in and outside the classroom. At the same time, a growing body of archival studies literature has addressed the intersection of archives and human rights, interrogating the role of records and recordkeeping institutions in both facilitating human rights violations and holding oppressive regimes legally and historically accountable for such violations.
This special issue of InterActions seeks to bring together these two streams of archival thought in hopes of explicating the role of human rights and social justice in archival education. How are we to conceive of human rights at the nexus of archival education, research, and action? What ethical responsibilities do archival educators have in addressing human rights concerns in the classroom? What pedagogical strategies might educators employ in order to include discussions about human rights and archives within the context of professional training and practices, and the theories that undergird them? InterActions seeks to include a range of submissions, including (but not limited to) research articles, literature reviews, book reviews, exhibition reviews, featured commentaries, and position pieces. Submissions should incorporate critical perspectives that aim to bridge multiple discourses around the theme of the issue. All submissions will be subject to double-blind peer-review and authors are expected to adhere to the deadlines to ensure the timely publication of the special issue.
Possible research questions:
- How might “human rights” be defined in the context of archival education? What are the opportunities and difficulties of adopting an orientation toward human rights in archival education?
- What is the relationship between a social justice agenda and a human rights framework in the archival classroom? What roles might information technologies play in working toward classroom agendas for extending and supporting human rights?
- What theoretical positions might be taken up when considering the current and future state of research in the domains of human rights and archival education?
- What philosophical, pedagogical, political, and/or ethical questions are at play that might provide opportunities for strategic action?
- How might archival educators incorporate human rights genealogies and/or frameworks?
- What are the implications of globalization on discourses on human rights in archival education?
- How might archival education and/or human rights intersect with the roles and responsibilities of educational institutions within the public sector?
- Deadline for Submissions: January 15, 2012
- Tentative deadline for peer reviews of submitted manuscripts: March 15, 2012
- Tentative deadline for revisions to submitted manuscript: April 30, 2012
- Publication date for the Special Issue on Human Rights: Early June 2012
Please submit manuscripts at http://escholarship.org/uc/gseis_interactions or directly to the email addresses below. Any questions or inquiries about the special issue may be directed to:
- Andrew J Lau (UCLA; Information Studies Editor for InterActions):
- Michelle Caswell (University of Wisconsin, Madison; Guest Editor):
- InterActions: firstname.lastname@example.org
InterActions is a peer-reviewed on-line journal committed to the promotion of interdisciplinary and critical scholarship. Edited by students in the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, the journal brings together senior and emerging scholars, activists, and professionals whose work covers a broad range of theory and practice. InterActions is published twice yearly with funding provided by the UCLA Graduate Students Association and the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.
For more information, please visit http://escholarship.org/uc/gseis_interactions.
Genre in Theory, Practice and Research
Call for Papers: Archival Science
Genre can be defined as a pattern of communication that conforms to community norms. Genres are not fixed, but are constantly evolving and emerging. Examples of familiar genres range from speech utterances to publications, from text messages to databases, from blogs to formal reports. Genre studies is a multi-disciplinary area, which has the potential to yield much of relevance to the archival community.
Accordingly, a special issue of Archival Science will be devoted to the theme of “Genre in Theory, Practice and Research”, guest edited by Wendy Duff, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto (email@example.com) and Gillian Oliver, School of Information Management, Victoria University of Wellington (Gillian.firstname.lastname@example.org).
Suggested topics for papers may include:
· The role of genre in digital curation activities
· The implicit and explicit meanings conveyed by genre
· Use of genre in information retrieval
· Genre as a tool in archival appraisal
· Contribution of genre to arrangement and description
· Finding aids from a genre perspective
· Relationship of the concept of genre system to recordkeeping
· Theorizing genre types and genre systems
Proposals for papers (500-1000 words) should be sent to the Guest Editors not later than 1 September 2011. Authors will be notified by 30 September as to the status of their proposal.
Submission Deadline for completed papers : December 1 2011
Review Decisions will be made by: March 1 2012
Final Versions Due: May 1 2012
Submissions should be made online via the Editorial Manager: http://www.editorialmanager.com/arcs/
Media in Transition 7 (MiT 7), a small conference at MIT, is starting Friday and running ’till Sunday. I will be there; if you will be there too please say hello.
Anyone wanting to follow the Twitter hash tag can look for #mit7.
Title: Archival Anxiety and the Vocational Calling
Author: Richard J. Cox
6″ by 9″
Published: March 2011
Richard J. Cox’s fifteenth book on archival studies related topics, this collection of essays responds to anxieties affecting the archival profession as societal changes highlight the importance of archives and records-keeping and begin to push archival work in new directions. The initial part of the book consists of three essays exploring the notion of archival calling, including a lesson about a lost opportunity for advocating the critical importance of the archival mission and a very personal reflection on the author’s own calling into the archival field. The second part of the book concerns one of the pre-eminent challenges of our time, government secrecy, and how, if left unchallenged, it can undermine the societal role of the archival profession. The third part of the book considers one of the most important issues facing archivists, indeed, all information professionals, the possession of a practical ethical perspective. The fourth and final part of the book concerns the matter of teaching the next generation of archivists in the midst of all the change, debates, and controversies about archives and archivists. In a brief concluding reflection, the author offers some final advice to the archival community in charting its future.
I recommend a post by James Jacobs on the freegovinfo.info site and the comments following it for a good summary of the debate over Wikileaks within the library community.
Petition to support NARA’s investigation into CIA destruction of records pertaining to torture sites
Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to not bring criminal charges against the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the destruction of federal records: videotapes of the torture of detainees at CIA black sites. The destruction of these records is a clear violation of the Federal Records Act, which DOJ should have pursued. The decision to date to give the CIA a free-pass is antithetical to DOJ’s mission to enforce the law of the land, and sends the wrong message to agencies that may have information that, if released, would be embarrassing or reveal illegal activities.
…The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) launched an early investigation into the issue, which was put on hold for the DOJ. NARA has indicated that they will re-start their investigation in light of DOJ’s failure to take the lead. Join us in thanking NARA for its willingness to demand the CIA answer for its actions, and expressing great hope that DOJ support NARA.
You can sign onto a letter in support of the Archivist of the United States in support of this investigation. It is a positive letter, thanking him for his leadership and offering support. I think we should not take for granted that NARA is looking into this when the DOJ refuses to.
This book is on sale through November and December if purchased through the website (using the link above). Regular price is $32, sale price is $20.
We have excess inventory of this title and need to sell some copies.