December 22, 2015

Archival Research and Education: Selected Papers from the 2014 AERI Conference

Archival Research and Education
Selected Papers from the 2014 AERI Conference

Editors: Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern
Price: $45.00
Published: December 2015
ISBN: 978-1-63400-020-8
436 pages
Printed on acid-free paper

Available from Amazon.com

This book is number seven in the Series on Archives, Archivists, and Society, Richard J. Cox, editor.

The sixth annual Archival Education and Research Institute (AERI), hosted by the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences in July 2014, brought together doctoral students and faculty engaged in Archival Studies from around the world, although principally from the United States. Supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, these institutes are designed to strengthen education and research, as well as support academic cohort building and mentoring in the archival community.

This publication features fifteen essays by both emerging and established archival scholars and faculty from four continents. Subjects include: dictatorship archives in Brazil, affect and agency in the archives of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, archival images in recent movies, archival systems interoperability research, cross institutional usages of EAD 2002 , Ernst Posner and archival scholarship in Washington, D.C., technical infrastructures and digital heritage preservation, the challenges of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, enabling Big Data curation in a non-archival organization, personal archiving of Web pornography, the history and future of archival education in the United States, innovative archival teaching methods in China, rights in records as a platform for participatory archiving, and archival readings of Derrida’s Archive Fever. These contributions reflect the range of new archival research, the continuing maturation of archival education, and the growing international collaboration among archival scholars and faculty.

The volume is offered in memory of Terry Cook (1947-2014), the plenary speaker at the first AERI conference in 2009.

The contents of the volume are as follows:

In Memory of Terry Cook Anne Gilliland

Introduction Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern

International Perspectives, Human Rights, and Archives

Lucian Heymann, “Dictatorship Memories and Archives in Brazil: Reflections on Politics and Projects.”

Anne Gilliland, “Studying Affect and its Relationship to the Agency of Archivists in the Countries of the Former Yugoslavia.”

Anne Gilliland and Sue McKemmish, “Rights in Records as a Platform for Participative Archiving.”

Archival Images

Lindsay Mattock and Eleanor Mattern, “Looking at Archives in Cinema: Recent Representations of Records in Motion Pictures.”

Archival Systems and Standards

Gregory Rolan, “Archival Systems Interoperability: Research Themes and Opportunities.”

Sarah Buchanan, “Cross Institutional Usage of EAD 2002 as an Archival Description Standard.”

Archival History

Jane Zhang, “Archival Scholarship in the Nation’s Capital: Ernst Posner.”

Digital Heritage and Archives

Patricia Galloway, “Technical Infrastructures and Digital Heritage Preservation.”

Tonia Sutherland, “A Culture of Collaboration: Bridging the Gap Between Archive and Repertoire.”

Lorraine Richards, Adam Townes, and Yuan Yuan Feng, “Curation through the Back Door: Enabling Big Data Curation Capabilities in a Non-Archival Organization.”

Personal Archiving

Sarah Ramdeen and Alex Poole, “’Leaving the mouse on the left is the new leaving the tape in the VCR’: Personal Archiving, Personal Information, and the ‘Pariah Industry’ of Web Pornography”

Archival Education and Knowledge

Alison Langmead, “The History of Archival Education in America: What’s Next?”

Huang Xiaoyu, “The Innovation of Archival Teaching Method: Introducing Archival News into the Classroom.”

James M. O’Toole, “Understanding Understanding: What Do Archivists Need to Know, Then and Now?”

Robert Riter, “Derridean Influences: Archival Readings of Archive Fever.”

Richard J. Cox, Alison Langmead, and Eleanor Mattern are faculty in the Archival and Information Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences.

July 17, 2015

Project ARCC

From the website:

Project ARCC is a task force of archivists striving to motivate the archival profession to affect climate change. We seek to achieve a four-fold mission:

– Protect archival collections from the impact of climate change
– Reduce our professional carbon and ecological footprint
– Elevate climate change related archival collections to improve public awareness and understanding of climate change
– Preserve this epochal moment in history for future research and understanding

Sounds good to me!!!

http://projectarcc.org/

February 6, 2015

Call for Papers: Affect and the Archive

Special Issue of Archival Science

Call for Papers: Affect and the Archive

Guest editors: Anne J. Gilliland (Gilliland@gseis.ucla.edu) and Marika Cifor (mcifor@ucla.edu), UCLA Department of Information Studies.

Building upon the momentum generated by the Symposium on Affect and the Archive held at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in November 2014 and the enthusiastic critical reception of the work it profiled, this special issue of Archival Science on Affect and Archive will further explore and expose scholarly and professional understandings of and encounters with affect in the archive as well as in broader record- and memory-keeping contexts. Responding to the affective turn in scholarship and calls for scholarship regarding the archive and archival practice to engage more directly with affective aspects such as intimacy, sexuality, love, trauma, hope, fear and credulity, this special issue will have three main objectives:

to expose a range of conceptualizations, spaces and approaches relevant to this topic, for example, those relating to gender and sexuality or to conflict and other forms of violence, or in healthcare, the arts and humanities;

to generate dialogue between disciplinary (e.g., literature, art, gender studies, anthropology) and the professional archival and curatorial fields relating to affect and the archive/archives;

and,mto identify potential contributions that might be made by archival studies and records theory to the field of affect studies or vice versa.

The Affect and the Archive Symposium included innovative research on the intersections of affect and the archive relating particularly to human rights, migration and diaspora, sexuality, labor, bodies and embodiment, and visual art. However, in addition to such themes, there are many other aspects of affect that might also be addressed. In order for this special issue to be as representative as possible of state-of-the-art research we are soliciting relevant work being undertaken in fields as diverse as anthropology, sociology, literature, art, cultural studies, gender studies and post-colonial studies, as well as archival studies. Papers addressing affective aspects associated with Indigeneity, place and displacement, performance, sports and leisure, literature, belief and faith, (post)colonialism, and health and wellbeing are especially encouraged. If you have any questions about whether a paper would be a good fit for this issue, please email the editors: Gilliland@gseis.ucla.edu and mcifor@ucla.edu.

Archival Science is an independent, international, peer-reviewed journal on archival science, covering all aspects of theory, methodology and practice, with appropriate attention to the non-anglophone world.

Paper submission due date: April 30, 2015. Papers are to be submitted for review online. Please select Article Type: SI: Affect. Submission of a manuscript implies: that the work described has not been published before; that it is not under consideration for publication anywhere else; that its publication has been approved by all co-authors, if any, as well as by the responsible authorities – tacitly or explicitly – at the institute where the work has been carried out. (Full instructions for authors)

December 2, 2014

CFP: Radical Archives (Archive Journal)

Archive Journal
Special issue: Radical Archives
Deadline: April 15, 2015

“Radical archives” and “radical archiving” are concepts that continue to gain currency among archivists, artists and cultural theorists alike, but to date, discussions of “radical archives” and “radical archiving” often appear to rest on an assumed rather than articulated understanding of what these concepts mean. For this special issue of Archive Journal (scheduled for Fall 2015), we seek essays (3000 to 5000 words), reviews, and/or interviews (text, image, audio and video formats welcome) that address one or more of the following questions with the aim of bringing greater clarity to the “radical” in discussions of archives and archiving:

– What do we mean when we talk about “radical archives” and “radical archiving”? Does the “radical” point to a specific politic, to types of content, or to a set of practices that challenge archival standards?

– How might we define “radical content” and “radical practice” in relation to archives?

– Are radical practices necessarily opposed to archival standards?

– To what extent are archival standards responsive to change? Why do cultural theorists’ accounts of archives so often rest on the assumption that archives are by definition resistant to change? Is there an investment in understanding archives as sites of inflexibility and stagnation?

– Is radical content (e.g., the archives of activist collectives, social movements, or avant-garde artists) best served by practices that eschew archival standards? What are the short and long-term consequences of such decisions?

– How might community-based archives support the work of institutional collections and vice-versa? Furthermore, what questions, anxieties and/or possibilities are opened up when we begin to think about preservation across these spaces?

– What, in fact, do we mean by “archives”? For many outside of libraries and institutional archives, the term has come simply to mean a collection of “curated” materials. How do we talk about “radical archives” without a shared understanding of what an archive is, or of what it signifies for different types of practitioners and theorists?

– How might the work of cultural theorists with investments in radical, activist and queer archives benefit from a deeper engagement with the practices, discourses and perspectives of working archivists, and vice versa?

Please send submissions to guest editors Lisa Darms (lisadee@nyu.edu) and Kate Eichorn (eichhorc@newschool.edu) by April 15, 2015. Proposals should include a brief (200-word) professional biography. An open access, peer-reviewed journal, Archive Journal seeks content that speaks to its diverse audience that includes librarians, scholars, archivists, technologists, and students.

November 1, 2014

Second Annual Library Juice Paper Contest Winner

Library Juice Press is happy to announce the winner of the Second Annual Library Juice Paper Contest. Michelle Caswell’s paper, titled, “Inventing New Archival Imaginaries: Theoretical Foundations for Identity-Based Community Archives,” was judged by the award jury to be the best paper out of 25 submitted in this year’s contest, in a blind process in which identifying information was removed from the papers submitted. Jury member Ryan Shaw wrote of Caswell’s paper,

“In her chapter Caswell moves fluidly between reporting on her experiences co-founding an identity-based community archive, explaining and showing how to use concepts from postcolonialist theory, and making a case for an archiving as activism. She does each equally well, and despite its multiple purposes the chapter is a single cohesive piece. It was also a pleasure to read: Caswell has a journalist’s flair for communicating complex ideas clearly and telling a story.”

Cawell’s paper was published as a chapter in Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the United States and Canada, Litwin Books, 2014. Michelle Caswell is an Assistant Professor of Archival Studies in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA.

The Library Juice Paper Contest winner receives an award of $1000. The intention of this contest is to encourage and reward good work in the field of library and information studies, humanistically understood, through a monetary award and public recognition. Papers submitted may be unpublished, pending publication, or published in the year of the award. Any type of paper may be entered as long as it is not a report of an empirical study. Examples of accepted forms would be literature review essays, analytical essays, historical papers, and personal essays. The work may include some informal primary research, but may not essentially be the report of an empirical study.

The critera for judgment are:

– Clarity of writing
– Originality of thought
– Sincerity of effort at reaching something true
– Soundness of argumentation (where applicable)
– Relevance to our time and situation

The jury for this year’s award consisted of Toni Samek, Professor, School of Library & Information Studies, University of Alberta; Ryan Shaw, an Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science and Emily Knox, Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Entries in next year’s award are due September 1st, 2015.

Library Juice Press is an imprint of Litwin Books, LLC specializing in theoretical and practical issues in librarianship from a critical perspective, for an audience of professional librarians and students of library science.

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Library Juice Press
P.O. Box 188784
Sacramento, CA 95818
Tel. 218-260-6115
inquiries@libraryjuicepress.com
http://libraryjuicepress.com/

October 21, 2014

LibrarianShipwreck on the Emma Goldman papers

Recommended reading: LibrarianShipwreck on the fate of the Emma Goldman Papers

April 11, 2014

Radical Archives and Index of the Disappeared

Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani are artists, archivists, and activists. Both have been involved in immigration rights activism, especially after 9/11, and they created the shifting exhibition Index of the Disappeared, now in its 10th year, to address the insidious surveillance, false narratives, and criminalization of dissent perpetrated by the U.S. government.

I saw the “Secrets Told” version of the archive at New York University last month. During a tour of the exhibit, Ghani spoke about her and Ganesh’s idea of “exploding the archive” and putting the fragments elsewhere. The information they’ve collected is all in the public domain, but what their project does is make the connections of disparate data more visible.

(If you want to read more, a previous incarnation of Ganesh and Ghani’s work was the subject of the essay Warming up Records: Archives, Memory, Power and Index of the Disappeared. As Alice Royer puts it, “Their project makes visible that which has been rendered invisible, re-politicizes that which has been deemed natural, and names the government as the perpetrator.” [Emphasis in original.])

The Q&A at the “Secrets Told” tour brought up the question of the line between the activist and the archivist, which is something Ganesh and Ghani want us all to grapple with. Today is the start of the two-day Radical Archives conference at NYU. The hashtag is #radarcs—follow along!

redactions

“Reasonable Articulable Suspicion,” redactions, and Benjamin Franklin.

binder

One of the many binders of articles, government documents, court cases, and other materials collected and organized for researchers’ use.

files

Files arranged by topic, with connections drawn between them.

file

The pivotal 1979 Smith v. Maryland decision, which led to the legalization of personal metadata collected via (land) phone calls.

April 4, 2014

New book: Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada

Identity Palimpsests: Archiving Ethnicity in the U.S. and Canada

Editors: Dominique Daniel and Amalia Levi
Price: $45.00
Published: April 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-85-7
Printed on acid-free paper

This book is a part of the Litwin Books Series on Archives, Archivists, and Society, Richard J. Cox, editor.

Identity Palimpsests assesses the ways ethnic identities and other forms of belonging are affected by, and also affect, current practices in ethnic archiving. The book begins with an overview of the evolution of the way ethnic organizations and communities have collected, preserved and provided access to their heritage. It then goes on to examine contemporary practices and theories in the context of a cultural heritage sector that is today defined by the digital medium and the Web. Institutions involved in ethnic archiving include libraries, archives and museums that document the history of immigration and ethnicity in the United States and Canada.

Archives shape the way we understand the past and 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.

The book contains both theoretical and practical contributions by practitioners in the field and scholars in history and archival science. Practical contributions not only focus on particular institutions, but also provide comparative studies among cultural heritage institutions. They also debate about what is “ethnic archiving” today and who should be entrusted with the curation of ethnic collections in heritage institutions. The book’s chapters cover heritage institutions run by minorities themselves, and also others run through mainstream or official channels (government, academic, etc.).

At the theoretical level, the chapters discuss the impact of ethnic studies and evolving theories of ethnicity on archiving practices; the effect of ethnic archiving on historical research; and the emergence of memory studies as a lens for understanding identity. Both contemporary and historical perspectives are included.

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. This book is designed to bring new theoretical insight into the impact of this challenge on ethnic archiving, to suggest ways historians are affected, and to begin to study implications for the archivist? practice. The book also innovates by exploring the impact that archivists have on the very ethnic identities they are trying to preserve. The book’s intended audience is cultural heritage professionals; iSchools and Library Science schools’ students and faculty; and historians. While the book deals with heritage institutions in the U.S. and Canada, it appeals to an international audience.

May 28, 2013

New Book: Import of the Archive

Import of the Archive: U.S. Colonial Rule of the Philippines and the Making of American Archival History

Author: Cheryl Beredo
Price: $25.00
Published: June 2013
ISBN: 978-1-936117-72-7
Printed on acid-free paper
Published by Litwin Books

This book a part of the Series on Archives, Archivists, and Society, Richard J. Cox, editor.

Import of the Archive examines the role of archives in the United States’ colonization of the Philippines between 1898 and 1916. During this period the archives played a critical part in the United States’ entrenchment of a colonial state, exhibiting the flexibility and authority to enable arguments of the former colonial power’s incompetence and the native population’s incapacity.

Based on extensive research of and in archives in the Philippines and the United States, this book urges readers to consider archival history within the context of America’s imperial history. This book defines the archives broadly, as the accumulation material about a time proclaimed as “historic,” as well as the records of the Bureau of Insular Affairs and the United States’ Philippine Government, and the archives ceded by Spain per the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War.

Taking an historical approach to understanding the political function that archives played in this particular context, this book is intended for classroom use in archival studies curricula. A slim volume, it could be assigned with complementary books or articles on archives in other colonial contexts, critical analyses of libraries and archives, or any number of topics. It will also be of general interest to scholars of archival history and United States-Philippine relations.

May 19, 2013

The Mexican Suitcase

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…

October 17, 2012

Interview with Christine D’Arpa

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.

June 29, 2012

CfP: Identity Palimpsests: Ethnic Archiving in the U.S. and Canada

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.

Description

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.

Theoretical contributions

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
archiving
– 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.

Practical contributions

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.

Timeline

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).

June 19, 2012

Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century

Make Your Own History: Documenting Feminist and Queer Activism in the 21st Century

Editors: Lyz Bly and Kelly Wooten
Price: $30.00
Published: June 2012
ISBN: 978-1-936117-13-0
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.

April 10, 2012

The Interference Archive Documents Radical History

(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!
March 22, 2012

Litwin Books Series in Archives, Archivists and Society

Litwin Books Series on Archives, Archivists and Society

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:

Forthcoming in the series:

Also of interest:

Please submit queries, proposals, and manuscripts to Richard J. Cox, rjcox111 at comcast.net.