Archives&Access&AlternativesRick PrelingerUCLA, May 31, 20131Wednesday, June 5, 2013
credentials2Wednesday, June 5, 2013So who am I? Ive had a hybrid career. Im going to lay out a brief version of my traject...
3Wednesday, June 5, 2013Now, I’m not a conventional archivist. Compared to legacy archivists, who might be more likepastor...
ephemeral filmsadvertising filmsindustrial films (production, advertising)educational filmsgovernment filmsfilms made by associa...
5Wednesday, June 5, 2013So I was working as a typesetter in the early 1980s. Friends made Atomic Cafe. Big hit; HeavyPetti...
Service de Ciné-Photographie, LOffice Provincial de Publicité, PQ, ca. 1940s6Wednesday, June 5, 2013Getting a start in coll...
[clip from WHENYOU ARE A PEDESTRIAN]full film at http://archive.org/details/WhenYouA19487Wednesday, June 5, 2013
8Wednesday, June 5, 2013What interested me about this film wasnt just its weird dramaturgy (accidents function as wish-fulfi...
[clip from GET GOING]http://archive.org/details/0762_Get_Going_04_29_26_009Wednesday, June 5, 2013
10Wednesday, June 5, 2013Its possible to look at this film as a kind of parable of industrialization, in the way its descri...
11Wednesday, June 5, 2013The collection grew very quickly. In a year it was several thousand films; by the late 1980s it wa...
12Wednesday, June 5, 2013After the LC acquisition I took a break for awhile, but then I listened to many others around me ...
13Wednesday, June 5, 2013Back to the Eighties. I was assembling and running a private collection (with all the limits that...
14Wednesday, June 5, 2013Describe: Screenings. Classes and lectures. Laserdiscs, videotapes, later CD-ROMs. Importance ofw...
15Wednesday, June 5, 2013And in 1999 I moved from NY to SF and came into contact with Brewster Kahle, who had recentlystar...
16Wednesday, June 5, 2013I wanted to talk a little about how my perspectives on working with archival material have evolve...
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies17Wednesday, June 5, ...
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies18Wednesday, June 5, ...
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies19Wednesday, June 5, ...
[clip from BRIDGING SAN FRANCISCO BAY]at http://archive.org/details/Bridging193720Wednesday, June 5, 2013Bridging SF Bay
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies21Wednesday, June 5, ...
[clip from forthcoming filmNO MORE ROAD TRIPS?]22Wednesday, June 5, 2013Peripheral evidence NMRT clip 1
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies23Wednesday, June 5, ...
24Wednesday, June 5, 2013So I tried, at least tactically, to separate the historicity of films from what they actually were...
25Wednesday, June 5, 2013[NMRT clip] In my forthcoming film, NO MORE ROAD TRIPS?, I use home movies to reconstruct adream t...
[clip from forthcoming filmNO MORE ROAD TRIPS?]26Wednesday, June 5, 2013Bears
Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies27Wednesday, June 5, ...
East St. Louis, Illinois28Wednesday, June 5, 2013Take, for instance, sponsored and government films of the Cold War period,...
29Wednesday, June 5, 2013Why am I going into historiography? Really because I want to underscore that what we think we kno...
30Wednesday, June 5, 2013I think this is also true for archivists. Instead of prioritizing familiar preservation workflows ...
31Wednesday, June 5, 2013I myself was transformed by the project we undertook with Internet Archive, which was exposed tot...
32Wednesday, June 5, 2013These were PD materials. Explain CC licenses. Explain deriv works. Etc.Copyfights.Big fight coming ...
33Wednesday, June 5, 2013So now we follow a model that some call "freemium" -- explain -- which is imperfect but fairlyfun...
34Wednesday, June 5, 2013So heres where I want to ask a few questions. In general these arent the same ones Ive beenasking...
35Wednesday, June 5, 2013The turn to digital has forced librarians and archivists into a Faustian bargain. We now have noa...
36Wednesday, June 5, 2013But there are other implications, which Id like to focus on today. We might think of todays theme...
37Wednesday, June 5, 2013Why do we do what we do?Most moving image archives (and many collections of materials in other me...
38Wednesday, June 5, 2013But it is difficult to collect moving images. Asserting that we can permanently hold and preserve...
39Wednesday, June 5, 2013Many, perhaps most of the decisions we make to acquire, accession and preserve materials arebased...
40Wednesday, June 5, 2013Were seeing an interesting twist on unthought acquisitions policies as we gear up to collect digi...
41Wednesday, June 5, 2013And this is giving rise to a new question that fascinates me: Do physical objects have the right ...
San Francisco Chronicle, 1915-09-14 (hard copy)42Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Personal records: a new frontier43Wednesday, June 5, 2013How can institutional archives integrate personal and institution...
44Wednesday, June 5, 2013Making room for personal records in institutional collections, but even more than that, pushingth...
http://beetrooted.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/permacultureprinciples1.jpg45Wednesday, June 5, 2013Could we experiment with ...
46Wednesday, June 5, 2013-- Relational art & social practiceA current trend (though it actually dates back over 20 years) ...
47Wednesday, June 5, 2013-- Participation, making participatory spaces? There are many ways to think about this. I am draw...
48Wednesday, June 5, 2013If archives skew toward becoming digitizing centers and portals for digital material, whats theac...
49Wednesday, June 5, 2013I raise this because of our admittedly microcosmic, but riveting experiences with a little outsid...
50Wednesday, June 5, 2013Could archivists do archives like scientists do science? At the very least, could we open ourselv...
51Wednesday, June 5, 2013Can we bring nonprofessionals into the back of the archives to work with materials, annotate, rep...
52Wednesday, June 5, 2013Weve been doing this in San Francisco for a bit more than a year (explain).Good results, disappoi...
53Wednesday, June 5, 2013As Ive said, can we experiment? And can we do so without upfront funding? One of thecharacteristi...
54Wednesday, June 5, 2013I have often wanted to run an archives like the legendary Valve Corporation, a game developer inB...
Modest objectives:1. Move nontraditional materials into archival mainstream2. Accelerate pace of traditional research, sch...
56Wednesday, June 5, 2013Im going to end with a little case study on transformative use. Here are a couple of clips from o...
[clip from AMERICAN THRIFT]http://archive.org/details/American1962http://archive.org/details/American1962_257Wednesday, Ju...
58Wednesday, June 5, 2013And heres what a British video artist and music video maker named Cyriak Harris made from thatfilm...
Bonobo Cirrus Videohttp://archive.org/details/bonobocirrus59Wednesday, June 5, 2013BONOBO CLIP
rick@archive.org@footage60Wednesday, June 5, 2013
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Archives&Access&Alternatives

  1. 1. Archives&Access&AlternativesRick PrelingerUCLA, May 31, 20131Wednesday, June 5, 2013
  2. 2. credentials2Wednesday, June 5, 2013So who am I? Ive had a hybrid career. Im going to lay out a brief version of my trajectory, not to tellyou stories, but to background some of the questions I want to propose. A few pieces of data:I’ve been collecting historical film since 1982, and I still run a private collection of ephemeral filmand home movies. I call it an archives, aware that labels are always in dispute.I’m also a maker -- I’ve made a bunch of long-form films with archival material, and doing museumexhibitsI’m writing and talking a lot these days about archival issues and the future of archives.I’m an outsider librarian in San Franciscoand
  3. 3. 3Wednesday, June 5, 2013Now, I’m not a conventional archivist. Compared to legacy archivists, who might be more likepastoralists, Im a hunter-gatherer. From the beginning, I started collecting as an individual, outsideinstitutional boundaries. My hybrid career is built over a substrate of ephemeral objects. In the1980s I started collecting material that almost no one else was collecting at the time, that otherswere literally throwing away, and named it: ephemeral films.
  4. 4. ephemeral filmsadvertising filmsindustrial films (production, advertising)educational filmsgovernment filmsfilms made by associations and institutionspersuasion and propagandaamateur filmshome moviespersonal, not corporate expression4Wednesday, June 5, 2013Ephemeral films were typically made for specific purposes at specific times. They weren’t designedto be eternal. Sometimes they were even made for a single showing to a single person. When theybecame outdated, they were thrown away, or perhaps kept so that the images or sound could beused in another production. Typically they survive by accident. Perhaps 400,000 to 500,000 suchfilms (not counting home movies, which are almost infinite) were made between 1927-87. The US isthe richest of the media-rich countries. We throw away more media than most other nations everproduce.
  5. 5. 5Wednesday, June 5, 2013So I was working as a typesetter in the early 1980s. Friends made Atomic Cafe. Big hit; HeavyPetting; I was hired as research director. How to find archival films about an idea or the socialZeitgeist. Began getting interested in films made to manufacture and sustain consensus. Ephemeralfilms were perfect.
  6. 6. Service de Ciné-Photographie, LOffice Provincial de Publicité, PQ, ca. 1940s6Wednesday, June 5, 2013Getting a start in collecting; first schools, colleges and libraries, then production companies. Myfirst film was WHEN YOU ARE A PEDESTRIAN, made in 1948 in Oakland, California.
  7. 7. [clip from WHENYOU ARE A PEDESTRIAN]full film at http://archive.org/details/WhenYouA19487Wednesday, June 5, 2013
  8. 8. 8Wednesday, June 5, 2013What interested me about this film wasnt just its weird dramaturgy (accidents function as wish-fulfillment for the viewers) but the background, the periphery of the scenes. The movie documentedthe look of Oakland in 1948, a city I was interested in and had once lived in, and the detail was richand fascinating. Film as landscape documentation, and more generally, film as evidence.But soon I realized it would be a good idea to collect preprint materials (explain why), and this drewme to Detroit: once the epicenter of industrial and sponsored film, no more than 400 railroad milesfrom most of American production in the 1920s. Wonderful films were made in Detroit, many ofthem for the auto industry. Here is one called "Get Going," from about 1937.
  9. 9. [clip from GET GOING]http://archive.org/details/0762_Get_Going_04_29_26_009Wednesday, June 5, 2013
  10. 10. 10Wednesday, June 5, 2013Its possible to look at this film as a kind of parable of industrialization, in the way its described bythe British historian E.P. Thompson in his essay "Time, Work-Discipline and Industrial Capitalism."The engine is the worker, and it takes force and ultimately the regulation of time -- the clock andthe bell -- to get the worker to work.
  11. 11. 11Wednesday, June 5, 2013The collection grew very quickly. In a year it was several thousand films; by the late 1980s it wastens of thousands of films, and by the late 1990s over fifty thousand completed films (edited films)plus tens of thousands more cans of unedited materials (outtakes, home movies, actualitymaterials, etc.). I began to worry about succession issues, and in 1996 started to look around for amore permanent home for the collection. In 2002 the Library of Congress acquired the collection,and since them we have made two more donations, so that the collection now totals some 60,000titles; about 200,000 cans.
  12. 12. 12Wednesday, June 5, 2013After the LC acquisition I took a break for awhile, but then I listened to many others around me andrealized I should be collecting home movies. This continues, and Ive collected about 9,000 of themby now. Home movies are documents of great density and emotional power, ethnographically thickand deeply enigmatic. As many of you already know, it is an uncanny, privileged experience toimmerse yourself in the lives of others, and its not a coincidence Im referring to the German film ofa few years ago; home movies are intimate, private, mysterious. To watch them is to almostinevitably commit trespass. Of course they also can be extremely long shots of landscape horizonswith few distinguishing features.
  13. 13. 13Wednesday, June 5, 2013Back to the Eighties. I was assembling and running a private collection (with all the limits thatsuggests, but also with the freedom it allows), but we were also becoming the default repository forephemeral film materials. And it was inevitable for us to begin thinking archivally. I started to go toF/TAAC meetings (the first one I attended was here at UCLA in 1986, and I was intimidated as hell),and later AMIA, and tried to internalize an archival consciousness, mostly by osmosis, because itwas very difficult to go to school and learn it at that time. It was a welcoming community, despitemy somewhat disreputable status as a seller of footage.
  14. 14. 14Wednesday, June 5, 2013Describe: Screenings. Classes and lectures. Laserdiscs, videotapes, later CD-ROMs. Importance ofworking with The Voyager Company.I began to realize I was practicing public history. In an ideal world, this would be hard to distinguishfrom archival activity, unless you define archival activity very narrowly. There was a great deal ofpublic response to my screenings and video releases, and the cultural status of these films started tomigrate from cultish oddities to more serious objects of study and concern. I think ephemeral filmsare now in the midst of a third rediscovery, this time by emerging makers and scholars, and Imalmost ready to watch films like ARE YOU POPULAR? again. Its been hard to look it for a few years.
  15. 15. 15Wednesday, June 5, 2013And in 1999 I moved from NY to SF and came into contact with Brewster Kahle, who had recentlystarted Internet Archive, and asked me “Want to put your collection online for free?” Since Id beenliving in New York, where information wants to be expensive, I didn’t know how to respond to hisquestion, but in time I came to think he was right, and I agreed to start putting digitized filmsonline. That was a life-changing event for me. It got me thinking about access to archives in thebroad sense, and wondering why it was so difficult for most people to actually work with archivalmaterial. Slowly, I started thinking of myself as a meta-archivist.
  16. 16. 16Wednesday, June 5, 2013I wanted to talk a little about how my perspectives on working with archival material have evolved,so I’m going to briefly describe my own “6 stages of archival consciousness.” Perhaps some of youhave experienced these, perhaps in a different order.
  17. 17. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies17Wednesday, June 5, 2013Upon discovering the world of what I came to call ephemeral films -- advertising, educational,industrial and amateur film -- I was bowled over by a sense of new, undiscovered, formative terrain.Each film was a fount of possibilities, the germ of many possible projects. It was as if each film hadbeen especially made to be recontextualized. Each contained images and representational strategiesI hadnt encountered in ten years of film study. Every film was precious.
  18. 18. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies18Wednesday, June 5, 2013As the films accumulated, I became exhausted with the sheer amount of novelty, and started tofocus on style. Style, as I use it here, is purposely a vague umbrella for various phenomenologicalattributes that can amuse, captivate or overwhelm: the stentorian sound of a narrators voice; thelook of original Kodachrome; the body language of Depression-era salesmen; a circular wipe; thesimultaneously familiar and alienating sound of library music; or perhaps the beauty of an old car. Iwas preoccupied with style for years. Many of these films can be quite beautiful. And some areunconsciously subversive. In the following clip from BRIDGING SAN FRANCISCO BAY the relationshipbetween music and images reminds me of the first few Buñuel films, especially LAND WITHOUTBREAD and LAGE DOR.
  19. 19. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies19Wednesday, June 5, 2013As Ive said, in the mid-1980s I started working with Voyager, which later evolved into Criterion, and did14 CD-ROMs and laserdiscs, thematic anthologies of material from my collection. This was when Irealized I’d been collecting for a reason. Historically, these films had floated in time, lacking social andcultural context, aside from the idle thoughts that surfaced while watching them. I became quiteinterested in why and when they were made. Who wanted to persuade? Who paid for production? Whoprofited? How did they fit into the history of persuasion? And what kind of subjects were they trying tocreate or influence? I became focused on these and other sociocultural considerations.
  20. 20. [clip from BRIDGING SAN FRANCISCO BAY]at http://archive.org/details/Bridging193720Wednesday, June 5, 2013Bridging SF Bay
  21. 21. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies21Wednesday, June 5, 2013But after awhile I tried to escape sociocultural overdetermination and began to focus on a keyattribute of ephemeral film: their value as evidence. Evidentiary value often trumps attributes whichothers might characterize as narrative, cinematic, or related to the production/distributionapparatus. Focusing on evidentiary value sometimes means concentrating on the periphery of theimage, or on details that seem unrelated to the primary concerns of a work. Sometimes its afundamentally anti-cinematic point of view.Here follows a clip from my new film NO MORE ROAD TRIPS?
  22. 22. [clip from forthcoming filmNO MORE ROAD TRIPS?]22Wednesday, June 5, 2013Peripheral evidence NMRT clip 1
  23. 23. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies23Wednesday, June 5, 2013And then in 2004 I started to make a feature-length film (which I called Panorama Ephemera) andrealized that Id boxed myself in. I wanted to make a kind of parable about the history of theEuropean settlement of North America and Western expansion, among other things, and it turnedout that the historicity of the clips themselves prevented me (and the audience) from exercising ourfull imaginations. People connected the clips to specific moments and situations when instead Iwanted them to point to historical and social developments that might even be imaginary.
  24. 24. 24Wednesday, June 5, 2013So I tried, at least tactically, to separate the historicity of films from what they actually weredepicting, so that I could use segments to construct alternate or imaginary histories, or commentcritically on histories that had actually happened. I wanted people to look at an egg and see justthat -- an egg, not a Pilgrims egg or a factory-farmed egg, just an egg. Or to look at a record andsee the grooves rather than the pattern of soundwaves. I wanted to experiment with dehistoricizingthe archives.
  25. 25. 25Wednesday, June 5, 2013[NMRT clip] In my forthcoming film, NO MORE ROAD TRIPS?, I use home movies to reconstruct adream trip from the Atlantic to the Pacific. While the source material shows no explicit historicalevents, the footage is full of historical traces: the Great Depression, the New Deal, the runup toWorld War II and its aftermath, and the massive reconfiguration of the American landscape thatstarted after 1933 and stepped up during the war and afterwards. Suburbia, sprawl and expansioninto unbuilt areas, and the buildout of the Interstate Highway system. The history isntforegrounded, but it is very present in the evidence, and I hope the audience (who is asked to speakthroughout the screening) will share what they see and engage in a kind of crowdsourcedcontemplation. Another leading theme in the film is the nature-culture interface, and here is a clipabout that: [bears]
  26. 26. [clip from forthcoming filmNO MORE ROAD TRIPS?]26Wednesday, June 5, 2013Bears
  27. 27. Every film is preciousSeduced by styleOverdeterminedPeripheral evidenceAn egg is just an eggProphesies27Wednesday, June 5, 2013Finally, I realized that an engagement with archives tended to cause people to draw oversimplified,mechanistic connections (and boundaries) between past and present. Or they get hung up inpresentism -- describing and judging history from a purely contemporary point of view. This wouldnever go over with most historians, but most people who watch and work with films arenthistorians. I became especially interested in how we regard the past.
  28. 28. East St. Louis, Illinois28Wednesday, June 5, 2013Take, for instance, sponsored and government films of the Cold War period, with which most of usare familiar. Rather than characterizing them as documents of past mindsets and persuasions, whatwould happen if we regarded them as possibly predictive? How would we look at the models theypromote if we let go of eternalizing the present and realized that they might regain hegemony inthe future?
  29. 29. 29Wednesday, June 5, 2013Why am I going into historiography? Really because I want to underscore that what we think we knowabout the potential uses and significance of our materials is only part of the story. Especially for20th-century media, we tend to circumscribe the possibilities of reuse when we cant begin toimagine how future generations might think. Could Mathew Brady have predicted that people wouldreenact the Civil War? Or could any historically-minded photographer have imagined that their workmight float into a future flaneurs field of vision, reinvoked by a simple geotag? A consequence ofthis condition is that we might try to resist tying ourselves to simplistic or limiting ways of tellingstories, because if we do, we may be doomed to use archives in such a way as to fall short of theirpotential.
  30. 30. 30Wednesday, June 5, 2013I think this is also true for archivists. Instead of prioritizing familiar preservation workflows andencouraging certain modes of access, we might seek to positively reinforce and reward projects thatplay in unfamiliar territory. Such projects could suggest new ways of looking at our materials andthinking about what they might mean. And we could also let users help us to see our collections andour work in new ways. We might try to deepen our implicit, ongoing relationship with users suchthat it transforms us rather than reinforces the way we already are.
  31. 31. 31Wednesday, June 5, 2013I myself was transformed by the project we undertook with Internet Archive, which was exposed tothe public at the end of 2000, when we cobbled together a website and put up 1001 films in mpeg2format. There was relatively little broadband in the US, and it was difficult for most people to workwith the files. They were quite huge, 28MB/minute. Now this seems like almost nothing.Now 4100 titles; an estimated 70-80 million views/downloadsChanged the nature of how many people access and use historical film footageNow trying to do same with home movies; 3000 coming up.
  32. 32. 32Wednesday, June 5, 2013These were PD materials. Explain CC licenses. Explain deriv works. Etc.Copyfights.Big fight coming up? The new Register of Copyrights, Maria Pallante, has announced an effort toopen up the law for rewrite. Extended collective licensing -- fair use -- anti-circumvention? It willnot be pretty.
  33. 33. 33Wednesday, June 5, 2013So now we follow a model that some call "freemium" -- explain -- which is imperfect but fairlyfunctional. This allows us to keep the doors open. It makes smaller projects possible, but not grandones. You might recognize this situation yourselves. And we are just one of many small collections;we happen to be private, but we try to have a public impact by opening our holdings as much as wecan. But we need to figure out how we can do more to infuse our presentist culture with a sense ofhistory, and encourage moving image authorship (and other kinds of creation) on a mass level. Wecant do this with tiny bits of stock footage income. It would be like running a library on the revenuefrom copy machine cards.
  34. 34. 34Wednesday, June 5, 2013So heres where I want to ask a few questions. In general these arent the same ones Ive beenasking for the past several years. And while I might have some opinions, but I dont really haveanswers.
  35. 35. 35Wednesday, June 5, 2013The turn to digital has forced librarians and archivists into a Faustian bargain. We now have noalternative but to digitize our collections for access, and were pretty much forced to reformatanalog materials to digital. And the fragility of digital objects turns archives into permanent rehabcenters for at-risk bits. This forces us to rework priorities, budgets, workflows and self-images sothat we can become nodes of digitization and access. This pushes us forward, but it also sets usback. Expanded access to collections is a dramatic win.
  36. 36. 36Wednesday, June 5, 2013But there are other implications, which Id like to focus on today. We might think of todays theme as"radical traditionalism."
  37. 37. 37Wednesday, June 5, 2013Why do we do what we do?Most moving image archives (and many collections of materials in other media) are accidental. Theysprouted up to address problems that existed at specific times -- principally when someone resistedwhat often seems to be the natural destiny of moving images, which is to be thrown away. Its onlyin recent years that archives specifically focused on collecting moving images have been established.
  38. 38. 38Wednesday, June 5, 2013But it is difficult to collect moving images. Asserting that we can permanently hold and preservematerials fixed in physically ephemeral forms is a kind of conceit. And it isnt always clear why weare keeping what we keep. Policy-based acquisitions often cause material to be kept thats of less ofinterest than other material we do not acquire or retain. (When we read stories about archivalmaterial in the mainstream media, theyre often concerned with material that survived IN SPITE OFbeing ignored or neglected, IN SPITE OF the work archivists do.)
  39. 39. 39Wednesday, June 5, 2013Many, perhaps most of the decisions we make to acquire, accession and preserve materials arebased on cinephilia. I love home movies myself, but unconditional love does not foster consciouslycritical archival policies.Should we stratify our collecting so that a portion of the material we acquire and retain is extrinsicto our collecting policy? In other words, collect things we would NOT otherwise collect, or collect bychance?
  40. 40. 40Wednesday, June 5, 2013Were seeing an interesting twist on unthought acquisitions policies as we gear up to collect digitalmaterials at scale. At a certain point, probably in the last decade, a realization settled on [many ofus] that it was now technologically feasible to collect a great deal of the digital materials that werebeing published or placed on the open web. Perhaps not economically or physically possible foreveryone yet, but feasible from the technical POV. This then quietly gave birth to the idea that is nowwidely held that we should. No sense of selection or reason for collecting everything. But thedifficulties incumbent in collecting and preserving digital materials are causing us to neglect analogaccumulations.
  41. 41. 41Wednesday, June 5, 2013And this is giving rise to a new question that fascinates me: Do physical objects have the right toexist? [discuss]
  42. 42. San Francisco Chronicle, 1915-09-14 (hard copy)42Wednesday, June 5, 2013
  43. 43. Personal records: a new frontier43Wednesday, June 5, 2013How can institutional archives integrate personal and institutional materials? (explain)We have focused on the fonds [the organizational scheme inherited from institutions whose recordswe hold] rather than the flavor. The two kinds of collections constitute two oppositional, yetcodependent, ways of addressing the past.There is a growing asymmetry in the historical record, especially in a time when it is starting tobecome widely recognized that institutional histories fall far short of documenting lived and socialexperience. The "digital turn" may ultimately be less wrenching to archives than the challenge ofmerging personal and institutional. But I think we must take it on. Theres no way we can simplycollect and display mass media, institutional and government records and call that history. We haveto merge the collective and the personal.
  44. 44. 44Wednesday, June 5, 2013Making room for personal records in institutional collections, but even more than that, pushingthem to resonate, collide and hybridize, has interesting implications for research, and, to makewhat could be a long story very short, might well create many new stakeholders interested inassuring a long life for collections.
  45. 45. http://beetrooted.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/permacultureprinciples1.jpg45Wednesday, June 5, 2013Could we experiment with paradigms coming from other areas that may have relevance to thearchives? Bill Mollison & David Holmgren: permaculture principles1. Observe and interact: By taking time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation.2. Catch and store energy: By developing systems that collect resources at peak abundance, we can use them in times of need.3. Obtain a yield: Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing.4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback: We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue tofunction well.5. Use and value renewable resources and services: Make the best use of natures abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviorand dependence on non-renewable resources.6. Produce no waste: By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.7. Design from patterns to details: By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature and society. These can form the backbone ofour designs, with the details filled in as we go.8. Integrate rather than segregate: By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between those things and theywork together to support each other.9. Use small and slow solutions: Small and slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resourcesand producing more sustainable outcomes.10. Use and value diversity: Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats and takes advantage of the unique nature of theenvironment in which it resides.11. Use edges and value the marginal: The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are oftenthe most valuable, diverse and productive elements in the system.12. Creatively use and respond to change: We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, and thenintervening at the right time.
  46. 46. 46Wednesday, June 5, 2013-- Relational art & social practiceA current trend (though it actually dates back over 20 years) in the arts is to make projects whosegoal is to create community and change through shared activity and experience. We argue that wedo this with our library of printed materials in SF, creating community around a collection and thetransactions that spring up between users, librarians, and materials. This is a big stretch for archivessince it internalizes a process that is usually thought to occur outside the institution -- thatconsciousness is changed as a result of encounters with materials or authorship using materials.And of course the implication that theres a natural hop-skip-jump from collecting to community tochange is complex. But I would argue that museums and galleries already engage in this process,and there is no reason why more archivally oriented institutions cant as well.
  47. 47. 47Wednesday, June 5, 2013-- Participation, making participatory spaces? There are many ways to think about this. I am drawn,from my own experience, to transforming archives into workshops. To bringing the process ofmaking derivative and archives-focused works into the archives, instead of fostering a takeoutculture.There is a whole literature on participation -- see Nina K Simon, The Participatory Museum.You already have an environment here that could serve this, the Research Commons. Can we build aresearch commons around archival material? Or can we bring archival material into common spacesfor study and work?
  48. 48. 48Wednesday, June 5, 2013If archives skew toward becoming digitizing centers and portals for digital material, whats theaction going to be at the archives itself? (This isnt a new question, of course. The process researchlibraries have been going through for the past decade prefigures the current battles about MOOCs-- what ought to happen remotely, and what needs to happen f2f on campus?)
  49. 49. 49Wednesday, June 5, 2013I raise this because of our admittedly microcosmic, but riveting experiences with a little outsiderlibrary in San Francisco. [discuss further]explain library and its experience
  50. 50. 50Wednesday, June 5, 2013Could archivists do archives like scientists do science? At the very least, could we open ourselves tomaking experiments in preservation, access, documentation and transformation, rather thanrepeating commonly accepted workflows time and again? And could we test our hypotheses againstreality as we perceive it? Can we infuse the arts & humanities with a sense of the scientific method?For instance, what if we borrowed from environmental practice, and create an expectation that wedwrite preservation impact statements and access impact statements prior to undertaking newprojects? [explain]
  51. 51. 51Wednesday, June 5, 2013Can we bring nonprofessionals into the back of the archives to work with materials, annotate, repair,conserve, prepare for scanning and remediate backlogs? Weve done this with digital collections, butcan we build what Im calling participatory physical archives?
  52. 52. 52Wednesday, June 5, 2013Weve been doing this in San Francisco for a bit more than a year (explain).Good results, disappointing ones.
  53. 53. 53Wednesday, June 5, 2013As Ive said, can we experiment? And can we do so without upfront funding? One of thecharacteristics of the for-profit tech sector, which has become our competition, is that it makestools and services before figuring out the financial model that might obtain. Perhaps more relevant,this is true for individuals who write open-source code and develop tools. These days people makethings, and if they catch on they figure out how to fund them. Can we give people a little paid timeto make something new and see whether it might work?How can we make Darwinism into a friend rather than an enemy?
  54. 54. 54Wednesday, June 5, 2013I have often wanted to run an archives like the legendary Valve Corporation, a game developer inBellevue, Wash. What if people could pick what projects they worked on?But lack of practicality aside, could we open our objectives to discussion?
  55. 55. Modest objectives:1. Move nontraditional materials into archival mainstream2. Accelerate pace of traditional research, scholarly andeducational use of home movies and ephemeral films3. Encourage new areas & forms of scholarship, esp. digital4. Build accessible corpus of reusable footage5. Move from boutique approach; open up massive amountsof material6. Teach machines to watch moving images7. Skew online moving image environment away from moreestablished genres (YouTube did this, but retreated)8. Encourage evolution of archival workflow & practice byproblematizing legacy practices55Wednesday, June 5, 2013Here is one set of possible objectives:1. Move nontraditional materials, especially ephemeral films into archival & cultural mainstream2. Accelerate pace of traditional research, scholarly and educational use of home movies andephemeral films3. Enable new areas & forms of scholarship, incl. digital4. Build corpus of reusable footage5. Move from boutique approach; open up massive amounts of material6. Enable automated & machine analysis -- teach machines to watch moving images7. Skew online moving image environment away from more traditional genres (perhaps alreadyhappened)8. Geocodes, tropes, archaeology9. Encourage evolution of archival workflow & practice byproblematizing legacy practices
  56. 56. 56Wednesday, June 5, 2013Im going to end with a little case study on transformative use. Here are a couple of clips from ourof our most boring films, AMERICAN THRIFT (1962), made by JHO for Chevrolet; it calls itself a"tribute to the woman American." While it is well shot, its images are sanitized and uninteresting,and its narration wouldnt have been out of place in the 1890s.
  57. 57. [clip from AMERICAN THRIFT]http://archive.org/details/American1962http://archive.org/details/American1962_257Wednesday, June 5, 2013AMERICAN THRIFT
  58. 58. 58Wednesday, June 5, 2013And heres what a British video artist and music video maker named Cyriak Harris made from thatfilm, which he downloaded at medium-low resolution from our collection at Internet Archive. Its aclip for the band named Bonobo. In its dopiness I think it achieves a kind of transcendence.
  59. 59. Bonobo Cirrus Videohttp://archive.org/details/bonobocirrus59Wednesday, June 5, 2013BONOBO CLIP
  60. 60. rick@archive.org@footage60Wednesday, June 5, 2013

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