The Noisy Archives


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Keynote talk presented at the Archives & Records Association (UK) annual meeting, Newcastle, 27 August 2014

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The Noisy Archives

  1. 1. The Noisy Archives Rick Prelinger ARA 2014 Newcastle upon Tyne 1 Thanks to all!
  2. 2. Herbert Bayer for General Electric, 1944 2 I suppose "the noisy archives" is a kind of contradiction. Or perhaps something to be avoided. We'll take up quiet a bit later. But in the meantime I want to use noisiness as a scheme to get us closer to some ideas about archives, their present and their future.
  3. 3. CACOPHONY 3
  4. 4. 4 There's no better place to start than CACOPHONY. Babble surrounds archives. Everyone has something to say about their future, whether or not they know anything about it. It's a confused, disorienting, anxious time.
  5. 5. 5 Anxiety and archives seem to go especially well together. It's been hard not to feel that way, at least in the past few years. Some of this anxiety is our own. More comes from the public, from our parent organizations or from the state, and speaks through us.
  6. 6. THE ACCELERANDO: “THE GREATEST EFFLORESCENCE OF CIVILIZATION IN HISTORY, A NEW RENAISSANCE.” Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars 6 This is how the utopian-minded speculative fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson defines what he calls the Accelerando (AH-CHE-LE-RANDO) It’s a speeding-up of development in all realms: exploration, invention, science and philosophy. But it also comes with insecurity.
  7. 7. "And yet still, with all the blossoming of human effort and confidence of the accelerando, there was a sense of tension in the air, of danger.... A stressed renaissance, then, living fast, on the edge, a manic golden age: the Accelerando. And no one could say what would happen next." 7 "And yet still, with all the blossoming of human effort and confidence of the accelerando, there was a sense of tension in the air, of danger....A stressed renaissance, then, living fast, on the edge, a manic golden age: the Accelerando. And no one could say what would happen next." He's talking about the 2200s, but this is also a good description of the present.
  8. 8. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 8 Here are just a few of the issues we might choose to worry about on any given day.
  9. 9. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 9 I don't know how my colleagues at Internet Archive can sleep at night thinking about digital instability. Collecting digital records is like collecting fireflies. Solutions are short-term and throttled by the deceleration of Moore's Law. As Brewster Kahle said to me the other night, collecting bits inevitably means incurring "massive unfunded liabilities." If, for instance, we go with one common estimate that it costs $2000 to preserve a TB "forever," that means that we should endow each new PB that comes online to the tune of $2 million. Impossible.
  10. 10. Thank you. MAKE THE END INSPIRING 10 Here David Rosenthal, co-founder of the LOCKSS project, looks at economic models for long-term storage, and criticizes the idea that long-term storage will be free. I won't replicate his lengthy argument, but he sums up his results in this graph: The graph shows the annual cost of storing all the data accumulated since year zero, relative to the cost in year zero. After a decade the cost has increased more than eight times; if in year zero storage was 12% of your budget in year ten it is 100% of your budget. (Kryder rate, which is annual percentage drop in $/GB; endowment costs.) "Disk costs are now about 7 times as expensive as it would have been had the industry maintained its pre-2010 Kryder rate. The red lines show the range of industry projections for the Kryder rate going forward, between 20%/yr and 10%/yr. If these projections pan out, disk in 2020 will be between 100 and 300 times as expensive as it would have been had the industry maintained its pre-2010 Kryder rate. I don't think many organizations appreciate the impact this will have on the cost of storing data for the long term."
  11. 11. 11 We fear loss. Of course, loss can be formative, because it encourages people to fill apparent gaps in the record. But from where many of us sit, loss is publicly unspeakable and privately vexing. Speaking as a moving image archivist (and in the past few years, unwilling digital custodian), I find it fascinating how moving image archives can pretend to be eternal. Most are young, less than thirty years old, and most are accidental; they were founded in response to unmet needs, rarely according to premeditated plans. Both moving image archives and digital repositories aspire to collect some of the most unstable and ephemeral media forms and preserve them forever. Can we imagine a more presumptuous mission?
  12. 12. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 12 Digital instability, analog glut.
  13. 13. 13 Abundance is terrifying. Sometimes we carefully select what to collect, but too often we collect because we can. And now we're realizing that we can't keep up with the vast number of physical materials needing a home. All too often, we address "can't" as a technical or economic issue, rather than a cultural or social issue. We are not always doing a great job thinking about why we collect and what we should (or should not) collect. By this I mean to say that archival appraisal is sometimes poorly thought through, or dictated by external conditions about which archivists aren't consulted. And without stating it clearly, many of us are asking this question: do physical objects have the right to exist? It seems both callous and surreal, but it is one of the major cultural questions of our time.
  14. 14. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 14 How many of you feel that your work is well understood?
  15. 15. Bit rot Format obsolescence "I can't play my VCR tapes" "Don't films explode if you don't copy them to DVD?" Distrust of the cloud, the hacker, the state Dot-com phobia "I can't quit Facebook, they have my photos." Privacy worries Pervasive surveillance undercuts archival legitimacy We're not collecting enough! (before 5 June 2013) Anything we save might be used against us (after 5 June 2013) 15 Triggered by the press, the public conflates many ideas into a giant hairball of anxiety. No one but us can give them clarity and reassurance, and it can be hard for us to speak loudly enough to break through the static.
  16. 16. Text 16 We don't get sufficient credit for our work. We're taken for granted. Most members of the public (and surprisingly, many people who work in the same organizations we do) assume that collecting and preservation happens all by itself. And it always bothers me when I see another news story about some valuable document that was found in a barn, an attic, a closet, a hole in the ground. Found in spite of its never having been collected in an archives. We show up in the press when we aren't able to do our jobs properly.
  17. 17. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 17 We have to make the case for our work to our funders and parent organizations. This isn't always a sympathetic audience. To fund, as Thomas Osborne says, a repository that "awaits a constituency or public whose limits are of necessity unknown" is sometimes a difficult sell.
  18. 18. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 18 We operate within a web of constraints.
  19. 19. 19 I don't have anything new and different to say about copyright and IPR. Lockdown used to be the default condition of almost all cultural materials. While this is slowly starting to change in the United States, there seems to be a bit less flexibility in the UK and Europe, though ongoing discussions seem encouraging. And of course copyright is just one of a series of barriers to access and reuse. But everyday practice is moving beyond outdated frameworks. Cultural institutions, archivists and curators are trending access-positive, even though we're often handcuffed. And we're discussing workarounds that allow us increased uses while still observing the law. So while the battle for universal access to archives won't be won tomorrow, I’m happier than I was a few years ago.
  20. 20. 20 I'm certain that we'll ultimately resolve copyright problems that today seem intractable. Today's copyright wars will seem quaint sooner than we imagine. And as cultural custodians, we're obliged to take the long view, which means we shouldn't postpone thinking about issues that last longer than copyright and pose more profound questions. For instance, how can we temper openness with respect? Questions of indigenous and community concerns about cultural and intellectual property, traditional cultural expressions and the moral rights of creators, all pose issues that go far beyond the bounds of copyright. These issues will outlive shorter-term discussions and the work of coming to terms with them is part of shaping the kind of world we hope to live in.
  21. 21. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 21 In the early 2000s I, like others, was seduced by the peculiarly, but not exclusively, Californian idea of digital abundance. But now I find it hard to imagine an era without scarcity. Digital abundance has not brought an end to financial constraint.
  22. 22. Digital instability Analog glut Public misunderstanding Indifference to culture Legal constraints Financial sustainability Outdated perspectives 22 All of these anxieties (which in their own way are also opportunities) suggest that we need to think very differently about our practice.
  23. 23. Detroit, February 2011 23 We could address the misunderstandings. We need to push forward a bundle of new narratives that speak to the centrality of archives in the world. Because to engage in archival activity is to intervene in history's flow. Even a passive collection that simply responds to queries plays an interventionist role.
  24. 24. 24 I suspect that one way to become clearer about our course is to reinvest the archives with a sense of intentionality. Each record was created for a reason, and the intentionality of particular records coalesce into the archives, but a tradition of archival neutrality keeps us from fixing on intentions, missions and outcomes. But we need to do more than preserve the cultural heritage for the future. And archivists should be encouraged to play much more of an interpretive role themselves.
  25. 25. SIGNAL TO NOISE 25
  26. 26. 26 We have competition. Today the spread of digital culture has rendered archival activity universal. To quote archivist/provocateur/poet Kenneth Goldsmith: "The advent of digital culture has turned each one of us into an unwitting archivist....The ways in which culture is distributed and archived has become profoundly more intriguing than the cultural artifact itself. What we've experienced is an inversion of consumption..."
  27. 27. 27 We have competition. I am a tremendous fan of YouTube. It is an amazing repository that offers a hit for almost every query, that permits anyone to upload their work and let it intermingle with the work of their cultural heroes. It's become a magnet for personal media, filling the persistent gap between the world of massive personal media production and the archival ecosystem that hasn't collected it. But we might describe its relationship with its users as a noncommittal handshake. Archival persistence, digital longevity and resistance from outside interference are traded in for the appearance of openness, an absence of latency, and an omnivirous collecting policy curated, if curated at all, by machines that know not to expose certain videos to Chinese IP addresses. Just as we are willingly exchanging the resiliency of venerable copper-wired telephone networks for the stimulation of app-driven but unreliable wireless smartphones, we have exchanged the traditional archives for the apparent archives, gaining an appearance of completeness that is in fact full of gaps.
  28. 28. 28 Next to the austerity wreaked on cultural institutions as a consequence of the fiscal crisis of the state, YouTube is the biggest element of subversion against the structure, practices, and culture of established archives. In place of the canonical archival missions of appraisal, preservation and access, it offers an incoherent matrix with the impression of order. Its particular type of creative destruction has marginalized legacy archives but given the world much they can't. No established archives will ever serve as many videos to as many people. It appropriates the eyes and ears of the public by offering easy access to subsets of cultural expression unavailable elsewhere without great effort. It enables countless instances of media and multimedia authorship & remix that legacy archives never wanted to enable and could never have enabled on their own. I doubt we can catch up with them. And if we were to stop ten people on the street and ask them whether they've ever used a video archives, they would say "yes, YouTube."
  29. 29. CROSSTALK 29 Noise can be distracting, but noise can help our thinking leap out of familiar territory. Noise spills out of silos. Crosstalk complicates lines of authority.
  30. 30. 30 We talk too little. We are an established discipline, but a precarious field. Conversations about our future happen over our heads. In the United States collections close and go to larger institutions. In Canada they're sometimes disposed of. Defunding happens with the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen. Or - and this occurs much more often - a collection and its custodians quietly languish from indifference and lack of support. We can't rely exclusively on external forces to maintain the status quo — if the status quo is even worth maintaining. There's of course considerable academic interest and discussion about archives. And, more or less informed, the public weighs in. And yes, we're here at a conference that enables this kind of conversation. But could the noise that occurs at conferences also occur within the archival institution?
  31. 31. Activist Archivists handout card, Autumn 2012 31 Instead many of us rarely look up from our processing tables. There's a relatively small group of people who feel sufficiently secure to be outspoken at conferences, to tweet their thoughts and to ask difficult questions, but free speech and the power to implement change (and write checks) somehow don't seem to go together. Meta-archival discussions about our mission and how we can best realize it aren't the property of just the empowered few — they should be open to all of us. This conversation needs to increase in volume and it needs to happen more often than once a year.
  32. 32. 32 I don't bring this up simply to trigger chatter between departments or discussion between managers and workers, even though those are all good. My intention is to encourage experimentation. But we'll come back to this.
  33. 33. [permaculture diagram here] 33 Over the past few years I've become one of those people who believes archives and archival practice can learn a lot from other disciplines: we often hear about cross-fertilization and reciprocal influences between archives, libraries, museums, the GLAMs. But I think we might look even further. Here is the permaculture diagram, as coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978. There's a lot here for us. [EXPLAIN]
  34. 34. CONVERSATION 34
  35. 35. 35 I have become convinced that we should also try to make archives venues for conversation. We can only profit from bringing social and collaborative research and production closer to collections. This is one of those cases where changes that might seem small in the long term can have extremely significant effects. Allow me, if you will, to present an example from my own practice.
  36. 36. 36 This is a transactional space under construction, a repository where conversation is welcomed. It's our library in San Francisco, in May 2004, just before we shelved the books. While it is not an archives, we hold archival collections and unique or rare materials that we believe have archival value. Starting for our own use, it's become a public collection with approximately 90,000 books, periodicals and items of print ephemera. In recent years we have given ephemera and out-of-the-ordinary periodicals precedence over monographs. What do we hold? Image-rich, evidence-rich materials, materials that cast doubt on received ideas. Books we're interested in. Holdings are mostly published, but many of them (especially periodicals) are unique holdings, and a significant segment of our ephemera collection may be unique. No catalog; subjects are arranged in clusters starting with the local (San Francisco) and ending with space. Like many archives, we are great at helping people find what they aren't looking for, and dicey about specific questions. We dislike query-based discovery (no catalog) and privilege serendipity. And at least one day a week we are there to help patrons.
  37. 37. 37 After we built this, our friends who teach at art schools discovered us, and brought their classes. Suddenly we were mobbed. Today we host around 1000 people per year, even though we've had to cut our open hours to one day a week because of our own arts commissions. But we got fiscal sponsorship so we can accept grants and donations and are working on expanding to 30 hours/week.
  38. 38. 38 We're appropriation friendly, and warmly encourage visitors to scan, shoot and copy. We assume their use is transformative, and the vast majority of our materials are in public domain anyway. Here people are shooting plates from the 1890 US Census atlas, which was the last to speak of the American frontier. And here is our big idea: A few years in, we realized we were no longer simply a repository, but a workshop. In fact we don't think the term "library" fairly describes what this is. We think such places (and there are several dozen or more in the US) point to some possible futures for cultural institutions.
  39. 39. 39 This has changed our lives. Wednesdays are our most exciting days. Hundreds of projects have been made, hatched or discussed in this room. Sooner or later everyone comes to visit. Discoveries: younger audience (<27, approx 70% female, artists, activists, researchers), don't know why / Immense excitement with print materials. Localism. Community support / This is just a small example, free of many of the day-to-day challenges you experience, but it has been a fulfilling example of hospitality. Core to the idea of a transactional space is the idea of hospitality, which comes to me from Verne Harris in South Africa, who in turn is influenced by Jacques Derrida. It's also consistent with the numerous people who have advocated that repositories be user-centered rather than collection-centered. Yet another way to think about it might be that the archives behaves a bit more like a library than an organizational collection. In our moving image archives we interpret hospitality very much in access terms: placing material online for unrestricted reuse. There are interesting implications to this idea — Finally, we encourage talking, collaboration, noise.
  40. 40. 40 But hospitality is more than simply welcoming visitors; it's also welcoming their records. People aggregate into artistic, regional, ethnic, gender-based and many other kinds of communities, and all are communities in search of archives. There is a growing asymmetry in the historical record, especially when now widely recognized that institutional histories fall far short of documenting lived and social experience. We have focused on the fonds rather than the flavor. The public creates a richer record than ever before, and it's more sensitized to the ephemerality of their life traces. Can we find ways for personal records to enter public archives on a vastly increased scale? It's a key to increasing public engagement and dramatically increasing the number of stakeholders who will support our organizations.
  41. 41. 41 It's actually more than just collecting. Many community and regional archives do already, and I gather that The National Archives here in the UK generally cannot collect personal materials. I would actually argue that larger archives need to INTEGRATE what we currently think of as "personal archival material" with institutional archival material. The two kinds of collections constitute two distinct, yet codependent, ways of addressing the past.
  42. 42. 42 The challenge of merging personal and institutional is huge, perhaps even bigger than coping with the turn towards digital. There's no way we can simply collect and display personal materials, mass media, institutional and government records and call that the archives. We have to figure out how to merge the collective and the personal, the macro- and micro-narrative. Ephemeral culture is like air -- it doesn't stop at the institutional door. But I don't know how archives focused on collecting organizational and official records can adapt to infinity; how they can collect and ingest personal records that challenge not only archival workflow, but curatorship, cataloging, documentation, the integrity of a record. It is very hard to tag a firehose.
  43. 43. Robert C, Binkley, Manual on Methods of Reproducing Research Materials: A Survey Made for the Joint Committee on Materials for Research of the Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies. Ann Arbor: Edwards Brothers, 1936. 43 It is hard to bring home feral cats. There is an unquantifiable prejudice among many archivists against this kind of material; collecting it stretches Jenkinson's canonical definition of an archives. Ultimately, as Robert Binkley said almost 80 years ago, this task will be one for non-archivists.
  44. 44. RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP 44 A further suggestion: Make the archives a place of production, a place where films are made, games coded, websites designed, books written, TV produced and transmitted. And, when possible, look to archivists to do some of this work themselves. There's a longtime idea, sometimes an ethic, that archivists and archives should not engage in research or production themselves. But I think we could let the longtime antinomy between roles of archivist and producer rest.
  45. 45. Text 45 Is it inevitable that archives simply serve makers whose work with our materials is done off our premises? What can happen inside? We are seeing some bright spots. -- labs, maker spaces, hacking history, making tools but also making products -- this is where much of the technical innovation is occurring
  46. 46. 46 Touch. What if we generalized hospitality and touch as attributes of modern cultural repositories? Can we bring nonprofessionals into the back to work with materials, annotate, repair, conserve, prepare for scanning and remediate backlogs? We've done this with digital collections, but can we build what I'm calling participatory physical archives?
  47. 47. 47 We did this in San Francisco for two years (explain results) Explain SFPAG; fascination with physical materials; hands-on experience. Exchanging paraprofessional archival training for analog film work that would otherwise go undone. Letting the public in the back, not just in the gallery or research room. Many good results, some disappointing ones. -- THIS SUPPORTS LL (15 programs) and NMRT?
  48. 48. 48 Robert C. Binkley encouraged working with the public in 1936. And we might even say that he predicted how the Internet ("the new techniques of reproduction") would add value to what participating members of the public did. We can say this is impossible, or we can try to engineer ways to make this possible. Let's let the public into the back of our archives, museums and libraries, and see what happens.
  49. 49. REVERBERATION 49 Even the most quotidian archival tasks reverberate outside the archives.
  50. 50. Text 50 Archives may seem quiet, but archives are hot. Archives are the routers, the switching points where past and present, and increasingly present and future, meet. In a time when words, images, sounds and even richer media forms constantly combine in the media stream, archives are strategic nodes in the evolving economy of knowledge and information exchange.
  51. 51. Text 51 When I say "economy" I don't mean to say that information exchange is all based, or should be based on "billable events." Much of it will happen in situations where no money changes hands. But the pace of exchange is accelerating. We put our moving image collection online beginning at the end of 2000, and now I barely go an hour online without seeing some new manifestation of our images somewhere.
  52. 52. Text 52 Our collections and our work reverberates more loudly in the world as a consequence of disintermediation. The absence of intermediaries, people in the middle. I call this development the "new retail archives," but again, this isn't necessarily about selling. It means that the public is accessing archival materials directly, instead of relying on other people to make new works with archival records: simply watching TV programs that licensed archival footage, buying books whose authors sought archival images,... etc. This is a novel development for archives built around organizational rather than public service models. We are now cultural producers. We can no longer take refuge from the masses who desire to use our holdings.
  53. 53. 53 This pushes us into terribly ticklish situations. I personally believe history should be like infrastructure, funded in the background (by taxes, for instance) rather than by user fees paid by individuals. And while there are some exceptions, like stock image sales and perhaps services like, subscription and fee models for most archival use may not fly in the long term. For new, we need to experiment with different models and see what works.
  54. 54. Text 54 Whether fee or free, it's time to push our holdings out to the maximum degree we can. We need an historically conscious population. We need a more literate world filled with creators and larger audiences for their work. We need the economic stimulus that cultural production provides, even if we’re not capable of collecting and preserving everything that people and their institutions produce.
  55. 55. Easdale, Scotland, 2010 55 If we don’t open our doors, and we cannot find ways to act like cultural producers and push our holdings out to the public for people to experience and to work with, we face a very uncertain future. Demands for openness and participation are coming from all directions, and the price of rebuffing them is obsolescence. Our users can help weave a stronger safety net. Easdale, Scotland
  56. 56. The accessible archives: Treats access as a key part of its mission, not an afterthought Reconfigures its workflows to expand access and use Limits access to collections only as required by law, respect, custom and unavoidable constraint Makes materials available before they're requested Measures value by consumptive use Collaborates with museums, libraries, nontraditional institutions and individuals Carefully assesses commercial partnerships Seeks out new users Brings archives into the community and community into the archives Sees archival activity as a civic function Builds transactional spaces Avoids being hobbled by the precautionary principle 56 How can our activities reverberate in the world? Principally this means making our collections more accessible. What might an accessible archives look like? Here is a partial set of thoughts that's by no means complete.
  57. 57. 57 A few years ago I was in Pittsburgh and met an archivist who was teaching cinema studies. She told me she'd tried to get her students interested in archival questions, but couldn't. I asked why. She said she thought it was because they saw archives as a dead end, the place where films went to die. This was for me a great a-ha moment. I realized that so much of what I thought about archives could be summed up very simply: the archives is not an endpoint, but a beginning.
  58. 58. 58 The idea that the archives is the point of origin, the birthplace of new work, is a simple idea, and yet it expands out to change almost everything about the work that archivists do.
  59. 59. EXUBERANCE 59 We aspire to exuberance. Depending on your point of view, this might mean reframing archives as cultural producers, as the publishers and broadcasters of the future. Or it might mean universal access. Or it might mean enabling millions of authors, somewhat like the ill- fated BBC Creative Archive sought to do.
  60. 60. A different day's work 60 But our legacy missions might limit our ability to evolve. The contours of our daily work imply a set of choices that may not lead us where we would like to go. Workflows we most cherish may also be ruts that we need to escape. And workflows often have social and political implications. We need to problematize traditional practices. What needs to change?
  61. 61. photo: Bryan Boyce Winning requires experiment photo: Bryan Boyce 61 To speak American for a second, we can't hit home runs all the time. We need to be able to try and fail. So I'd like to suggest a few experiments. A few attributes of the exuberant archives.
  62. 62. An exuberant archives Research 62
  63. 63. 63 Could archivists do archival work like scientists engage in research? At the very least, could we open ourselves to making experiments in preservation, access, documentation and transformation, rather than repeating commonly accepted workflows time and again? And could we test our hypotheses against reality 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 we'd write preservation impact statements and access impact statements prior to undertaking new projects? This might help us allocate scarce resources more diligently. [explain]
  64. 64. An exuberant archives Research Participation 64 We've spoken about participation, about bringing civilians into the back, past the research room.
  65. 65. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse 65 If my own experience is any guide, put it out or put it online, and people will come. Not only that, they will add context and annotation to collections if given the chance.
  66. 66. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity 66
  67. 67. 67 Every generation, every ethnic group, every new resident, every gender orientation, every region, every degree of privilege or lack thereof should have the opportunity to review, rethink and recombine the cultural heritage. It is a great privilege to teach a "Found Footage" class at UC Santa Cruz, where almost 40% of the graduates are the first in their families to finish college. And diversity, as we know, is an issue inside archives as well as outside. I know little about the UK situation, so won't comment.
  68. 68. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records 68 As I've said, I think this is the great challenge of our time.
  69. 69. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups 69 To whom can we push material? Who needs it, and for what? We can learn this through experiment.
  70. 70. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups Address users one at a time 70 Create an intimate relationship with users. The mass media knows how to do that -- to target large groups, but transmit the feeling that they are speaking directly to each individual. Cultural institutions can appropriate mass media strategies. I'd hope we would do so critically, but after all we too are cultural producers, just like the media.
  71. 71. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups Address users one at a time Pay users to work with material 71 In fact, we already do this, with commissions, contests, residencies. I'm not being facetious when I suggest that if our mission is to push historical and cultural materials out into a crowded and often indifferent present, then it might be appropriate to find new ways of encouraging the use of our material.
  72. 72. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups Address users one at a time Pay users to work with material Repository to workshop 72 Why do our users have to run away and make new works elsewhere? What kind of production, what kind of making, can we bring in-house? The archives might be a creative lab. A skunk works. An experimental farm. Can we induce the best of the young makers to come, work with us, and make new works? DIY, maker culture, steampunk. Fascination with physical objects. My 15 and 13-year-old nieces: unabridged dictionary, typewriter, vinyl records. THE ARCHIVES IS THE POINT OF ORIGIN AND REBIRTH.
  73. 73. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups Address users one at a time Pay users to work with material Repository to workshop Rebirth traditional media experiences 73 The turn to digital revalidates the analog. But it is not quite the same as it was -- it's hybridized with digital. I make digital films that play before audiences who talk while they're playing. I thought this was a radical move, until I realized what I was doing actually recalled old travel lectures from the late 19th century, and the Elizabethan theater with the rowdies in front from much earlier. Hybridized analog and digital. Digital technology often enables us to do traditional jobs better.
  74. 74. An exuberant archives Research Participation Visible storage en masse Diversity Unite personal & institutional records Identify new user groups Address users one at a time Pay users to work with material Repository to workshop Rebirth traditional media experiences Wooden toy trains 74 And finally, remember electric trains? The best Christmas gift a kid could have. But you know what -- fewer and fewer kids play with electric trains. Wooden trains are back in vogue. As Raymond Williams suggested, we are living in a culture where the emergent and residual interact. I take this to mean that we cannot necessarily assume that the current fascination with tech tools and digitization is forever, and that we might keep in mind a core tenet of conservatorship in mind -- engage in processes that are reversible.
  75. 75. The objective of archival policy in a democratic country cannot be the mere saving of paper; it must be nothing less than the enriching of the complete historical consciousness of the people as a whole... — Robert C. Binkley, 1939 75 Most of us probably see ourselves as artisans and employees. I would counterpose the role of citizen archivists. History, memory and cultural continuity are civic functions and that archivists should think of themselves as citizens with civic responsibilities. This could mean many things, but at minimum it indicates that archivists need to be advocates for their work and their institutions in the public sphere. The term was recently appropriated in a different sense by David Ferriero (FAIR-EE-OH), the new AOTUS, when he suggested that the archival field should make more room for uncredentialed citizen volunteers. It created a little controversy.
  76. 76. QUIET 76
  77. 77. 77 Perhaps you prefer a quieter world. If so, I would ask you to consider that an inaccessible archives, a dark archives will have a much harder time assuring its own survival.
  78. 78. Text 78 Let's resist silence. Too much quietude may be an intimation of mortality.
  79. 79. Accidental artwork, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 2007 79 A quiet archives isn't doing its work. An anxious archivist can't easily imagine her future course. But the prospect of experiment can give us many reasons to be cheerful.
  80. 80. @footage 80 Thank you.