Cataloging the ephemeral
Chantal Lee, Meredith Powers, Alexandra Provo, Marlee Walters
Ephemera vs. Ephemeral
● “Material of short life”
● Documentation that isn’t a
book or periodical
● Works that are ephemeral:
○ subject to change, alteration, or
○ meanings often tied to sites
Vesuvio Bakery Soho 2004.
● Surrogates are
representations of works that
stand in for a work when the
work cannot be physically
represented in a collection
● Surrogates can also be
works in themselves
Street Art: Graffiti & Murals
Graffiti wall at Houston St. & Bowery
Clockwise, from bottom left: Retna 2012, Os Gemeos 2009, Barry McGee 2010 (http://goo.gl/CNshV2),
Swoon 2013 (http://goo.gl/CNshV2) & Maya Hayuk 2014 (http://goo.gl/FAk1TE).
“Permanence is relative” (Freeman, 2013)
“Showing parts of the city at the moment
before their disappearance”
Byron Company. 857 Fifth Ave. at 67th Street.
[The George Gould Residence.]. Museum of
the City of New York. 22.214.171.12485.
Cataloging Material Evidence :
Ephemera vs Documentary
Artificial Evidence (ephemera): Props,
announcements, press releases, and
Tehching Hsieh & Linda
http://goo.gl/WwBvh3 Documentary Evidence: Photographs and video
Art Gallery of New
Documentation as Works of Art in their own Right
On Cataloging Performance
“It’s the difference between a collection of facts about a performance and the
experience itself. You can’t collect an experience, but maybe with multiple sources
and perspectives on it, you can document a performance thoroughly enough to offer
a kind of approximation after the fact”
Schultz, Sarah (2011). Cataloging Performance: Proceedings of the Walker Art
Center Conference for Archivists.
“Deciding what to leave out of the archive is almost as important
as deciding what to put in.”
Brin, Judith (2011). Cataloging Performance: Proceedings of the Walker Art
Center Conference for Archivists.
Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 41.190.482.
furniture elements in
context of a museum
Shifting mix of parts
Whatever time is
AND time of the
Period Rooms: Issues
Lucy Rie’s apartment, Kaiserliche Hofmobliendepot, Vienna. Williamson, L. (2012). Retrieved from
"Period rooms are paradoxical…is the
room a fantasy or is it a fairly accurate
approximation of the past? Is the point of
view historical or aesthetic? What is the
room trying to show or prove?"
(Diane Pilgrim, 1983)
The Period Room: An Illusion of the Past
What kinds of cataloging
standards and frameworks
best capture relationships
between parts and wholes?
North East Parlor of Joseph Russell House, Brooklyn Museum, 20.956. L:
1980s installation; R: undated installation. Retrieved from
May Day by Shepard Fairey.
April 21 - August 31, 2010
Parts of the previous installation by Os Gemeos peek out from underneath after May Day is vandalized
Who decides which moment(s) to represent?
http://www.siobhandaviesreplay.com/ Eiko & Koma, Naked, Walker Art Center, 2010
Is an exhaustive archive feasible?
Source: http://goo.gl/CYvfqCSource: http://goo.gl/bzv1zr
Cheng, S. (2014, February 3). Maya Hayuk has begun working on new
mural for the Bowery wall. Complex Art & Design [Blog]. Retrieved from
Dvortygirl. (2009). I blame the post office. [Digital image]. Retrieved from
Ephemeral New York. (2011, May 4). The pleasure gardens of lower
Manhattan [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/IZyMn2
Freeman, B. (2013). Digital deception. The Design Observer Group:
Places. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/Ax9Y4W
Korkidis, J., & Schonberger, N. (2012, March 5). The history of the
Bowery / Houston Street graffiti mural wall in NYC. Complex Art & Design
[Blog]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/eDRjhO
Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2014). Charles Marville: Photographer of
Paris. Exhibition objects: Percement de l'avenue de l'Opéra: Butte des
Moulins.[Digital image]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/2qePb2
Murray, J. and Murray, K. (2014, April 3). New York storefronts: what a
difference a decade makes. Guardian. Retrieved from
Tomlinson, L. E. (1942). The library science glossary [HathiTrust
version]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/YD793b
Yearsley, M. (2013, October 30). Swoon unveils Hurricane Sandy-
themed mural. Gothamist [Blog]. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/CNshV2
Yen, I. (2013, October 4). The history of the Bowery mural: from Keith
Haring to Crash. Green-label.com [Blog]. Retrieved from