Archival Projects from the Archive

Mormon Genealogical Archive Vaults, Little Cottonwood Canyon, NV, via

At the end of every semester for the past few years I’ve tried to write a recap post for each of my classes. I share highlights from the students’ projects and reflect on what we accomplished, and what we might do differently next time. However, back in Spring 2011, when I first taught my Archives, Libraries & Databases class, I neglected to write a summary post — probably because I was freaking out about the tenure dossier that was due in two months.

So, for the benefit of students in my current section of ALD, who might like to see what their predecessors have done  — and for my own enjoyment, since I get to revisit some fantastic work and remember some fabulous students from the past — I’ll briefly summarize the Spring 2011 projects here:

  • Grace examined soil painting, dance, and song as archival practices among the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon Province, the Philippines — which is where Grace is from.
  • Lily examined the influence of Belle Da Costa Greene, Pierpont Morgan’s personal librarian, in shaping not only the Morgan Library, but also the field of librarianship.
  • Sue studied various cases in which photography has been used to archive urban redevelopment.
  • Chris offered a fabulous psychoanalytic reading — using the work of Derrida and Carolyn Steedman — of the Mormon Archive.
  • Allison, who worked for the New York City Ballet, discussed historical and recent attempts to archive live dance performance, and her discussion included various approaches to dance notation.
  •  Christo explored the spatiality of databases: the space occupied by databases’ technical infrastructure; the departmental spaces linked together by an institution’s (e.g., police or immigration) databases; and the geographic spaces from which data is drawn, and which are housed together on a database.
  • Chris, who worked for UNICEF, critically assessed his own team’s efforts to introduce digital kiosks and SMS-based systems to increase access to information and “mirror the work of public libraries” in Africa.
  • Danielle examined the evolving material form of the book, and how that morphing object necessitates changes within the institutions charged with selling, storing, and cataloging it.
  • Maria, a native of Bogotá, examined her city’s network of public libraries — comprised of dozens of architecturally significant buildings constructed within the past 15 years — and the vital role they play in civic life.
  • Stephen, who maintains his own extensive database of videogame artwork, considered the notion of “fidelity” in regard to the archived, born-digital image.
  • Kelly conducted fieldwork in public libraries in and around Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to see how teenagers were being served, if at all.
  • Ran examined the archival practices (including how various media formats are processed) and politics of the Lesbian Herstory Archives.
  • Darrell studied the creation of the Fugazi Live Series by consulting with the band and participating archivists.
  • Nick questioned the notion of the “document” in the work of Walid Raad and The Atlas Group.
  • Steve dug into the Stasi archive, focusing in particular on the epistemic shift – the intellectual “renovation” of the archives – that accompanies a regime change, as well as the political, cultural and affective consequences of that shift.
  • And Rory speculated on ways that libraries might make more material and transparent their systems for classifying and storing knowledge, particularly those forms of digital knowledge that seem to have no material body.

Fugazi Live Series from Bill McKenna on Vimeo.

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