Archived Course: Archives, Libraries + Databases

Graduate seminar elective

“There has been more information produced in the last 30 years
than during the previous 5000.”

We’ve all heard some variation on this maxim. As U.S. publishers add 250,000 printed books and close to 300,000 print-on-demand books to our libraries each year; as we find ourselves wading through over 200 million websites; as we continue to add new media – from Tweets to Apps to geo-tagged maps – to our everyday media repertoires, we continually search for new ways to navigate this ever more treacherous sea of information. Throughout human history we have relied on various institutions and politico-intellectual architectures to organize, index, preserve, make sense of, and facilitate or control access to our stores of knowledge, our assemblages of media, our collections of information. This seminar looks at the past, present, and future of the library, the archive, and the database, and considers what logics, priorities, politics, audiences, contents, aesthetics, physical forms, etc., ally and differentiate these institutions. We will examine what roles the library, archive, and the database play in democracy, in education, in everyday life, and in art. Throughout the semester we’ll examine myriad analog and digital artworks that make use of library/archival material, or take the library, archive, or database as their subject. Some classes will involve field trips and guest speakers. Students will have the option of completing at least one theoretically-informed creative/production project for the class.

I was invited to talk about our work in this course at the 2014 Digital Preservation conference at the Library of Congress (talk + slides here), on the LOC’s Signal blog, and at the 2015 New York Art Resources Consortium conference at the Museum of Modern Art (talk + slides here). Archivist Extraordinaire Rick Prelinger has also had some nice things to say about the course:

Fall 2014: Syllabus | Course Website

Fall 2013: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Fall 2012: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects

Spring 2011: Syllabus | Course Website | Recap of Semester + Student Projects