Introducing the Philadelphia Social Justice Archives

Big news for the community collections-loving crowds among us: Today marks the official launch of the Philadelphia Social Justice Archives (www.phillysja.org).

The PhillySJA is something of an heir of the Radical Archives of Philadelphia (which is currently in transition). Working, in part, from the collection of the RAP, PhillySJA has begun scanning flyers “for the enjoyment of all”.

I hope you join me in wishing them the best of luck at this early phase. Certainly any words of encouragement would be welcome.

Keep an eye on this project:

Websitehttp://www.phillysja.org/

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/phillysja

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/phillysja

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Informed Agitation – Just Published!

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Informed Agitation
Editor: Melissa Morrone
Published: February 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-87-1

Great news for all of us interested in the use of libraries and archives for social causes: a new collection of essays, Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond was just published by Library Juice Press.

This volume features an essay on the Radical Archives of Philadelphia that I wrote back when it was a thriving daily adventure of community archival activity. (It has since gone a little quiet, but there are new plans in the works: more on that in the near future).

The introduction and table of contents can be read over here, and be sure to ask your local library to grab a copy. This is a great book for folks just coming into the library/archives world and who may be wondering how to use their new-found powers for good.

Lastly, there are plans in the works to build author events in the near future. Details, links, and all that will be shared as they become available.

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Interview with Activists Archivists

Activists Archivists

Introduction:

As a continuation of our ‘ask the folks who are doing it’ series of interviews, Kelly Haydon was good enough to answer our questions about the goings-on of Activists Archivists. Activists Archivists (ActArc) is “a network of media archivists who support the efforts of individuals and communities to voice their concerns and opinions utilizing all of the digital tools available in our age.”

ActArc operates with a model that I find particularly inspiring. They focus on empowering others to participate in archival processes. A very big thank-you to Kelly and the entire ActArc team for talking to Start an Archives!, and for the work they do.

All links below are supplied by Kelly.

Interview:

Start an Archives:  ActArc describes itself as “a network of media archivists”.  Can you say a few things about this model? Was this model formed in relation to perceived needs in New York?

Why Archive?

Designed and edited by the Activist Archivists and members of the OWS Archive working group, the card spells out the importance of groups taking responsibility for the record of their activity in simple terms.

Kelly Haydon: Activist Archivists sprang up organically through the collective concerns of archivists and educators affiliated with New York University’s Moving Image Archiving and Preservation (MIAP) program…so I can’t say we ever had any sort of formal model in mind (or that we have one today). The term ‘network’ is meant to be inclusive to not just those of us who actively organize projects and schedule meetings here in New York, but anyone anywhere who volunteers their time towards educating, training, and providing support for collectors of community-generated material. The term ‘activist archivist’, like ‘community activist’ or ‘environmental activist’ is less of a brand name than it is a general identifier. We do hope to evolve to a more formal committee structure, though, beyond a loose team of volunteers and into administers of a platform where other archivists and underserved communities can connect and engage.

The term ‘activist archivist’, like ‘community activist’ or ‘environmental activist’ is less of a brand name than it is a general identifier.

SaA: What type of formal structure would you like to see ActArc merge into? What kind of platform do you envision?

KH:  As for our future goals, we are mostly just brainstorming at this point. With full-time jobs, it’s hard for the volunteers to commit to high-level projects. Hackerspaces – such as NYC Resistor – are very much an inspiration, and we would love to see an “archivespace” pop up in the same vein, a physical space where people can bring items to be repaired, or work on their cataloging adventures, share resources, research, etc.

SaA:  To continue our history lesson, how did the group form? What archives/librarian training did founding members have, if any? Do you find that new people interested in Activists Archivists tend to come from the archives/library world, or are they more likely to be from the media world?

KH: In October of 2011, with Occupy Wall Street about a month in and Zuccotti Park quickly morphing into a pop-up village, Rufus de Rham, Marie Lascu and I – students in the MIAP program – were all fired up in solidarity and discussed how we could get involved as archivists. The three of us had been inspired by one of our instructors, Mona Jimenez (who we credit with coining the term ‘activist archiving’) and her commitment towards leveling the historic record with a balance of voices, advocating that best practices can and should be bent so that underfunded communities can participate in archival activities. I think it’s safe to say this drives most of the committed volunteers of Activist Archivists.

Best practices can and should be bent so that underfunded communities can participate in archival activities.

Initially, five of us got together – including the director of the program, Howard Besser, who has been the most vocal and visible supporter of the group – and discussed the logistics of setting up space on the university servers for ingesting Occupy related media content. A bit naively we assumed that, with the right kind of donor agreement, this offer of donated server space would be embraced by the various media groups related to Occupy Wall Street. Our role from there could be working with the media groups on an ingest workflow.

We had about 10-12 people attending weekly meetings, mostly student archivists but also educators and librarians. For the first year or so, a representative of the OWS Archives Working Group attended our meetings. Through her, we did connect with members of the OWS media groups. They did not attend meetings, but some provided great feedback and helped with editing our “Why Archive” postcard.  Overall all, though, the interest in the group during our early existence was almost exclusively from people in the library and archive world. However, through our relationship with Third World Newsreel (TWN) that is beginning to change.

SaA: Third World Newsreel is a major project for ActArc; you’re currently working to get their 40 year collection in order. Can you tell us about this? What are the goals, the timeline, how’s it going?

KH: It’s going great. We’ve been blogging about the process on our website if your readers are interested in learning more. TWN sought our help to organize and inventory elements relating to their Newsreel history. Newsreel was a collective in the late 60’s and early 70’s that produced 16mm short documentaries on social justice issues of the day. The films were then distributed as alternatives to mainstream media and education curriculums.

Newsreel has a fractured history and the elements – mostly film, but some video – are scattered in various locations across the country. We believe the bulk of the material resides in a storage facility in Jersey City and have been focusing on organizing the 10’ x 10’ unit. So far we have built shelves, removed chemically damaged items, and taken inventory.  This summer, we will continue with the cataloguing process and compile a collection assessment that will assist them with applications for digitization grants.

TWN also invited us to lead archiving workshops for their filmmakers. Rufus de Rham is our primary educator and he has given some great talks regarding digital issues, care and handling, metadata protocols, and concerns with ‘storing’ material on media sharing sites such as Youtube.

SaA: How are your projects chosen? Is the decision making of the process group collaborative? Do  you take suggestions and/or appeals for assistance from organizations?

KH: The core  team is highly collaborative and we do not take on a project without group support. Our projects fall into one of two areas: assistance and advocacy. Team members seem to gravitate towards one area or another. TWN sought us out, but we have responded to general appeals for assistance; we recently had a meeting with the Josephine Herrick Project after they sought for a volunteer archivist on a listserv.

Our projects fall into one of two areas: assistance and advocacy.

SaA: Under the list of Collaborators on your website, the “institutionally-independent” Occupy Wall Street Archive is listed along with well-established institutions such as the Tamiment Library, part of NYU Libraries.  You mentioned above that the start of ActArc was tied to the happenings of OWS. This got us thinking about the goal of the OWS Archive to own its own history, a concern stimulated by the many attempts by various organizations to collect Occupy material.

KH: In the first six months of our existence, Howard Besser arranged monthly conference calls with representatives at these institutions. All of them, save WITNESS, were collecting their own mostly-digital OWS material.  It was a phenomenon, all these folks having the same idea at the same time; every week we seemed to learn of a new organization actively collecting or requesting OWS-related material. This was disappointing for me at first, and I think for some members of the Occupy Wall Street Working Group, precisely because it didn’t feel like the movement had control of their own creative content. But then again, that was sort of the point of the open-sourced, free culture the movement advocated, wasn’t it? Who owns the narrative of an open society?  The topic was hotly debated in various meetings and forums.

It was a phenomenon, all these folks having the same idea at the same time; every week we seemed to learn of a new organization actively collecting or requesting OWS-related material.

That’s when ActArcs started thinking maybe we would be more useful as a liaison between organizations and Occupy rather than serving as archivists ourselves, using our connections as a channel for communication lines to flow between activists and these collecting institutions. In some ways we succeeded, OWSers in the working group began actively sending OWS links to Archive-It, a website archiving service, and for a time we assisted Tamiment with developing their ingest protocols for audio from the Think Tank group (some files were coming in without dates). But yes, there was strong reaction against submitting material to an NYU library, an institution very distrusted in some activist circles.

I can’t speak for everybody, but I found this pushback from OWS to be depressing, some so vocal as to cast us as enemies. We learned the hard way that what is in the best interest of the collection is not always in the best interest of a movement in action. It took the wind out of our sails and this initial mass interest in archiving OWS eventually faded. We do continue to keep in touch with collaborators and remain on friendly terms with the most active members of the working group, but no longer serve in an advisory role.

SaA:  Continuing on this theme:  as a group, is there any friction between the social justice goals you set for yourself and the repositories that you work with? For example, if you were to work with an organization to prepare their records for permanent placement, how much emphasis is given on ensuring that the repository is in alignment with the causes of the organization? Is this a current concern with the Third World Newsreel?

KH: Part of our communication between organizations and activists was trying to break down the concern of missions aligning with causes. The late Michael Nash, Director of Tamiment Library at the time, attended Occupy Wall Street meetings and took great care to answer the questions of the activists. He absolutely agreed that that their normal donor agreement would need to be modified, and that members of the group should be allowed to work with the materials.  Tamiment, a labor and social justice archive – and one of the few public libraries at NYU – was by far the most philosophically tuned into the OWS movement. But it resides an institution much reviled for its questionable real estate ventures.

It’s a complicated story. One that caused a great deal of stress on the OWS Archives Working Group who were pressured to find an independent space to store the physical materials, but were unable too despite many months of searching; but it’s a story better told by them as we largely participated from the sidelines.

This isn’t so much of a concern with TWN, in fact they do have many of their materials stored at the University of Wisconsin. With their collection aging upward to 45 years, the threat of extinction is much more palpable than the mass influx of data that continues to generate from OWS; preserving that history is in their list of priorities.  TWN is also not a movement, but a production and distribution company with clear ownership of their materials; the question of ‘who owns the narrative’ would not be as much of an issue under most types of donor agreements.

SaA: The structure of ActArc is different from a lot of the community collections that we feature here on the blog, and we suspect a lot of people will be inspired by your model. Do you have any final thoughts for people wanting to organize similar projects in other cities?

KH: Anyone is welcome to get in touch with us and brainstorm a plan in their hometown. We would love to hear about the challenges afflicting collections in other cities. I do think a good place to start would be organizing a community workshop on basic cataloging or preservation. This is a great way to assess the needs of the community.  We try to keep our volunteer work to basic spreadsheet inventory and storage organization and we’ve also helped institutions receive archive interns to assist with cataloguing and grant research. There is a fine line between volunteering and working for free, so we try to do as much training during our times as volunteers so as to empower the communities with the know-how to sustain their own archives. This general advice off the top of my head; we are feeling through our process through trial and error and would love to share experiences and skills with others.

There is a fine line between volunteering and working for free, so we try to do as much training during our times as volunteers so as to empower the communities with the know-how to sustain their own archives.

All are free to email activistarchivsts@gmail.com with any question they might have or join the Google Group mailing list: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/activistarchivists

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Community Archives and Larger Community of Archivists

A few  notes from the most recent issue (Vol. 13, Nos. 2-3) of Archival Science. (These are just the first two articles to catch my eye. If you get a chance, I suggest you read them, and all the other articles, for yourself. They’re quite good.)

I Thought I was Doing It For The Love, But It Turns Out I’m Just a Child of My Time.

Terry Cook, in his article “Memory, Identity and Community: Four Shifting Archival Paradigms” (pp. 95-102) writes “over the past 150 years have gone through four phases: from juridical legacy to cultural memory to society engagement to community archiving.”

A new paradigm, a new mindset, for archivists is currently emerging. This new paradigm urges archivists to “transform themselves from elite experts behind institutional walls to becoming mentors, facilitators, coaches, who work in the community to encourage archiving as a participatory process shared with many in society, rather than necessarily acquiring all the archival products in our established archives” (114, his emphasis).

Cook readily admits paradigms are hard things to pin down, and most of his observations stem from emerging trends in archival writing and published calls for actions. Still, his observations seem correct to me. When I first set out to detail the trials and tribulations of starting and maintaining community archives, I didn’t realize how many similar projects existed. So many, in fact, that much of the time devoted to this blog is spent finding folks to interview.

There must be something in the air. Or maybe people who become archivists these days are more comfortable with the idea that our skills can be merged with communities with whom we want to work (and promote). Whatever it is, it’s nice to know there are plenty of people to learn from.

Archivists Who are Activists Tend To … That’s Right, Actively Archive

Way in the back of the issue, S. Yaco and B.B. Hardy (pp. 253-272) examine “how activism by historians and archivists relate to and affects their work and how their work affects their activism”.

While it is important to have articles discussing what we mean when we say things like “community archives” and “collective memory”, it’s also rather tedious. That’s why it’s often refreshing to find an article that simply asks people working in the field what they do and why they do it.

Reporting on a survey of historians and archivists who consider themselves activists (“someone who takes part in activities that are intended to achieve social or political change, especially someone who is a member of an organization”), Yaco and Hardy relay that the “among the 76 archivists who responded to this question, the most common form of activity is to encourage activists and activists organization to preserve and retain their records (80%), followed by encouraging the deposit of records in an archival repository (66%a)” (p. 259).

It’s a heart warming thought: small armies of activist archivists running around saving records for the future. It’s also nice to be reminded that those of us doing this are not alone. There are many like-minded archivists out there. Some of whom we may meet in the process of our work, some of whom we’ll never know about. But the future is better off for our work, whoever the hell we are.

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Toward a Community Records Management Program

For all the differences between independent, community collections and established collecting repositories, there are some areas of definite similarity. Collection development is often one such area.

Donations to community collections often come, just as they do in many manuscript repositories, in spurts. Sometimes it’s abrupt drop-offs containing multiple boxes of unsolicited and unmarked boxes. Sometimes its almost nothing of long-term value, despite the time and effort spent working with the donor.

One area of collection development that we rarely see  in community collections (correct us below in the comments if we’re wrong) is records management — the systematic approach to the life-cycle of records, to help ensure their proper care after their use is done (paraphrased from everyone’s favorite glossary).

Records management programs help ensure (among other things) that records of enduring value make it to the relevant archives. Such programs often exist in highly structured, bureaucratic environments, such as  business and university settings.

This seems like exactly the type of collaboration that community collections — often working with (very) minimal budgets and staff — could use.  Many hands, after all, make light work.

Records Management Programs represent that type of collaboration that is sorely needed for community collections.

What would a community records management program look like?

So, what would a community records management program look like? For starters, it would probably only deal with the latter-half of the records cycle. For example, in the fast-paced world of functioning social justice organizations (or, place your-area-of-interest here), no one is likely to listen to us if we were to tell them how their records should be created. The form the records take will be shaped by the needs they fill and all other relevant considerations.

We can, however, ask them to hold on to stuff they make. We can explain that it’s important to capture a full picture of the organization. We can even work with them to explain what about the organization we hope to document, and help them think about which records best do this. We don’t keep everything and there’s no reason to pretend otherwise.

So a community records management program might look like this: Donors agree to set aside copies of relevant paper-based material (fliers, say, or meeting minutes after a certain amount of time), and/or send emails to a specified email account if the records are created and dispersed electronically. The Archives then does whatever it needs to — further appraisal, etc.

Yea, but how feasible is any of this really?

We’re a practical-minded bunch here at Start an Archives!, and we assume the same of you. How likely is it to expect anyone to set aside stuff? After some work in this area, our official answer is “kind of likely, sometimes.”

How likely is all this? After some work in this area, our official answer is “kind of likely, sometimes.”

But honestly, how ideal are most records management programs? People might set aside things for us, especially if we have a designated space for it to go. Playing up the only-set-aside-what-is-actually-important angle will probably be a bit harder.

Just like in other settings, getting people to do things for you works best when it’s very, very easy for them. If you’re interested in just keeping standard notices of activity, you can, say, simply subscribe to mailing lists, and keep those emails as a record of events.  If you know that paper records are created, maybe a designated box is a good idea: “when these are made and distributed, please just drop a copy or two in our Archives box”.

With more time, failures and success we hope this will be easier to set up (and articulate) in the future. Until then, let us know if anyone has this figured. We hate reinventing wheels.

 

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DIY Collections – a case against that term

By way of introduction:
I spend a lot of time here at Start an Archives! thinking about small, independent collections. I’ve tried out several names for them – community collections, independent collections, etc. For a while I tried out ‘DIY collections’.

The following thoughts on the use of ‘DIY’ to refer to community-created and community-held collections have been in the works for several weeks. They’re not fully formed (and probably wont be for a long time), but I thought it relevant to mention it now, as talk of DIY-ness has recently been floating around. Specifically, this and this and this (near the end).

On to the point:
Whenever records are important for a group of people, they will be collected. They might be kept in basements, attics, on bookshelves or hung on walls. What is important is that the records serve a need, and that need is answered by the group.

To think of these collections as ‘DIY’ is problematic.

When I’ve used DIY in the past (especially in relation to the short-lived Philadelphia Alliance of DIY Libraries), I’ve always meant it to contrast “established institutions,” staffed with professionals, with access to best-practice-enabled facilities. And often I’ve used to explain to other professionals what the projects are about.

Collecting pre-dates the professionalization of librarians and archivists, though. To speak of organically grown collections – collections that form to fill a need for a group of people, usually those who created them – in relation to later developments is to read the history of collecting backward. It is to prioritize a late development and re-read the history of collecting from an arbitrary point.

To take examples from other areas of life: it is akin to the rise of modern pesticide-treated food which now takes for itself the term ‘conventional’, and contemporary medicine that calls all older forms of health concerns ‘alternative’. In post-modern-speak, it’s the other-ing of that which is primary.

The professionalization of collection-care is important. I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t think that my training as a librarian and archivist didn’t make collections in my care better off. Believing this, however, should not blind me to the organic nature in which community use records.

It feels like it took me a lot longer than it should have to come to this, and there is much more to say on the topic.  Just thought I would share this quick thought, in case it’s a helpful observation to anyone else when they want to work with community collections (or start an archives of their own).

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Upcoming Interviews

Interviews take a while to put together and they depend on the kindness and generosity of very busy people.

We’ve got two in works now: the South Asian American Digital Archive and Activists Archivists.

Have someone else you’d like to see an interview with? Let us know!

Oh, and for Philly folks: Come out and hear about all the great folks keeping LGBT stories alive for future generations http://www.giovannisroom.com/event/archives-affects-activism-preserving-queer-and-trans-histories

Interview with Interference Archive

This is the first in a (hopefully) continuing series of interviews with folks who are out there starting archives.

Interference Archive

Interference Archive explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements.

Introduction:

Molly Fair, from Interference Archive, was good enough to answer the following questions about the archive. She was also good enough to answer follow-up questions and even more follow-up questions. Needless to say, we have much love for Interference Archive and what they’re up to. We also want to say that the model that they’ve adopted should serve as an example to rest of us as we struggle with starting our own archives. Read on to learn more.

Background:

Interference Archive explores the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work manifests in public exhibitions, a study and social center, talks, screenings, publications, workshops, and an online presence. The archive consists of many kinds of objects that are created as part of social movements by the participants themselves: posters, flyers, publications, photographs, books, T-shirts and buttons, moving images, audio recordings, and other materials. Through our programming, we use this cultural ephemera to animate histories of people mobilizing for social transformation.

Interference Archive is open to the public Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays 12-5pm or by appointment.

Interference Archive is located at:
131 8th Street — #4
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Find out even more from their website: interferencearchive.org

Interview:

SaA: A lot of people want to know how independent collections are started. Can you tell us about how Interference Archive got its start? How many people came together to form the collection? Was there a particular event that sparked the idea of the project?

MF: Interference Archive was started by Josh MacPhee and Dara Greenwald, who had amassed an extensive collection of materials including books, prints, music, moving images, and ephemera through their involvement in social movements, diy and punk subcultures, and political art projects.  Through their experience doing research in archives for a large-scale curatorial project called Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures, 1960s-Now, started thinking more critically about the ways these materials are collected, described, and made accessible by traditional institutions.  They started to envision making their personal collection into a public archive, which would allow these materials to be more accessible and the archival work conducted by movement participants with firsthand knowledge of the materials.  There were other models of grassroots archives that inspired us like the Lesbian Herstory Archives, which is also in Brooklyn.

There were other models of grassroots archives that inspired us like the Lesbian Herstory Archives, which is also in Brooklyn.

We found a space at a reasonable price to rent, and moved the collection there.  Initially there was a core group of four people coordinating (which as since expanded), with many others who contributed their time and labor.

SaA: Continuing with this theme, can you say a few things about any formal training anyone active in IA has in either archives or libraries? If so, surely this has shaped the project in a number of ways. Have there been anything that trained individuals have felt that they must ‘unlearn’ (dependence on funding and unrealistic ‘best practices’, etc.)?

MF: There are quite a few people who work in libraries and archives who are helping to coordinate the work of designing a database and figuring out our cataloging workflow.  However, this work is also conducted by others without formal training.  We are trying to think about best practices that would make sense to a wider group of people who will engage in this work, and don’t want to make these processes inaccessible.

We are trying to think about best practices that would make sense to a wider group of people who will engage in this work, and don’t want to make these processes inaccessible.

This is really a challenge, and at times we have to check ourselves.  However, a lot of us have had experience doing projects outside of an institutional context- whether from activism or art-related, so we know its possible to imagine alternatives.

SaA: Maintaining independent archives can be tricky. Tell us a little about any fundraising that Interference Archives does. Does IA seek funds through events or programming? Are there any paid staff? How does IA handle the need for supplies?

MF: So far we have mostly reached out to our community to donate, and around a hundred people are monthly sustainers and one-time supporters.  We are able to cover half of our rent for the space this way, and the rest comes out of  our own pockets.  The same goes for supplies we need.  We now fiscally sponsored through a non-profit, so we might start looking for grants, but that takes on a whole other dimension of work.  At this time, the archive is 100% volunteer operated- there are no paid staff.

SaA: In your forthcoming chapter for Informed Agitation, you write about how various activists have expressed interest in donating to IA. You write, “We recognize that there are limitations to what we can accept into our collection, since we lack the resources of well-funded institutions.” Can you tell us a little more about how you handle these situations? Do you accept donations? Do you work with area institutions to find other homes for material?

MF: We do accept donations of people’s collections, so far we have not needed to deal with any tricky situations- like someone donating work that is in danger of completely falling apart or needing special care.  We try to make clear to people that the space is hands on, so if it is something that can’t be touched or needs to be in some special case all the time in a temperature controlled environment, it probably shouldn’t be at Interference Archive.   We have allies in other institutions, so would most likely try to help find homes for these kinds of materials should the issue arise, while keeping in mind the wishes of the donor.

SaA: Philadelphia (always our point of reference) is home to a rich culture of collecting institutions. We have many repositories that have collecting scopes that overlap, to various degrees, with many of the independent collections around. Does IA feel as though there are ‘traditional’ collections (i.e. universities, historical societies, etc.) in New York that could be collecting the same material? How does IA relate to these organizations? Has IA had any contact or communication with these repositories?

MF: A lot of our focus has been on engaging in and building solidarities with movements today (such as the anti-nuclear movement in Japan since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the student movement in Quebec, the international Occupy movement, and radical artists in Mexico), which has also resulted in us accumulating materials that probably are not focused on by institutions in the NY area.  However, our goal is not just to focus on collecting.  We are interested in engaging with the materials in ways that build community and allow us to better understand our history and the times we live in.

However, our goal is not just to focus on collecting.  We are interested in engaging with the materials in ways that build community and allow us to better understand our history and the times we live in.

This is reflected in the kinds of programming we do with exhibitions, talks, films screenings, and workshops and inviting movement groups to make use of our space and resources.  Other institutions in NY probably have some similar historical materials, but their goals are not the same as ours in terms of actively participating in and supporting social movement culture.   We’ve established relationships with people working at smaller institutions outside of  NY like the Center for the Study of Political Graphics (as individuals we’ve donated our own artwork there for years) and at the Anarchist Archive at the University of Victoria in Canada (who have expressed interest in sharing information about Canadian materials in our collection).

SaA: As a follow-up to this, could you say something about how much attention the collection gets in relation to how the space is used for other events. For instance, is there a significant overlap between the people who look at the collection and who use the space for talks? Do you find that the collection brings a different audience than do the talks or film screenings?

MF:  In our experience the events serve to raise awareness within IA and externally about what is in the collection. Having events around these materials gives us the opportunity to focus on inventorying and describing materials of a particular subject.  After event openings people have consistently come back to the archive during open hours to do research with the materials, so again publicizing the materials we have through the events and exhibitions raises interest and awareness about our holdings. There is overlap between people who come to events and talks and people who use the collection.

SaA: To stay on this topic for a little longer  — and this question is meant to be a little controversial, but we  think it’s important — does IA (especially members who are trained in archives or library science) ever face the criticism that the name ‘archive’ is misused? For example, I’ve found that some traditional library and archives question the use of the term in alternative, community and DIY spaces because of the lack of sufficient long-term planning for the holdings. Archives, the argument goes, do more than simply collect and promote, they provide an environment for long-term preservation and protection, they arrange and describe to professional standards to ease the discovery of the material; simply having a collection of material does not make an archives.

MF:  We’ve never faced criticism for using the word “archive” inappropriately.  It is absolutely within our longterm goal to be an archive and to be a sustainable project. In fact many professionals who have come through have been impressed with what we’ve accomplished in such a short time with limited resources.

Many professionals who have come through have been impressed with what we’ve accomplished in such a short time with limited resources.

We are actively working to create a database to catalog the collection, we are investing in housing like flatfiles and archival boxes, and we are thinking about investigating other physical spaces to move to that could be more permanent…preservation and intellectual control are absolutely our goals.

SaA: One of the central aims of  the Start an Archives! blog  is to collect and share information useful for others to start independent collections. To this end, do you have any final thoughts, suggestions, warnings and/or advice for anyone else who would start a project similar to Interference Archives?

MF: It’s a lot of work, and therefore necessary to have a good solid crew of people who are invested in making the project sustainable.

SaA: Thanks for sharing your experiences, Molly! We appreciate your time and all the hard work you put into Interference Archive.

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…And we’re back!

As declared with some fan-fare a few months ago, the Start an Archives! blog relocated to the PADIYL site.

This was an effort to combine forces with the Philadelphia Alliance of DIY Libraries, and to create a more centralized locale for all-things-independent-collection-related.

Since then, however, PADIYL has decided to take a hiatus. The member organizations (nice folks one and all, be sure to visit their sites here, here and here) thought it prudent to focus on the immediate needs of building sustainable collections before moving on to umbrella organizations. No doubt a smart  move.

I mention all this to say: We Back!

And we’ll be celebrating by posting interviews with independent collections near and far.

Stay tuned for that!

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Moving to PADIYL!

We’re Moving!

We’re just about one year old here at Start an Archives! blog, and I’m happy to announce we’ve found a new home.

In light of our mission to explore the trials, tribulations, adventures and joys of community archives, all future SaA! posts will be over at the Philadelphia Alliance of DIY Libraries site. Check us out to stay up to date: http://www.padiyl.org/blog/start-an-archves.

See you over there!

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