I am not going to post my final paper in a blog post, but I do want to take a moment to end my semester of blogging for Archival Management with a short sub-discussion spurred by my paper. I decided to write about the challenges in archiving activist and ephemeral art collective/movements in New York City (either a group or archives based in NYC). The four feature groups I wrote about were Occupy Wall Street, the Riot GRRRL collection, the Lesbian HERstory Archives, and Interference Archives. In a separate paper I am writing for my research seminar, I am reconsidering Philadelphia-based activist histories of the 80s in curatorial terms… so there are a lot of activists swimming in my brain, and each and every group is being considered in terms of how they attempted to save their own ephemera.
What I have found is that there is no specific way of working among these somewhat similar groups– similar in that these organizations or groups fit somewhere outside mainstream culture, and all of which exuded a type of “do-it-yourself” aesthetic.
I have wondered for a long time what it would be like if Philadelphia had one archives dedicated to arts and culture history of the city so that places and diverse organizations like the Painted Bride Art Center, the Mural Arts Program, Little Berlin, and PhilaDanco could all be located in one place so that researchers could consider the history of Philadelphia-based creatives in context of one another. My research this semester has made me wonder if all of the collections I considered from New York City to Philadelphia could somehow be stronger if they were together. For instance, in my research seminar, my writing on ACT UP Philadelphia and ACT UP New York is based on my findings at William Way where Philly’s papers are located; ACT UP NY’s papers live at the NYPL on Fifth Avenue.
Most of this post is just thinking out loud, but I feel myself leaving this class simply wondering how archivists and public historians can band together to create some sort of unified resource that simplifies research for all scholars. Is this a digitial massive index? Is this a program much like the Hidden Collections initiative based out of HSP only nationwide? Or is it a mediation program where archives who have similar materials are offered a free mediator to attempt to combine collections in one place? I am not quite sure, but I do wonder if we can imagine together to take steps to be as accessible as possible. A little out there with big dreams for a last post, I know, but thoughts nonetheless.
In the meantime, I will be celebrating the end of my semester listening to Bikini Kill.