Yours for the asking

January 17, 2008

The August 1950 issue of Mechanix Illustrated weighs in on “the world’s largest strongbox,” or what we might call the National Archives. Don’t forget to click on page two of the article to watch documents go through an ordinary mangle.

[From Modern Mechanix, found via BoingBoing Gadgets]


Life Squared

October 22, 2007

Dante Hotel

After reading this interview between archaeologist Michael Shanks and visual artist Lynn Hershman Leeson in Seed Magazine (read it!), I got all excited and worked up about their Life to the Second Power (or Life Squared) project. This project brings Hershman Leeson’s archive at Stanford into the virtual community of Second Life, where the pieces can be viewed, experienced, and recombined by visitors.

A keystone piece of the project is a re-envisioning of Hershman Leeson’s Dante Hotel work from the 1970s (pictured above), where she created a “life” with what she placed in a room in a run-down hotel in North Beach. Patrons could get a key from the front desk, go up to the room, look around, and stay as long as they wanted. This work in particular seems to translate well to the Second Life arena.

Check out the Seed interview for an illuminating look at how an archaeologist and an artist look at archives. I can’t say I agree with everything the two of them say, but it certainly gets my archival blood flowing.

[Photo from a Flickr set on the Dante Hotel project, here.]

Summer dispatch

July 11, 2007

You may have noticed that this blog, like so many fashion magazines, has slowed to a halt in the middle of summer. As for me, I’m in the midst of a cross-country move, a career-track change, (more later) and some fun times visiting friends abroad. (I write this from a cafe in Istanbul. No joke!)

But I can earnestly say I’ve missed this, and great stuff around:

  • Sara Piasecki of Historical Notes from OHSU  posted a bit about this year’s RBMS preconference, including a post about a session on Minimal Processing . For those unfamiliar with the divide,  the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section  of ACRL covers a lot of the same ground as archival organizations, but there are precious few who are truly active in both spheres- thus, transparency and communication is, in my opinion, so necessary.
  • archivematica has a post about ICA-Atom’s GoogleMaps mashup. So cool. This isn’t the first foray into integrating geographic data with finding aids- I seem to recall a UNC project that integrated GIS data with finding aid indexes. Moreover, I’d look for more work in the near future that does this sort of thing- linking physical spaces and places with related archival materials.
  • And not really related but long overdue, check out Jeanne’s post on (and Google Code page for) ArchivesZ, a tool for visualizing collections.

And, I hate to even bring this up, Hip shushers. Sheesh! I’m not going to try to track the wide and varied, over-serious and goofy reactions to this. But I’m gonna give in and spill mine. The article seemed to deal first and foremost with NYC area LIS grad students, and not working librarians. I bristle at the idea of trying to live anywhere in America, much less in gentrified Brooklyn, on what NYPL and BPL pay their entry-level librarians. But what I haven’t seen addressed is that the newfound preciousness of going to library school isn’t about anything job or education related- it’s about a mass of college graduates, mostly female, with both real and percieved lack of career options casting their lot onto an arcanely feminized public serivice sector with a lot of inherent problems. I think that any enthusiasm or momentum coming to libraries and archives is ultimately good, but I also think that we should be talking about these things really critically.

(unofficial) SAA wiki is up!

June 20, 2007

I took a breather from booktruck a few weeks ago and ended up missing out in an exciting round of archivists scheming for future gatherings devoted to Web 2.0. Folks floated blogger gatherings, speed geeking, online tutorials, and an ArchivesCamp. Today, Archives Next and Spellbound Blog officially announced the UnOfficial Wiki of the 2007 Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting, an awesome stepping stone towards making this next SAA meeting transparent, well-recorded, and coordinated in our efforts. Of course, if you’re headed to Chicago, contribute.

Parsimonious Family Road Trip Brainstorm: Public Libraries

June 13, 2007


One summer c.1987, my dad packed the family into the Suburban and took us on a Ghost-Towns-of-West-Texas themed road trip. In addition to being completely miserable, it was also economical. I got to see the Marfa Lights (free) and got to feed a Lone Star to a goat (price of small-town Lone Star c.1987).

Matt Gross, aka the Frugal Traveler has an equally thrifty, yet million times geekier suggestion in yesterday’s New York Times: the public library. During his road trip to Columbus, Ohio he cruises by I.M. Pei’s Cleo Rogers Memorial Library, which in addition to being one of the town’s architectural gems, also serves as Bartholomew County’s main branch. Might I also suggest any number of the presidential libraries, such as the Clinton Library in Little Rock-the architectural features allow for the spectacle of a beer drinking goat with some history thrown courtesy of the National Archives.

The Convent

June 10, 2007

I’m not sure that I can unreservedly recommend the metaphor-heavy film The Convent (1995) by Manoel de Oliveira, but I can recommend its creepy atmosphere and the performances by Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich, who, honestly, I would watch do anything in any movie for any length of time. And most of all, I can recommend its cool monastery archives somewhere in an isolated nook of Portugal. Malkovich is a scholar doing some research there (but is he really who he says he is?) and Deneuve is his wife that may or may not have the hots for the creepy caretaker of the monastery. The archivist is pretty hot too, and Malkovich may or may not have the hots for her.

The archives pops up a few times in this trailer from YouTube. The archivist is the demure looking cutie with the long braided hair.

New Yorkery

June 8, 2007

Here is an interesting (and long) article about Austin’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center from the New Yorker. Fun to read for Austinites and library-school types that have been behind the scenes at the HRC. Presumably also fun for fans of Don DeLillo.

There is a nice description of how archives are organized and used, and what sorts of things might turn up in them, although the author gives the impression that patrons are able to just browse the stacks and peak into the boxes. I’m still irritated with the HRC and other fancy collections making the purchase of archives for high-dollar amounts instead of the donation of materials the norm, but hey, this is Texas.