Artists, scholars and activists are leading the way in the creation of new archives that document important social and political events. Increasingly they are filling some important gaps in the documentation of such events, particularly those resulting from major and rapid upheavals. Archivists working within the confines of established institutions and organisationss, places that are typically funded, resourced and authorised by national and sub-national governments, may be unable or unwilling to address these gaps for a variety of reasons. With the ubiquity of online tools, practically anyone can generate a documentation project that creates an archive.
This trend in the production of activist and artist-led archives raises all sorts of questions for archivists working in these more traditional archival settings. Should they be aiming to link-up with these newly emergent trends in the production of archives and urging their institutions to engage with them? What are the ethical implications of these new archival projects? Are the new forms of archive production ultimately a threat to established archives and the way they have traditionally functioned, or an opportunity? How will these archives be preserved into perpetuity if they remain outside conventional institutions?
Rachel Heidenry tackles some of these questions in ‘The Role of Online Archives in Contemporary Art and Activism’ in the January-February issue of Art21 Magazine.