Monthly Archives: July 2013

Merce Cunningham’s Time Capsules

Merce Cunningham Black Mountain

The archives of the Merce Cunningham Trust were recently featured in the literary journal n+1. Cunningham, who died in 2009, was one of the most prominent choreographers and dancers of the 20th century. The Merce Cunningham Dance Company and their archivist David Vaughan faced some interesting challenges in preserving Cunningham’s work. Cunningham’s style kept people guessing. He would try rolling a dice to determine which direction dancers would move their heads or limbs, or map movements giving only sparing instructions to dancers. Cunningham rarely explained or interpreted his work, not even to the dancers with whom he developed the pieces. And, although many dances were documented through photography and film, Cunningham did not make any authoritative choreographic scores.

After Cunningham turned 90 the foundation announced that the Merce Cunningham Trust would establish a “Living Legacy Plan” which included the creation of “Dance Capsules” online, where the trust would have overviews, music from the performance, videos, and any other information available about the performance reported directly from those involved. Interested parties are able to license the “Dance Capsules” to perform with the goal that performances be as close to the intention of the artist as possible. It’s an interesting model for non-profit archives because of the possibility to attract funds while building a legacy around the work. I also think calling these packages “Capsules” is a clever idea.

The archives live at the New York Public Library and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The NYPL finding aid can be viewed here. Images by Hazel Larsen Archer from the archives at NYPL were taken at Black Mountain College.

Merce Cunningham Black Mountain

Merce Cunningham Black Mountain

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Music Nerd Meets Archivist

Vinyl Image

Anti-Gravity Bunny is, to paraphrase it’s author, a music blog of one dude who loves sharing music that’s crazy awesome and/or under-represented. That dude is Justin, an archives student, and he’s not shy about his compulsion for mp3 organization. Justin’s perfectionist ways attracted me to his post “Music Nerd Meets Archivist: A Guide to Cataloging An Unwieldy Digital Music Collection.” In this guided tour of his personal library schema, Justin describes his iTunes protocols, tagging tendencies, and love of metadata. After reading of his scrupulous methodology, I can no longer describe myself as detail-oriented.

Below, I’ve outlined a few tips from the post that not only demonstrate Justin’s natural affinity and passion for archiving, but inspire me to rethink my own iTunes library practices. This is just a start, for more read Justin’s full post here.

On a related note, what 160GBs of music looks like.

5 Ways To Get Your Digital Music Collection In Order (Selections from Anti-Gravity-Bunny:)

1. Standards Matter

“Everything in my library from the moment it gets imported needs to have at the VERY least the artist, album, and song fields filled. If it’s in all caps, I change it.”…“I normalize the artist to match the way it’s represented in my library (add or remove “The,” etc).”…“If the song titles have track numbers, I get rid of them (and make sure the “Track Number” fields are filled).”

2. Fields Are For Filling

“I wanted to include a lot more data in the tags than iTunes would allow and there wasn’t much leeway with other fields. Like BPM.” 

Anti-Gravity Bunny Catalog

3. Develop A Context

“Every album needs to have the year it was released, the label, artwork, and a genre that’s meaningful to me. I also don’t just want the original year of release, I want the date specific to the copy that I have.”

4. Future Compatibility

“Just because I currently use iTunes, I know that the application won’t last forever (nor will my mp3s). So I make every attempt to utilize the mp3 fields that iTunes recognizes and none that other applications don’t.”

5. Make your work searchable

”If I’ve learned anything from this project, it’s that the “Sorting” tab is my best friend.”

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Meet The Cubies

The Cubies' ABC Front Cover

The groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show will forever have a place in art history as America’s grand introduction to Post-Impressionist art. Addressing those avant-garde artists is The Cubies’ ABC, written and illustrated by married couple Edward Harvey Lyall and Mary Mills Lyall and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons/The Knickerbocker Press. Though the book was intended as a criticism of modern art, I find its clever rhyming passages and imaginative illustrations to be playful and fun.

Scanning the book’s pages, you’ll see three Cubies experimenting with still lives and sculptures, yawning at traditionalists, literally eating words, and letting loose with a reckless abandon befitting the children’s book setting. Most notable for me is the lively vocabulary abounding in Mary Mills Lyall’s verses. With words like anatomical, limpid, ad libitum, and quixotic, you’ll want your dictionary handy.

The book was digitized by Internet Archive and is also available on Open Library. If you haven’t spent much time on Open Library, you should! Find more unexpected gems and keep me in the loop about digitized books that stop you in your internet tracks. Read more about the book and its reprinting here.

The Cubies' ABC

The Cubies' ABC


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The Original Instagram

Vintage Photo Booth

Sparked by these vintage photo booth pictures (and the recent heat wave), I have been revisiting photo albums of my adolescence. I am nostalgic for my days counseling at a day camp in Brooklyn, playing the Ouija board with friends on the stoop, rainbow sherbert, mid-summer crushes, and outdoor rock concerts. Recent findings have shown nostalgia can actually be beneficial in treating depression and anxiety, so I don’t see the harm in letting myself succumb to these warm summer feelings. More than old movie stubs and party Polaroids, what could be more nostalgic than the photo booth image?

The vintage photo booth pool is a compilation of scans and uploads from over 200 myriad Flickr members. The uniqueness of the photo booth image comes from its signature size, border, and serial strip. Photo booth pictures follow the theory of the rule of thirds, a guide to artistic composition which cuts an image into a grid. Often there is high contrast (a feature those who use Instagram know and love) and like Polaroids, tiny skin imperfections are hidden. It is no wonder that love the old chemical photo booths and their tiny rewards.

Näkki Goranin, for The Telegraph, wrote a fascinating history of the photo booth starting from the first photo booth vending machine by Siberian immigrant Anatol Josephop. The history is remarkable with guest appearances by Fred Astaire and Andy Warhol.

Goranin’s article ends the story at modern day photo booths, which have, like everything else, gone digital. Sadly, the days of darkrooms in vending machines are dying, but the magic still lives in these old photographs and the lovely people who collect and digitize them.

Vintage Photo Booth

Vintage Photo Booth

Plus, take a look at this catalog of photo booths in movies and television…and one more history of the photo booth with more on its various manifestations in pop culture.

Images: top identified as Pamela Des Barres; middle from anyjazz65, bottom from Hula Seventy.

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The Diffident Manifesto

No More Library Manifesto

When I started Library Manifesto up again as a blog, “The Final Manifesto,” by poet and essayist Joshua Mehigan, came to mind. “The Final Manifesto” was published in a special issue of Poetry magazine as part of a series commemorating the centennial of F.T. Marinetti’s “Futurist Manifesto.”  The poem can double as a list of all the fears and negative thoughts about blogging that have been running through my mind.  In fact those thoughts kept me from starting the blog for a year. I laughed when I first saw the poem, but reading it again now strikes a stronger chord. It is a reminder to push for something beyond the status quo and to break the rules.

I hope LM will find its place. In the meantime, I’ll learn to silence the self-doubts and be open to the next manifesto that comes along to replace this one.

The Final Manifesto

  1. We see you.
  2. We know who you are.
  3. Your ideas are worthless.
  4. Your aesthetic is stupid.
  5. Your “technique” is a welter of narcissism, superstition, and habit.
  6. All your little tiny ideas, all your whoring attempts at creation, and you yourself are nothing, nobody wants you, we despise you, it’s in our nature.
  7. You should be kept as a pet.
  8. You are a Philistine, the Paul Bunyan of decadence, an acromegalic fraud.
  9. You are a minnow, a speck, a stain.
  10. The genre humain is sick, and you are to blame.
  11. You are a necrophiliac.
  12. You are a museum of irrelevance.
  13. It will take years to make Art vital and important again.
  14. You are from this moment forbidden.
  15. As the Italians say, Parla quando piscia la gallina.
  16. We are here now.
  17. Our aesthetics is empirically grounded.
  18. Our taste will be raised to principle.
  19. You and your band of jays will be flushed out.
  20. Yes, Art is resurrected today: Victory is ours!
  21. History will forget you and salute us.
  22. Here you are, and here is oblivion.
  23. This is the final manifesto, and the only one.

        -The Final Manifesto by Joshua Mehigan

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This Old House

Abandoned House Archive Richard Pilon

I came across the Abandoned House Archives on tumblr one day in 2010 and the images of residences in ruin have never left me. The photographs say it all, image after image of distressed wood, fallen bricks, and paint corrosion. The only information we’re given for each entry is it’s Flickr photo credit.

I am curious as to what compelled the photographers to capture these subjects and am even more fascinated by the young woman who compiled them together under the title of archive. The blog was created by Dani, then a teenager with a penchant for exploring her rural Ontario surroundings. Dani’s blog introduction sends a personal message to the decaying homes, “Your inhabitors may have left you, but i never will.”

Abandoned House Archive Kevin Bauman

Abandoned House Archive Kevin Bauman

Abandoned House Archive tklarts

Images borrowed from top to bottom: Richard Pilon, Kevin Bauman, and tklarts.

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Wanderlist #1: Pentagram Archives

Wanderlist #1Often, I’ll sit at work and dream of traveling to libraries and archives around the world. A savvy traveler would have much to gain by adding libraries and repositories to their itinerary. This series will introduce you to great collections, hopefully including more than a few hidden gems. As my dear archivist friend Taz said, Wanderlist will be the Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations of library travel. No book unturned, no artifact undusted… let’s wander!

Pentagram Archives: London

Pentagram London Archive

Whether you are a budding designer or aesthetic zealot, the Pentagram archives in London might be your dream destination. The renowned design firm Pentagram was founded in 1972 in the UK. The collection includes four decades of work in brand identity, architecture, interiors, and products for some of the most prestigious organizations in the world and the archives likely adhere to the same high standards. If I could be hanging out there as I type this, I would.

If you’re not familiar with Pentagram’s design work, I’d like to point out one project which involved the archives of the New York Times. In addition to this impressive building facade, Pentagram created a program of environmental graphics for The Times’ 42nd Street building near Times Square. (Times Square is so named because The New York Times resided there in days of yore.) Pentagram created 800 unique signs for the interior spaces. Designers culled the archives of The Times for imagery that appropriately fits the purpose of each room or office. The images remind staff and visitors of the historic value of the newspaper. This project is a great example of using signage and archives to cultivate a positive work environment, plus it’s just sort of fun.

NY Times Team Room

NY Times Copy Room

Pentagram’s 40 years in 3 minutes chronicles the history of the consultancy and was made by intertwining images from the London and New York Pentagram archives.

Photos borrowed from Ben and Pentagram.

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Notes from the Farm

Field Notes Archive

In the spirit of Independence Day, I’m sharing an archive that is a tribute to hard working farmers who are an important part of American heritage.  The Memo Book Archive from Field Notes is a gorgeous array of farmer’s notebooks collected by Aaron Draplin. Draplin is a designer and the creator of Field Notes memo books. In the video From Seed, Draplin jumps from book to book describing each more enthusiastically than the last. Draplin is fascinated by the people behind the chicken scratch writing. To him, he says, “[the books] mean regular people working really hard.” The memo books were advertisements for new farming products and technology and included agricultural tips and measurement charts. The value of one notebook on its own might be hard to see, but together the collection of pocket sized books provides insights into the lives of American farmers.

These pieces of Americana are a meeting of tremendous graphic design and function. Here are a couple of my favorites from the gallery.

Field Notes Archive


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New Vinyl Library Lends Sound Waves

Vinyl Library

Though the shop sign above the library says “Luxury Interior Design & Joinery Specialist” don’t be fooled. The Vinyl library in London’s East End is the area’s first vinyl library and cooperative for music sharing. The library wouldn’t be possible without their enthusiastic members, who get to borrow for free, after making a donation. I have always found that music aficionados are eager to share their favorite albums, so it comes as no surprise that the library is already being embraced by music lovers. I’m not based in London, but I’ll be browsing their Facebook page for word about their DJ events and talks.

The Vinyl Library opens today (July 1, 2013). So Londoners, enjoy listening to Pink Floyd backwards and finding rare Beach Boys cuts, just don’t leave your borrowed items in the backseat on a hot day. Here are images from some of my favorite recently found album art.

Beach BoysBillie Holiday

On a related note, The Wire recently published a list of fascinating sound archives selected by ethnomusicologist, author, and lecturer David Novak. The list includes the underground Noise Cassette Archive, Cornell Labs, and The Museum of Endangered Sound. (If that name doesn’t grab your attention, check your pulse!)

Rolling Stones

Images borrowed from discogs and birkajazz.

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