Category Archives: Personal Archives

Weaving an online textile archive

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This fall the Andrea Aranow Textile Design Collection launched Textile Hive, an interactive database and window into its digitized collection. The Andrea Aranow collection includes some 40,000 pieces from complete garments to fabric swatches, sourced from 50 different countries. Textile Hive was designed by Andrea Aranow’s son, Caleb Sayan, who started the project five years ago. With the application, Sayan hopes to broaden the audience of the archive to anyone with an internet connection. (You’ll also have to pay a membership fee.)

Aranow got her start in clothing in New York in 1967 when she opened Dakota Transit. There, her handmade leather and snakeskin garments gained the attention of high profile clients like Jimi Hendrix and Betty Davis. When Aranow lived in Peru, doing cultural research for a museum in the 1970s, she became interested in collecting handwoven and industrial fabrics. She traveled in South America, the Middle East, Europe and Asia, often with her two young sons, acquiring fabrics for museums and her own collection. That work grew into what is now one of the largest private textile archives in the world.

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While Aranow is still consulting in New York, Sayan moved the collection to Portland, OR and started building Textile Hive.

When Sayan began digitizing the archives, he had little knowledge about building an online research tool of this scope and size. Sayan tried finding examples of archival terms and taxonomies to work from. He looked at the cataloging system used at The Textile Museum in Washington D.C., but it wasn’t a good match. Sayan and his team landed on a taxonomy with over 19 categories, like culture, era, embellishments, and luminescence, and over 2300 terms.

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Sayan built custom software to create the experience he had in mind. “I view the application itself as an augmented tool for interacting with the collection,” Sayan said.

Users have different access points into the collection including by place of origin on a map or by cultural aesthetic. Another search tool pins textiles side by side for comparison (shown above). One cool feature brings researchers into the space, where they can browse virtual drawers and shelves that correspond to the physical archive.

Textile Hive was created for art historians and fabric lovers, but would delight anyone with an appreciation for beautiful objects. “I wanted to show how this collection is different from a museum collection, in that it had a point of view and was personal,” said Sayan.

The finished product is a multi-layered application, as unique as the archive it was born from.

Watch a short video about Andrea Aranow and the digital collection here.

Images courtesy of Andrea Aranow Collection/Textile Hive.

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Sound of Summer

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The best archivist I ever knew was also a coder and my best friend. Her name was Chloe Weil.

Recently, Chloe committed suicide. It is a tragedy for many reasons. She was stunning. She wowed people with her creativity. In everything Chloe did, she left a piece of herself in it. This made her work feel authentic, thoughtful and personal. Her work let others into her world. On her blog Chloe wrote 101-word journal entries, guided us through her artistic process and shared some really cool web projects. Chloe has left behind an online archive that is almost as rich and profound as the girl we loved being around. This post and my next will show off two of Chloe’s web based projects that expanded my ideas about sharing personal archives online.

I have been meaning to write about Chloe’s work on Library Manifesto for a while. I haven’t until now because she was too great a writer. No one could explain her work better than she did. Her posts were always humorous, conversational and succinct. She explained highly technical web projects in accessible ways and used her personal life to make web jargon more relatable.

"Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys." - Chloe Weil

“Above, I explain computers to a room full of guys.” – Chloe Weil

Chloe loved music. She was sometimes a human version of Shazam – she could tell you the name of a band or artist playing overhead at a bar. Chloe knew more obscure bands than anyone else I knew in High School and anytime after. Her love of music and web development came to a head in 2012 with Sound of Summer. Sound of Summer came from Chloe’s urge to catalog the emotions of her life through sound. Put simply, Sound of Summer is a personal music archive that lists Chloe’s most played songs in her iTunes library, every summer, starting from 2001.

Chloe tracked all of her music intake. In High School she began using iTunes data fields in ways they weren’t intended; tagging and organizing songs by when she listened to them most. Chloe wrote, “To organize music based on artist or album or even year released is extrinsic; the music has always been about me.” While others would balk at sharing such personal details of their life, Chloe embraced it.

I encourage you to look at the site. You’ll be immediately drawn to a stack of coral colored columns, each representing a year between 2001 and 2013. Select a column for a year, say 2012, and you are taken to that year’s songs, 74 for 2012. You might look for songs you listened to that year too. If you click on a song a music player pops up displaying an animated beating heart while playing back a snippet of the song. The beating heart reminds me of Chloe’s playful details. The project introduced me to some amazing music I had never heard before from bands like The Stranglers and The Go-Betweens. I learn about a new band every time I go back to her site.

“Do you remember in High Fidelity when Rob is organizing his record collection autobiographically? That’s the closest analog to this model. Each of my season-year playlists has the emotions and experiences of that three-month moment encoded into every song it contains. I’ve inadvertently managed to create a detailed narrative of my life just from the way I ended up organizing my mp3s. If want to feel how I felt my freshman year of college, I just filter my library for 2003FALL and I get all the tracks I listened to then, all the emotions I’d experienced, and the general mood of that period in my life. Say I want to re-experience my first year in Portland, although I don’t know why I would want to live through that again. I filter my library to 2009 and get 2009SPR, 2009SUM, 2009FALL, and 2009WIN. Say I only want to experience every summer of the past ten years. I filter my library by SUM and I’m having those rich emotional experiences again.”

I’ve listened to Chloe’s most played songs over the last 13 summers. I will never know what it felt like to be her but when I listen I get through to another layer of her identity. It helps me understand her a little bit better each time. Chloe made something emotional, scientific and vice versa.

Here’s Chloe’s conclusion from her technical write up. I’ve included it because I find it inspirational.

“There were entire weekends spent typing the same commands in the terminal, entire evenings spent refreshing the browser without accomplishing anything. But all it takes is one right thing to move forward, whether it’s modifying one line of code, or approaching your problem from a different point of view.”

Photo: Chloe and me at a summer music concert. Taken by Ruchi.
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Note to Self: Preserve Personal Triumphs

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Seeing a friend read an essay this spring made me think about personal archives in a new way. I had traveled to a gallery in an old industrial zone of Brooklyn to support my friend Megan, who writes about contemporary art and her life. When Megan got up, she said she wrote the essay she would be reading two years ago. Revisiting the piece the night before, it didn’t seem quite right. She decided to rewrite all the questions as declarative statements. I imagined her questions had been answered over time. Or, made way for different, newer questions. The edits seemed like signs of growth. Being in the audience that night as the writers and artists shared their completed works, I felt I was witnessing a small milestone.

The reading reminded me of one of my own milestones, a night the summer after my college graduation. I studied photography for two years as an undergrad, first black and white and then color. I had the idea to organize my first photography exhibition of my own work. My friend Dave kindly let me decorate his apartment on St. Mark’s Place with my work, and hold the exhibit there.

Matt and I lined Dave’s apartment with my photographs and some yellow tube lights. We blew up pink balloons and bought a box of cheap Trader Joe’s wine. My friends started to arrive, one by one, despite the sweltering heat. The photographs I selected were taken on day trips, date nights, or were just observations from my early twenties. The show was a milestone in itself of my growth as an artist and marked the end of my college life. It was also an excuse to celebrate the friends and supporters I had collected along the way.

When I decided to share the photographs on Library Manifesto, I found that I had done a disservice to my own archives. Many of the photographs taken the night of the show are missing! I’ve moved and purged multiple times since college and I’m afraid they might be gone forever. This is a public note to myself, and anyone reading, to remember to document personal milestones and triumphs with the same attention and thought we often give our failures. Jot them down, share with friends. Have pride in your successes (big and small) and preserve your personal history.

Here are a few photos of that night and some that were hanging on the walls:

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The People that Gave Us Great Music

Jason Lazarus

Inspired by a project by artist Jason Lazarus, Library Manifesto asked some friends to send in photos of someone who shaped their taste in music.

Lazarus asked people to send him a photo of the person who introduced them to the band Nirvana. I thought the resulting gallery of images captured quintessential ’90s adolescence and were a lot of fun to look through.

People form parts of their identity by finding music that they love. The photos Lazarus collected show other parts of this experimentation: teenagers hanging in basements, sporting XL tee shirts, blue jeans, buzz-cuts and bad dye jobs.

shoko music memorials

SHOKO My dad played me “Behind Blue Eyes” by The Who when I was in elementary school, and it went right over my head. Ten years down the line, he watched me smash a guitar-shaped pinata on my 22nd birthday.

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TAZ Here I am with my friend Lauren in 2003. It’s the summer before I headed off to college. We’re sitting in my bedroom with walls plastered in collages. A year before this photo was taken, Lauren and I first started to hang out. We immediately bonded over a shared taste in music and movies. I knew about Joy Division before meeting her, but she really gave fuel to the fire of my obsession with their music, and she introduced me to The Smiths and Modest Mouse. Joy Division’s vibe really spoke to our suburban ennui. We loved the darkness and danceability of their music.  Lauren did and still does an amazing impression of Curtis’ seizure-like dance moves. She can really kill it on the dance floor.

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ALEX I don’t think I can say that my brother, Eric, introduced me to any one particular artist, but he totally shaped my musical tastes growing up. I was always a few years ahead of the normal age curve of music nerddom because of him. When I was in fifth grade or so my brother got me into classic rock when the rest of my classmates were more focused on radio pop. Then, by the time everybody was onto classic rock in middle school, I was in my punk/proto-punk/glam phase. And by the time they were onto that stuff, I was listening to Eric’s Flaming Lips and Neutral Milk Hotel albums. The only things I liked before he got around to them were hip-hop and jazz, but he has since voraciously devoured both genres to an extent I never reached. I am the musician in our family, but he is definitely the greater music appreciator. I have him to thank for most of my musical knowledge.

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NATALIE This is a photo of my Uncle Harry and me at a softball end-of-season awards ceremony. I was a bit of a tomboy and he was our first base coach. Uncle Harry was obsessed with Fleetwood Mac. When I was ten he gave me my first CD, “Tragic Kingdom” by No Doubt. I listened to it on loop for months. I think I connected with Gwen on “Just a Girl.”

Top image from Nirvana by Jason Lazarus.

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Punk Papers

Mark Dirt Cover

Mark Morrisroe called himself dirt.

Mark Dirt, a new book, collects the writings, zines, and ephemera of Morrisroe (1959-1989), an artist known for his photographic experiments.

With Lynelle White, Morrisroe created Dirt Magazine, a zine of faux interviews and gossip with cut-out celebrity photographs. Morrisroe’s written stories and journals were stored with his ex boyfriend Ramsey McPhillips, who kept the archive for thirty years in his apartment. The papers have received little attention until now with the publication of Mark Dirt.

The writings are raw primary sources that appear as song lyrics or everyday rambling; one page from Dirt Magazine features a fanciful list of celebrities and what cigarettes they smoked. Medical records and letters from Mark’s friends, other artists and musicians, provide us with some insight into Mark’s life. The design of the book, with images bleeding off the page, is a nose dive into the mind of the artist with little guidance on how to interpret his retelling of the time period.

The book’s graphic designer James Brundage told LM, “it was a pretty interesting task – taking hundreds of TIFF files that weren’t arranged in any order and trying to piece together a narrative about his life.”

Morrisroe was part of Boston’s punk scene, made art, hustled, kept a diary of his adventures, and wrote poetry. He died from complications of HIV. Morrisroe’s art is in museums like the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles  .

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Mark Dirt Inside Spread

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The First Date Archive

Library Manifesto

Lots of young lovers keep mementos: movie stubs, tickets from amusement park rides, mixtapes or mix CDs, even receipts. I have collected them all and then some. In the case of my boyfriend, Matt, I am lucky to have something more unique; photographs documenting our first date.

For that momentous date in 2007, I proposed a walk around Brighton Beach, a boardwalk east of Coney Island in Brooklyn, to find something photogenic to capture for my black-and-white photography class. But Matt became my main focus and the scenery faded. Looking at the photos now, I find them romantic. You might be able to sense how shy I was, from the shots of Matt’s feet and the back of his head. I usually keep the photos stashed away but I recently scanned a few. I hope you like them!

Library Manifesto

Library Manifesto

Library Manifesto

 

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#NYFW: Textile Archive Inspiration

Blue Rider Design collection of Andrea Aranow

Continuing with the library fashion theme from Monday, today’s post is dedicated to collections of culturally rich and aesthetically diverse textiles.

If I had to wear the same thing everyday for the rest of the year, it might be an Aymaran poncho. These colorful textiles have a history dating back to 700 AD.

Andrea Aranow gathered Blue Rider Design’s large collection of unique and original textiles as a resource for designers. In 2011 she opened her extraordinary archive, in Portland Oregon, to filmmakers Aaron Rayburn and Ryan Bush. “They don’t change their mind,” Aranow says of her beloved fabrics.

Another short but captivating look into the lush Blue Rider Design archive.

The small city of Krefeld, Germany has been a silk fabric production center since the 17th century. The German Textile Museum (Deutsches Textilmuseum) explores this history through a large collection of fabrics made in Krefeld and throughout all of Germany.

A 900 year old sock.

P.S. CLOTHES: A Manifesto. What women want from the fashion industry as compiled by Rebecca Willis. “Women are deeply concerned about the behaviour of the fashion industry,” writes Willis. “Its impact on our wallets, our sanity and our planet.”

Image: Blue Rider Design

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The Joy (and dread) of Keeping Diaries

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Like many young girls, I started keeping diaries as soon as I could form sentences. At age 15 I decided anything I had ever written previously in a diary was much too embarrassing to exist and tore them up. While all of my diaries since have been equally embarrassing, I’m glad the same destructive impulse hasn’t come over me. There is so much humor in our younger selves. In hindsight, the problems that felt unbearable – “does so and so like me?” –  are endearing and a little insignificant. It makes me sad too, to look back on myself when I was feeling self-conscious, was too attached to certain boys, and made enemies of girls in school.

My birthday is on Saturday and now that I’m getting older I am happy to have these keepsakes. I can look through pages from an old diary and be right back in those places, remembering the sights, sounds and smells as they were.

I hope you will get some enjoyment out of reading these excerpts of my personal “archive” of diaries. I wish I could share the most embarrassing entries with you, but there is part of me that wants to keep those secrets and be a loyal friend to my former self. Besides, these snippets are cringeworthy enough for me.

On friendship:

Diary List

On boredom:

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On teacher crushes:

Diary Entry

On office jobs:

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And random doodles:

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P.S. Back in 2012, Flavorwire posted these images of the journals and notebooks of famous actors, authors and artists. Check out Marilyn Monroe’s penmanship and David Foster Wallace’s use of smiley face stickers.

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Carded: My introduction to libraries

Library Card

Library Card

My memory of my first library card is vivid. I was almost 5 and I remember what a big deal it was because it was the first card that was ever mine. It had power! With my mom at my side at the library information desk in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, a librarian gingerly guided me through the signup process. It felt momentous. Previously, I had only seen adults using cards like this, at grocery stores and banks. I was now mature enough to have one too. I even remember signing my name very meticulously, to avoid error.

When I was a little older, my brother and I put library card pockets in the back of all our books and called our friends over to borrow from our ad hoc library. Minutes later, our friends Abel and Elias had come down the block and were in the living room browsing our “collection.” I remember that as they took their time to make selections, my brother and I silently watched, hardly containing our excitement.

The library was where I learned to read and, as an introverted kid, learned about relating with people through the relationships between characters in books. Coming across this old library card brings back the fuzzy feelings I had about the library growing up. It reminds me to appreciate how our views of the library are shaped and how significant libraries can be in the minds of children.

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Music Nerd Meets Archivist

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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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