Tag Archives: archives

The New York City Archives Map

natalie holding map image 8

Happy New Year! I’m so happy to start the year sharing a project that is very special to me and took over two years of head scratching, procrastination, and a good amount of sleeve rolling to complete. I unveil to you…The New York City Archives Map!

The map features items from eleven archives around the five boroughs.The archival objects were selected by a staff member or archivist of each museum, library, or organization. From an heirloom tobacco jar in the Bronx to a circus tramp’s jacket down in Coney Island, I had so much fun drawing and getting to know each of these amazing collections through one object’s story. The map is 16 x 24″ and can be downloaded here.

I want to thank all the archivists and staff members I corresponded with from each repository. Since I didn’t have space on the map to include their names I will list them here:

Natalie Milbrodt and Ian Lewis from Queens Memory, Madeline Thompson from WCS Archives, Stephen Sinon and Nick Leshi from the Mertz Library, Pamela Graham and Chris Laico from Columbia University Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research, Maira Liriano from the Schomburg Center, Emily King from NYU Fales Library, Ruby Johnstone from the Coney Island Museum, Alexandra Dolan-Mescal from Queen College Archives, Cara Dellatte from the Staten Island Museum, Nancy Kandoian from NYPL Map Division, and Jen Hoyer from Interference Archive
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A Plea For Peace From The Archive


In theory, archives preserve the stories of history’s winners and losers without forwarding an ideology or serving a fight for power. Over the last few months, the archive stories that struck me most related to the aftermath of misdirected political decisions and times of social turmoil. The first story, about volunteers who relay the trauma of Hiroshima survivors, made me think about the long term impacts of war. The second, a look inside remnants of Cold War era East Germany, seemed poignant given the current fears of a growing police state in the U.S. Both stories brought to mind the importance of archives in military and political history.

Summer 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the only two nuclear weapons ever used in war. Coverage in the New York Times introduced me to a special oral history project in Japan that involves denshoshas – volunteers who tell the stories of aging Hiroshima survivors. Before telling stories on their behalf, denshoshas spend at least three years shadowing the survivor. Giving the past a messenger keeps memories alive and human. The same way families pass down stories from generation to generation.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe is their first Prime Minister born after World War II. It is one thing to read about war in history books and another to have experienced war first hand. The Pacifist movement that came from the traumatic events of the war may be threatened by Abe’s reach for more military action with allies. In the U.S. I’m seeing a lot of politicians talk flippantly about the use of military force and weapons. In an Iowa stump speech, Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz spoke brutally about bombing ISIS. “We will carpet bomb them into oblivion. I don’t know if sand can glow in the dark, but we’re going to find out.” This draconian tone underlines the need to consider history, and the repercussions of military action on civilians.

Wars leave behind stories of people and survivors. Wars also leave behind stories about governments. The Cold War archive at the Wende collects these messages together and preserves them. While others were leaving the old German Democratic Republic, Justinian Jampol went deep inside, collecting remnants of the old Socialist Unity Party in East Germany. Jampol crept into abandoned nuclear bunkers and found propaganda and secret police materials. The Cold War archive now lives in Los Angeles. L.A. is an unlikely home for European spyware but many donations came from perpetrators who fear being outed in Europe.

“People don’t like to think about our past and sometimes how we behaved,” said Jampol. “But we need to because it’s only by that process of discovery can we understand ourselves and remember why we did the things we did.” The survival of these stories could serve as cautionary tales; proof that oppression and war have long lasting effects. We like to think these stories are history, but the language and proposals of today’s powerful say otherwise. Archivists should collect stories of those persecuted around the world and collect the voices of governments as they try to sway the public and create their own versions of history.

Artwork by Natalie Pantoja based on pin archived at The Interference Archive.

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April Wrap up

Robert Dawson

Here’s some of what I was reading last month. Happy (very) belated May!

NPR previewed a book of library photography by Robert Dawson. There is a lot more to America’s public libraries than the iconic Beaux-Arts buildings and marble lions in New York. The photos look like location shots for the next Wes Anderson film.

“Life is a walk in the dark.” I’ve listened to this amazing James Baldwin interview with Studs Turkel three times and counting. Baldwin would have turned ninety this April. To mark the event Brooklyn Rail discussed his legacy.

A team of experts finds that a papyrus know as the “Gospel of Jesus’ Wife” is likely not a forgery. The scrap is given thumbs up but remains controversial.

The NYC Municipal Archive added 30,000 images to their online collection. Last year I made a short tutorial for finding images of what your apartment looked like in the 70s.

Rare snapshots from Kansas City’s 1960s Drag Scene are where grunge meets glam way before either broke out.

In case you need one more reason to bring classes to the archives: this student found a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr.

The Museum of Natural History announced a major digitization project. The museum’s collections have been strikingly unavailable to the public until now. The museum plans to put one million images online.


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February Wrap Up

new manifesto newlights press

Here are a selection of the articles I bookmarked last month:

This Crain’s article revealed how a library renovation is bringing hope to local businesses and eateries that need to attract patrons in Queens, NY.

Speaking of Queens, History Pin showed up in Long Island City and helped digitize some local historical photographs.

People are using data analysis to show interesting relationships. Ed Summer’s data visualization shows how many times each Paris Review interview appears on Wikipedia.

Is the literary world elitist? Maybe the question shouldn’t be IS but WHY?

Carl Sagan’s wonderful response letter to everyone’s favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Cities start early bidding for the Barack Obama Presidential Library.

An Interview with Elena Bulat, a photo conservator. “I have my own favorite set [of] scalpels that might be used by an orthodontist.”

Test how fast you read! Tip: don’t rush

Photo: The New Manifesto of Newlights Press spotted this month at Berl’s Poetry Shop in DUMBO Brooklyn. “Book are more than text…”


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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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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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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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