The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) is pleased to announce "Practitioner: Archival Futures in an Age of Transformative Change," a three-day symposium coinciding with the 2021 NYC Preservation Week. Unfolding through conversations, panel discussions, film screenings, and interactive sessions, the symposium will emphasize the importance of archival ethics and the embedded knowledge of both archivists and the communities they document, in an exploration of how technologies evolve and permeate cultural production and its archival corollary of digital stewardship.
Registration is free and open to all. Advance registration is required for some events.
Friday, April 30
Decolonizing Digital Memory: A Conversation with T-Kay Sangwand
Reparative archival work often draws our attention to the peripheries of historical memory. Those who critically engage archives necessarily contend with gaps and silences within the historical record, the elisions and erasures that evoke power structures and social hierarchies, while suggesting subjects and lived experiences hovering just out of view. The awareness of lost historical memory and attendant desire to excavate it spans the academic and the personal, with practices that mirror this spectrum of inquiry and care.
As digital collections and platforms have proliferated, so too have digital practices of reclamation and self-representation. Formal and informal digital archives have become a means of mending the historical fabric and creating space for counter-narrative. This has vitally reshaped our notions of equity and access in the digital sphere, and their afterimage in our collective digital memory. Taken up by artists, activists, academics, and communities, these archives extend beyond institutional bounds to powerfully center marginalized stories and identities.
The program will open with a conversation with archivist T-Kay Sangwand, Librarian for Digital Collection Development at UCLA, and ART President Amye McCarther. Drawing on her recent article, in which Sangwand positions preservation as an inherently political act, the conversation will explore contributive justice as a decolonizing strategy in transnational digital collections work and archivists’ role in envisioning and enacting sustainable and liberatory archival futures.
Collective Memory in the films of Paz Encina: Ejercicios de memoria
Lorena Ramírez-López and director Paz Encina
Remembering is recognizing that something is no longer ours. This documentary is the story of people who need to remember a specific "last moment", to remember everything. Agustín Goiburú was the most important Paraguayan political opponent for the Stroessner regime in Paraguay. He disappeared in 1976 in Paraná, in the province of Entre Ríos, Argentina, where he was exiled. Through the memories of Agustín's three children: Rogelio, Jazmín and Rolando, the film reconstructs the last images of their father. It is an exercise in intimate memory that tells the history of an entire country during the last 35 years.
This screening will be introduced by archivist and time-based media consultant, Lorena Ramírez-López and followed by a discussion with director Paz Encina. Spanish to English translation provided by Alana Santestevan.
Recordar es reconocer que algo ya no es nuestro. Este documental es la historia de la gente que necesita recordar un específico «último momento», para recordar todo. Agustín Goiburú fue el oponente político paraguayo más importante para el régimen de Stroessner en Paraguay. Desapareció en 1976 en Paraná, en la provincia de Entre Ríos, Argentina, donde fue exiliado. A través de los recuerdos de los tres hijos de Agustín: Rogelio, Jazmín y Rolando, la película reconstruye las últimas imágenes de su padre. Se trata de un ejercicio de memoria íntima que narra la historia de todo un país durante los últimos 35 años.
Este documental será presentada por la archivista y consultora de “time-based media”, Lorena Ramírez-López y seguida por una discusión con la directora Paz Encina. Traducción en vivo por Alana Santestevan.
Saturday, May 1
Adapting Technologies/Contextualizing Knowledge: Alternative Approaches to the Archive
The analog past haunts the digital present. Digital archives are often seen as mechanisms whereby dusty archival records are freed from their analog carriers to be shared with a universally networked public. This practice of digitizing materials has made information more accessible but has also resurfaced and reinscribed outdated cultural attitudes and legacies of harm in their contents.
This multidisciplinary panel will explore the adaptive capabilities of digital platforms that structure how cultural knowledge is created, disseminated, and preserved. Using strategies that de-center dominant white Western frameworks and respond to specificities of the communities and collections they serve, these case studies suggest how digital infrastructures support expansive readings of the past and present, and their transformative potential for the future.
Mindy Seu, The Cyberfeminist Index
Lozana Rossenova, Rhizome’s ArtBase
kYmberly Keeton, ART | library deco & BLACK COVID INDEX
Skawennati & Mikhel Proulx, CyberPowWow & Indigenous Digital Art Archive (IDAA)
Rayna Andrews, Archives of American Art (chair)
Human Infrastructures: Sustaining Invisible Labor within the Grid
Digital archives and preservation are often championed for their innovative uses of technology to uncover and leverage hidden collections towards new and more nuanced modes of inquiry. A burgeoning ecosystem of grant funding and project work has grown to eclipse the unsung maintenance, processing work, and infrastructure that undergird preservation in the long term. As technologies inevitably obsolesce, digital stewards find themselves in a tenuous cycle of upskilling to meet new challenges while retaining expertise in past technologies that may be required to unlock legacy media.
The past years have illustrated on a global scale the risks we face when infrastructure and maintenance are neglected, and the shock that registers when unseen systems fail catastrophically. What strategies can digital stewards deploy to bring visibility and value to their labor? Are there lessons to be learned from the experience of other types of care work–and its inflections of gender, race, and class–that can reframe how we articulate the value of preservation as a public good? What is at greatest risk of being lost?
Peggy Griesinger & Shira Peltzman, authors of “What’s Wrong With Digital Stewardship” study
Monique Lassere, Harvard University
Devon Olson & Jordan Hale, The Information Maintainers
Jasmine Clark, Temple University
Shannon Mattern, The New School for Social Research (chair)
Becoming Presence: Community Practitioners, Autonomy, & Embedded Knowledge
The ascendance of community archives is one that foregrounds concerns regarding representation, inclusion, and access that are particularly resonant in our current moment. Existing outside the aegis of major institutions, these archives often serve a reparative function, with collecting areas historically deemed less worthy of preservation often deliberately framed to circumvent systems that deter access and engagement by community stakeholders. The dichotomy of resources flowing to major institutions while community-based organizations remain constrained by their relatively diminutive capacity persists, maintaining a glass ceiling at odds with the urgent need for cultural equity and reciprocity.
This panel explores models of community archiving and engagement that navigate issues of autonomy, capacity, precarity and resilience. Practitioners will discuss the advantages and tradeoffs of working independently, successful strategies they’ve developed to serve specific constituencies’ needs, and how the embedded knowledge of community members and the expertise of archivists uniquely intersects within this sphere.
Sarah Dupont, librarian, Indigitization program, Xwi7xwa Library
Nicole Marroquín, artist-educator, School of Art Institute of Chicago
Yvette Ramírez, oral historian-archivist, University of Michigan
Cynthia Tobar, Bronx Community College, CUNY (chair)
Sunday, May 2
Workshop: Design Justice + Accessibility
Alex Locust, Spill the Disabili-Tea™
Digital access to cultural heritage materials has come to prominence alongside explosive growth in connectivity, and with it the promise of expanded access to networked publics. Yet the idealism often associated with technological innovation at GLAM institutions has also often failed to recognize the needs of disabled users, staff, and other stakeholders in the design and implementation of these systems. How can frameworks of disability justice inform our practices and advocacy as we work towards more inclusive access in the digital sphere and holistically throughout our institutions?
Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and proud multiracial "glamputee" Alex Locust approaches disability education and advocacy from a "practice makes perfect" perspective. His Spill the Disabili-Tea™ workshop is a fabulous opportunity to dive into the magic of disability justice through interactive discussions of disability justice for those committed to elevating their support for disabled folks in their community. Using his lived experience, education, and advocacy know-how, Alex will lead a candid conversation exploring questions of navigating the cultural experience of disability and its intersection with other identities, raising awareness of microaggressions, and integrating disability justice into workplace culture and community gathering and celebrations, and more.
Come join Alex for an afternoon of real talk, experiential exercises, group work, and lots of laughs as we all Spill the Disabili-Tea™!
Foodways Preservation: Conversation + Demo
Chef BJ Dennis, Porscha Williams-Fuller
Foodways heritage, one of the most elemental pieces of our cultural fabric, is also one of the most intangible, leaving few archival traces of its evolution over time. Knowledge and practices are passed down outside the auspices of institutions, within farms, community gardens and seed libraries, home kitchens, and restaurants, and have increasingly found purchase within digital culture as well. Responding to historical movements of migration and cultural cross-pollination, and more recent concerns over food sovereignty in a time of climate change, these activities constitute an informal network of preservation and access to foodways, culture, and history that might otherwise be hidden or lost.
This conversation and cooking demonstration will explore how African American foodways and culture have persevered outside traditional archives and shared through generations. Join us in the kitchen and stay for a fruitful conversation on food sovereignty, low-country Gullah culture, and Southern food history.
Major funding for “Practitioner: Archival Futures in an Age of Transformative Change” is generously provided by MetLife Foundation. Graphic identity by Isabel Lederman.