For the last time. I will not repeat myself. I will totally repeat myself because there’s only so much I give a shit about, and within the tiny sphere of my giving a shit, one of those things is the popular association of the terms “archives” and “scummy basement.” Et tu, Popular Mechanics? “Decaying in archives” “race against time”. Et tu, SAA for dropping that into my Face-Book feed with a billion up-thumbs? THEY THINK WE’RE OBSOLETE WHAT ARE YOU DOING. Smh.
Cory Arcangel wants to keep dry-humping the corpse of Andy Warhol and that’s fine. But let’s not lump his grave-robber’s desperation in with real archives’ preservation and access problems WHICH ARE LEGION and some of them even get a “What’s up?” in Popular Mechanics. Open-reel video or reel-to-reel tapes of a format susceptible to sticky-shed, yes are in crisis mode. Nitrate film stock should be in cold storage, or just not stored. But my acetate reel-to-reel audio tapes are trucking along fine after 40 years of bad storage and 30 years of good. My VHSes, Betacams and U-matics are legible. My open-reel video shows no signs of sticky-shed. Let’s not run around with our hair on fire.
Finally, briefly, we also suffer here from the “If I’ve never heard of it it can’t exist” bias, which if you know the clinical name of, please educate me. Marion Stokes’ family dumped her WCAU tapes on the Internet Archive. That’s, I dunno, I mean, didn’t the Internet Archive advise them that the Penn Museum is the repository for WCAU-TV? Maybe the family called Philadelphia’s big universities, hunting for a good place to land Stokes’ videos, and maybe they refused.
The barest knowledge of who archives are and what they do, can we get that?