No Dust in the Digital Archive?

Monday November 26, 2012: 10 am–5 pm

Remis Auditorium, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston MA 02115

Over the past few decades, the traditional space of the archive—physical and dusty— has sparked alternative knowledge and possibilities to contest history in the hands of visual artists and cultural activists. The archive has been mined and interrogated as actively for what it misses and hides as for what it displays and protects. More recently, following a desire for democratization, supported by a wide and effective dissemination of information and technologies to upload and store data, the static authority of the archive has been redirected to a participatory and mutable status. The production and use of contemporary digital archives problematizes notions of copyright, accessibility and permanency, offering a new form to connect with our past.


Alloy Orchestra, Man With The Movie Camera

Jessica Borusky, Feminist Inquiry, Artistic Practice, and the Archive

Bonnie Donohue, Killing Mapepe: Sex and Death in Cold War Puerto Rico

Marianne Hirsch, Connective Memories, Digital Archives

Mike Mandel, They Came to Baghdad

Susan Meiselas, Aka Kurdistan

Chantal Zakari, They Came to Baghdad

Introductory remarks will be given by Carla Herrera-Prats, Graduate Program Director of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Thanks to support from Jim Dow (Critical studies and Photography faculty), Jack Neylan (MFA ‘13) and Sarah Pollman (MFA ‘13).

Further Resources

Readings Related to the Archive

Archive Stories: Facts, Fictions and the Writing of History, ed. Antoinette Burton. Duke University Press, 2005

Dust: The Archive and Cultural History, Carolyn Steedman. Rutgers University Press, 2002

Blank Spots on the Map: The dark geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World, Trevor Paglen. Dutton, 2009.

Torture Taxi: On the trail of the CIA’s rendition flights, Trevor Paglen and A.C. Thompson. Melville House Publishing, 2006

I could tell you, but then you’d have to be destroyed by me, Trevor Paglen. Melville House Publishing, 2007

The Archive (Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art), ed. Charles Merewether. MIT Press, 2006.

An Atlas of Radical Cartography, ed. Lize Mogel and Alexis Bhagat. The Journal of Aesthetics Protest Press, 2007.

Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, and Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, Lawrence Weschler. Vintage Press, 1996.

Online Archives

Prints and photographs at the Library of Congress
Mexico Under Siege: The Drug War At Our Doorsteps at the LA Times
The best collection of academic texts online:
The most crazy picture of the day by NASA
Most important archives of the US: The digital vaults
The Internet Archive
The Prelinger archives

Artists Related to the Archive Organizations

Ashley Hunt

Trevor Paglen

Lorie Novak

Andrea Geyer

Sean Dockray


The Center for Short-Lived Phenomena, housed at the Smithsonian Institution from 1965 to 1978
The Center for Land Use Interpretation
The Museum of Jurrasic Technology

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