Issue 5 · Fall 2015
Critical Perspectives and Pathways
As an archivist working with the archives of experimental artists and collectives, and as the founder of the Riot Grrrl Collection (which documents the feminist, punk youth movement of the early 1990s), I am often asked to comment on the theme of “Radical Archives.” I always wonder: What does radical mean in this context? Usually, radical refers to extreme political or social change. In the United States, it’s primarily synonymous with the Left, but in fact could refer to any extreme break with tradition or the mainstream. A radical is generally thought of as a revolutionary, someone willing to take extreme or even violent action to effect social change.
What, then, are the radical archives under discussion here? Does radical refer to the content of archives? To the activities of the archives’ creators, and the actions documented by archives? To the formats and genres being collected? Or can radical refer to extreme or activist practices in the archivist’s basic tasks of acquisition, arrangement, description, preservation, and access?