Novak – Question 4
4How is an archive’s radicality or radical potential affected by relationships with users, collaborators, communities, and/or other institutions, in your experience?
Joy R. Novak
Collections Manager – Center for the Study of Political Graphics
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 As I discuss in response to question three, I believe the strength of an archive’s radicality is in its ability to build relationships and movements in the community. I believe there are many people who very much love and feel comfortable in the reading rooms of more traditional archival repositories—many who even get a thrill out of how “official” the procedures are to view items. When I was an undergraduate visiting the special collections for the first time, I remember how that sense of importance surrounding the reading room excited me; in fact, it was one of the reasons I wanted to be an archivist. However, I believe those same rules and procedures are often intimidating to many users and can discourage them from visiting archives, even when they may benefit from the materials. From my experience, radical archives have more extensive programming outside the archives, often in more community settings, which can introduce new audiences to archives or archival materials for the first time. For example, an institutional archive may have some exhibitions, but they are often limited to spaces within the institution, and cannot travel extensively—especially to community venues such as public libraries, community centers, or book fairs.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Similarly, because radical archives may not face the same institutional restrictions, they can often incorporate more community perspectives through collaborations. For example, when developing new premiere exhibitions, CSPG convenes a community advisory panel consisting of activists, artists, academics, and organizational leaders, with a focus on the exhibition topic to assist with curatorial decisions and programming. For example, with our exhibition, Out of the Closet and Into the Streets: Posters on LGBTQ Struggles and Celebrations, the community advisory panel helped identify topics that needed to be addressed within the exhibition, organized video oral histories with community activists to provide additional context for the posters in the collection, and participated in a panel discussion about the exhibition. We also organized poster- and stencil-making workshops at two LGBTQ youth organizations, then integrated the youth’s stencils into the installation design. This collaboration dramatically contributed to the final exhibition and program. The community advisory panel also helped identify new acquisitions for the collection, enabling us to fill gaps in the exhibition and CSPG’s collection.