Cubic Footnotes: Documenting The Archivist’s Mental Marginalia

Cubic Footnotes by Janine St. GermainI’ve been working with a variety of archival collections since the mid 1990s and have always valued, admired and thoroughly enjoyed the friendship and curious work of my colleagues in the field of archives management. I am continually intrigued by the stories we share.

I have found that most every archive holds quieter stories that linger at the edges of the collection’s notoriety — stories that are often only recognized and felt by the archivist who had the honor of laying hands on each and every object in the collection. Quite likely, that archivist will be the last person who will ever handle every single item in the expanse of that particular story. There is a palpable sense of literally feeling and hearing a variety of voices when the first “untouched” box is cracked open.

My own work has brought me deep into the documentation of Frederick Law Olmsted’s designs of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the performance work of theater artist Robert Wilson, the artist archives of Robert Kushner, Christopher Knowles, Henry Darger and Nancy Holt. I’ve also worked with a variety of corporate archives ranging from documentation held within the Colgate Palmolive and Campbell’s Soup archives, to the personal archives of legendary individuals including NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Debbie Harry. As each year passes, I continue to ponder the volume of hidden stories held in these endless boxes of “stuff.”

Cubic Footnotes starts here with a variety of conversations with fellow archivists, artists, fans and frequent users of archives, as well as a few individuals whose life work has been preserved in archival collections.

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