Sharing Wisdom in an Archives, a Strange Kinship

With each archival collection I process, another voice enters my head, along with another piece of wisdom.  Ideas from a long lost soul have landed in my hands, before landing in the hands of countless others.  This is strange kinship seeps into my consciousness.  A voice, a thought, an image from a distant time.

Advice, notes and doodles – written by Laurence W. Benét, uncle of poet Laura Benét, regarding how to manufacture the French-Hotchkiss machine gun. Guide to the Benét Family Papers, Vassar College

Are these errant pieces of mental marginalia I collect beginning to coalesce into one shared memory, hailing from all the collections on which I work.  Could there be such a think as an archival murmuration? A flock of ideas morphing into a particular spectacular pattern?

An “emergence” is a “collective phenomena or behaviors in complex adaptive systems that are not present in their individual parts.” (“Emergence: A unifying theme for 21st century science,” David Pines, Santa Fe Institute).  I think I may, on occasion, experience an emergence when I am driven to make art while processing an archives.

Sometimes the stories begin to overlap, speak to each other, or elaborate further. Common themes are revealed.  The cardio arrhythmia scholar that sees beauty in the darkend streets of Manhattan after dusk.  The cultural anthropologist that recognizes the evolution of humanity as influenced by surrounding visual input.  The poet, haunted by her airy delicate dreams — seen “spilled into the sky.”

Each of these voices appears to me to be reaching for their purest form of thought.  The essence of their own creative arc.

And the tangible result of all of this, for me personally, comes forth in the art I create, images that surface in my mind at the end of any given work day.

artwork by Janine St. Germain


Pity the Moon
by Laura Benet
A withered crone is the moon to-night
Bent, unloved and proud,
Shuffling in the windy light
Through dipping vales of cloud.
Her dreams, her airy, delicate dreams
Are spilled into the sky;
And, failing the touch of their brittle gleams,
Moon will dwindle and die;
Greedy stars clutched them as they fell
From the rim of the white, torn track,
But her yawning pocket holds no spell
To conjure her silver back.




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