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Unfortunately I was unable to attend the class visit to the Games Archive in Brooklyn with the class on Monday, so I am reflecting on my experience at the Interference Archives from last Saturday. The Interference Archive was a decently long run away, but it was worth it upon arrival. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the reality defeated any possible notions that I had. I went in expecting a library sort of edifice with boxes and books in careful array but this was not the case. The archive consisted of a rather small space filled to the brim with boxes and books but the array felt not-so-careful. Because the archive, home to various ephemera from different social movements throughout history, is a grassroots archive, meaning that it is entirely volunteer run, the boxes of materials could actually be rearranged by researchers depending on what they deemed the most appropriate organization of the artifacts. Though having read about grassroots archives in class, I knew that the archivist would be a volunteer, unpaid, member of the community, I did not think that she would be as passionate about helping and teaching us as she was. When I arrived, I came in with the idea that I would look at photographs, seeing this as ephemera and deeming it relevant to my vain of research and thus thinking that it may provide some sort of background understanding for my later archive visits to the NYPL Riis papers. She directed me immediately to the boxes of images (of which there were actually not that many which I found somewhat surprising). After looking through a few of the boxes that she directed me towards, I ended up veering, rather, towards some of the ephemera that spoke to personal interests aside from my research paper. I loved looking through the buttons, especially those of Nelson Mandela, him holding a special place in my heart as an incredibly inspirational figure and leader and role model for myself and my mother. The buttons were sorted alphabetically in many boxes but placed on notecards so as to sort them by category. I appreciated this and also the large scope of topics and the varying levels of seriousness. Some were comical and light hearted, others heavier and more depressing, and more were very passionate about a cause and radical in their portrayal.
I also loved exploring the zines in the archive. I personally appreciated this so greatly because I am in the process of making a zine myself for Gallazine (a new club in Gallatin dedicated to the creation of and demonstration of zines and subcultures). The many boxes of zines from a huge number of movements—mostly Riot Grrrl, however, were sorted alphabetically but also by size. I collected much inspiration for content and aesthetic for my zine after scoping out those.
I forgot to take a picture, but this is one of the buttons featured in the collection…
I really enjoyed the visit to the Game Archive at Polytech. I had no idea that NYU had such a thing, and such an elaborate and extensive collection at that. I really enjoy games, both video games and board games, so it was really exciting for me to learn that NYU had so many of them at our disposal. Learning about all the different games and how they were archived was really interesting, and something that I was very unfamiliar with before the visit. Most of collections in the archive are digital games, so they have a couple different methods and game counsels that students can use to play the games. However, they don’t have all the counsels for all the games available so they emulators. Emulators simulate different consoles through the computer, so that you can play any video game even if you don’t have the console that is supposed to be played on. I didn’t know about emulators until my visit to the archive, so I was really surprised that such a thing existed. It’s interesting to see how much we can do with technology, and how we can use new technology and make it compatible with old technology (such as the console needed to play these games).
However, using an emulator changes how the game functions and how it is played because it is not being played using the correct console. Using the correct console would allow the video game to be played how it was originally intended to be played. Using an emulator, though it is acting as a console and in place of a console, still changes the experience of the game from how it was originally intended to be played. However, using an emulator allows more people to access and play the game. This is similar to the question on digitalizing documents and items from an archive. Though one allows for more accessibility to the item/game, it changes it from its original purpose/use. Therefore, even though people are able to play a certain video game without the given console, is it really worth playing the game if you’re not going to get the “authentic” experience? I think it’s interesting to think about what you will gain from getting a second-hand experience, versus a first hand one and if there is still merit in having the second-hand experience. Similar to sources however, it is important to get primary sources but using secondary sources is also beneficial. I think that if someone had the experience of playing the game on the original console, and then used an emulator it would be fine but only playing the game on the emulator can/will disrupt one’s perception of the game– possibly changing the overall perception of the game which is detrimental to the game itself.
We visited the NYU Game Center, and it is also an archive for games. the game center was founded in 2008, and opened to the public in 2009. The original purpose of this library is to serve the Game Design Program in Tisch. Currently, it is also an open library to the public, as an entertainment center, as well as a study center. The library contains not only video games on a variety of platforms but also different non-digital board games. Most of the collections there are digital games. The library is trying their best to allow visitors to experience the real gaming experience of different games, and also offer visitors accounts for online games. There are also emulators installed on computers and televisions to allow visitors to experience games on different platforms on the same system. For example a PSP emulator on computer can let people to experience PSP games through a desktop. Although all games in the game center can only be played in the center, preservation is still a crucial problem for the center. Digital games are easier to preserve, since some games can be copied on hard-drives, and CDs are also easy to preserve. On the other hand, board games are very vulnerable. The librarian mentions that they periodically clean their games, in order to keep them under the best condition. Even though, board games are vulnerable, and are easy to be damaged. The game center, therefore, has to make sure that they have one copy preserved in their storage rooms.
One special difference that a game archive has is the relationship between non-digital game and digital game. In normal archives, digital documents increase the accessibility of the physical documents, but physical documents have their own texture that digitization can never mimic. On the other hand, board game and video game have a different relationship. board game is actually the foundation of video game. The librarian mentions that board game is the best way for students to study game, before they actually making a real video game. Back to my own research project. My project is focusing on modern and classic music. Classic music is always using sheet music, and modern music more often preserved as digital format. This might also be a relationship between sheet and digital music. All composers start from sheet music. Although it is easier to spread digital music, all musicians have to learn how to read sheet music first. Sheet music then is like a foundation of digital music, and it is easier for musicians to analyze or study music through sheet music than through digital music. I am expecting to bring this relationship between digital and non-digital documents into my discussion of musicology, the study of music and society. Furthermore, I also realize that digital music has better compatibility, comparing to sheet music. For example, only digital music can cooperate with video games, or being presented to others. Classic music does not have that much digital formats, which are seldom being used with video games.
The trip to the archive was very interesting and satisfied a lot of my questions about video game archives. Towards the beginning of the semester, when I first heard we were visiting the NYU video game archive, I thought to myself “how does someone archive a video game.” After the visit, I learned that a video game is archived via various digital plat forms. Most of the videogames are on discs, which can then be inserted into their respective consoles in order to play them. However, not every game is available on discs, or their consoles are hard to find. This is where emulators on computers are used to be able to recreate the game without either the disc or the console. The importance of this is to actually make the game playable. There is no point in archiving video games if there is no way to play it. One issue with emulators, as mentioned during the visit, is that the essence of the video game is lost to an extent. You do not get the same feel as playing it on the original console. As far as archiving goes, are emulators at a lower standard than consoles? Or is the fact that they make the game playable adequate enough? Another hardship of the open library is the rapid change of digital technology. Despite the short history of videogames (since around the 1970’s or even earlier), technology and mediums of videogame playing seem ancient from a modern perspective.
In order to relate this to my research topic, I want to talk about the essence of the archive. Playing videogames on emulators, or even playing old video games on new consoles that have backwards compatibility (i.e playing an xbox game on the xbox 360) ruins the essence of playing that game for the first time. What makes people love certain video games and have a passion to start an open library and archive video games is the experience of playing those games for the very first time. In my research, I have watched many videos of punk concerts. Obviously watching these videos is nothing like watching these concerts in person for the very first time. The essence and the love for these concerts, artists, and musical genre is what causes people to create these types of archives. My interest in mmo games and League of Legends is what prompted my question on how these types of games can be archived.
I was unable to visit the Interference Archive last weekend, but I found the Yellow Pearl Box Set, from the Archive’s online features really interesting. A “multi-media expression of the East Coast Asian American movement’s politics of coalitional, anti-imperialist solidarity,” the materials are part of a ephemera collection from Brooklyn’s Interference Archive entitled Racial Justice.You too can check this out by clicking here. I found it really fascinating that the materials spanned various forms, from handouts to booklets to loose-leaf illustrations. In doing so these materials advocated for the same peoples, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and Korean American subjects. I think these materials seemed so striking to me because I’ve never really ever seen anything like them before. Practical yet powerful. Simple and to the point. I feel like these kind of political handouts, like zines even, have become rather forgotten. Perhaps they could make a comeback in a place like Washington Square Park where just last weekend people were fighting over Donald Trump, writing his name in chalk on the ground and then crossing it out and wiring “deport” above it. Perhaps this same sort of political debate could be pushed into a more eloquent approach, prose and poetry and lyrics like found in Yellow Pearl.
In my own research, which I hope to be doing soon at the NYPL, I will be looking through the same sort of ephemera except in a more personal form. The Kerouac Papers consist of many forms of ephemera, from calendars and receipts to notes and letters. Like the archivists at the Interference Archive did for their collection on ArtSlant around Racial Justice, I will be curating a selection of Kerouac’s ephemera to use in my research paper, deeming what most effectively represents and presents my research topic and serves the question. The wide range of Kerouac’s ephemera in all spheres calls for such careful selection, for too many primary sources and references would overwhelm the argument.
This Saturday our class went to visit the Interference Archive in Brooklyn. The Interference Archive houses a variety of different types of content all related to historical, social justice movements. The Interference Archive was very much how I imagined a grassroots archive to be like based on our class readings. The archive is rather small, and is actually located in a sort of townhouse in a very residential neighborhood. The archive doesn’t receive any sort of federal grants and is not affiliated with larger institutions. It is a volunteer run place and, to my surprise, our volunteer archivist was far more knowledgeable than a lot of the staff at NYPL’s archives of recorded sound. I sort of had this idea that since the archive was volunteer run, that the archivists would not be as knowledgeable since their work is merely optional, but the archivist on site the day we went was super knowledgeable and helpful; I probably asked her a million of rather difficult questions and she was very patient and willing to dedicate her time to helping me with my research. The archive is great because it is really accessible and open to anyone. This is something that makes the Interference Archive so special; unlike some institutional archives, wherein you need special affiliation or clearance to gain access to the materials, the Interference Archive welcomes everyone to view their collections, and no appointment is necessary to speak to an archivist as long as they aren’t busy! This sort of accessibility goes hand in hand with the overall mission of the founders of the archive. The Interference Archive was founded under the mission that ALL communities (especially marginalized ones) should be able to have access to works that they can relate to. The achieve has a plethora of different materials from social justice movement of all kinds and time periods, so anyone that visits can manage to find something that they sort of relate to or were a part of. The acquisition process of the archive also goes along with their mission. Basically, anyone can drop off anything that they feel might be related to some sort of social justice movement, no matter who they are, and most likely, the archive will take interest. This is the beauty of the grassroots archive, especially since sometimes, materials with the most historical value to a researcher are those donated by a lesser known or anonymous source. In the case of social justice movements, I believe that it is the masses of everyday people that fight for their causes who make an impact in history more so than a lot of prominent social justice leaders.
The visit was a great place for me to do some research on preserving sound recordings as well. Since the Interference Archive is a more “under the radar” sort of place and not affiliated with a major institution, they are sometimes able to bypass some copyright laws in order to make their work more accessible. For example, the archive allows for visitors to digitize any of their records and to keep the digital copy. Technically this is illegal, because that digital copy could be monetized, but the odds of that are rather slim and again, the Interference Archive can sort of pass under the radar in that sense. I could write a lot more about some of the copyright laws that the Archives is able to bypass, thanks to their low-key profile, but I plan to discuss these in depth in my research paper. Stay Tuned.
Living as a commuter who has to travel frequently means that I am often plagued by bad luck with reference to getting to class and class visits. Yesterday, I was unable to get to the Interference Archive on account of New Jersey Transit having significant delays and an eventual cancellation of the train I needed to take to get into New York. Thanks NJT! Regardless of this, I decided to research the Interference Archive online, and to email and plan a visit at some point over the next weekend or so. The Interference Archive seems like the perfect manifestation of a grassroots, non-traditional archive. From the significant role played by its volunteers in shaping its collections to its open stack approach, the Interference Archive seems exceedingly approachable and easy to work with. The collections are fascinating, not least because of the ephemera which is gathered in place of ‘traditional’ sources found in the likes of state/governmental/university archives, but also thanks to the subject nature. The website is also very accessible, comprehensive, and aesthetically pleasing. That said, the website would benefit from more images of items in the collections, and from ensuring that all pieces of the collections are listed on line. I am excited to see how these perceptions garnered from the website translate into my first hand experience when I visit the archive soon.
The collections of the Interference archive may directly link to my research on famous New York City court cases. This is especially true with regards to the cases which had large scale protests during or as a result of the court proceedings (such as the Central Park Five). When I reach out to schedule a visit to the archive, I will summarise my research topic, and see if an archivist is able to assist me in finding materials which could be relevant to my research. I will also ask the archivist for tips on incorporating non-traditional sources and ephemera in an academic research paper as I have only had experience with using traditional paper-based sources thus far. Aside from this, the collections of the Interference Archive have inspired me to think outside of the box with reference to finding source material for my research paper. I am now looking at the collections of the NYU Tamiment Library and elsewhere to see if any non-traditional sources (likely produced by social movements as part of the process of demosprudence) would complement the traditional court-produced sources found at the New York Historical Society, and the Municipal Archives.
The Interference Archive? According to Wikimedia Commons anyway… I’ll verify when I visit!
Even though I wasn’t able to join the class visit to the Interference Archive this weekend, having read a significant amount about it gave me a clear idea of its mission and importance. Browsing through the Interference Archive’s website, I came across a tumblr page they have created called Our Comics, Ourselves. Upon opening this tumblr page, I was stunned by the collection of posters and comics. One of the posts features a V for Vendetta comic excerpt. Another post that really caught my attention showcases symbology. This tumblr page involves stable contributors, but also invites anyone else who would like to contribute by posting. I find this to be a great way to spread the word about the Interference Archive between young people. Even though tumblr isn’t as big today as it used to be a few years ago, it still has a big audience.
On another note, the idea of ephemera closely relates to my research topic. As per definition, ephemera are “things that exist or are used or enjoyed for only a short time”. Since I’m researching to major fashion brands, the mention of ephemera is inevitable. Each half year designers present their new collections, and articles of clothing from their last year’s collections go on sale and out of fashion. This is especially true with newer brads, such as Tom Ford. Chanel has already established its style, and many of their designs carry the same flavor. The brand has signature pieces that never go out of style. However, it takes a while to develop these signature pieces, which poses a struggle for new brands. Until then, it is common for their products to be in style for only a season or two.
At the Interference Archive on Saturday I spent most of my time sifting through boxes of buttons, something I had not initially intended to do. For a collection of something as seemingly trivial as buttons and pins, Interference’s collection is remarkably expansive, representing Jewish anti-hate movements, revolutionary feminist organizations, AIDS activist groups, and much more. At least for me, the fact that Interference had boxes upon boxes of buttons was not too surprising or striking, and this may be because I had already been exposed to another archive with various examples of ephemera: Riot Grrrl. But in the world of archives, as I learned in our discussion at Interference, it’s grassroots archives in general who we can thank for pioneering this practice of collecting and cataloguing ephemera in the first place. This practice comes, at least in part, from the understanding that ephemera represents as valid a form of communication as the written word. What’s more, pieces of ephemera offer us an almost vernacular vision of history. Rather than traditional, authoritative history-writing, ephemera is almost more conducive to the type of research and academic work undertaken within the field of cultural studies, where the “text” enjoys a more broad and open definition. In any event, my experience at Interference helped me realize that in my own research I would like to incorporate meditations on certain pieces of ephemera, that it might help invigorate my work. Not that ephemera should be considered as an after-thought to make a piece of research more flashy. Rather, I think incorporating ephemera has the effect of personalizing and rendering more accessible a piece of historical work.
The above photos are of some of the buttons I came across while at the archive