2016 Year of Anachronism

I’m calling in now just a few days into 2016 that this year will Anachronism, mainly technological anachronisms, and lets just say I couldn’t be happy.  While many of the trends I’m feeling gearing up have been around for a couple of years now, things are just about to get really anachronistic and that’s great for archives and preservation professionals.

Vinyl Rising

The vinyl hasn’t just reemerged it has been given space reserved for CD’s and other sundries in stores from every end of the consumer spectrum. Barnes and Nobles and Urban Outfitters. According to Noisey, one British retailer sold one turntable per minute during this past christmas season. That’s a lot of vinyl spinning capabilities. What’s driving this resurgence is hard to say, but it’s doubtful that its entirely driven

The penutultment sign is Dogfish Head’s Beer to Drink Music To, which becomes available just in time for the now annual Record Store Day which occurs on the third Saturday of April. Though is revival isn’t without controversy. There are few facilities that are still outfitted to press records, and with the boom in demand, these factories have been overwhelmed causing delays. This has massively hampered the ability independent artist to find ways to get their music published in this now in vogue format, causing some to even call for an end to Record Store Day. Again Vice’s Noisey blog has that story.

I’m a Super 8


Super 8 film, and film in general, is making a come back. Just this week Kodak announced the revival of the presumed dead format with a bit of a digital twist. Made this week at the annual Consumer Electronic Expo, this new device will combine 8 mm film that must be developed by Kodak, but buyers will get a digital copy in addition to the developed analog film. This new product won’t be available until late 2016, and doesn’t necessarily signal a revival of film. The first commercially available “new” super 8 camera will start around 400 dollars, and film cartridges will cost around 50 dollars to process. That’s a steep price for a nostalgia trip, but Kodak promises to release less expensive version in the future for the average film enthusiast on a budget.

This new development alone won’t bring analog film back, but the interest from the film industry may help encourage it. An excellent example of this is Quentin Tarantino’s Road Show for the movie The Hateful Eight. Tarantino, a known lover of analogy cinematography, filmed his most recent movie in film, but not just any film. He used an ultra wide-screen 70mm film that was rarely used in its heyday due to the limited number of theaters that could project it in its original size. Films such as Hello Dolly, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Lawrence of Arabia are examples of films shot and shown in this format. Often smaller prints on traditional 35 mm film would be distributed or the films would have special “road shows” that were more of an experience than a trip to the movies. Tarantino decide to revive this experience, with his own flair and graphic violent presentation. Through special showings around the US, Tarantino’s provide movie goers the chance to see the full film projected on antique 70mm projectors. Hopefully other directors will follow in Tarantino’s bloody footprints, perhaps with a bit less blood.


Polaroid, the company, and the instant film that it’s most known for could be blamed for the current nostalgia bomb we are experience. They’re revival began years ago, fueled in part by the rise of instagram and the hipster culture. The revival began as early as 2008, when a group of insta-film fanatics sought to buy a Netherlands Polaroid factory and continue produce the film after the main company discontinued it’s production. Dubbed the Impossible project, this group began produce film for the icon Polaroid 600. This lead to camera sales, and eventually new products. Polaroid would eventually get back into the insta-film game, as well as Fuji film. Now any where trendy, you’ll find a supplier of insta-film or some analog/digital hybrid insta-photographic technology.

Archives Should Care?

So why should anyone care, let alone archivist? Many may think that these are all passing fads. Record players will gather dust. Super 8 won’t come across as so super. Even the revived Polaroids won’t get shaken any more. This may mean, there’s no reason to engage with new users of these old techs because ultimately they’ll get bored and move on to some thing new and shiny. I’d say seize the day. Find a way to leverage archival collections, preservation expertise, and other skills to encourage and participate in these various revivals of antiquated technology systems. Create workshops about proper film preservation. Upload you tube videos of Super 8 film that’s been preserved and captured in a digital format. Find some way to engage with new diverse publics who are becoming curious to many of the things we deal with. 2016 could be the year of anachronism, and that’s great for archives.

Archives and Current Events: Social Movements, Archival Access and Collecting

Recently in a class I provided my students with a rough case study involving a higher educational institution that asked the students to from an ethical stand point what to do with unsolicited materials that had records related to an alumni group that were both embarrassing to the institution and racially charged. I asked several follow up questions after discussing the pro’s and con’s restricting access to this question, but during class I suggested they deal with this case study in light of current student protest at the University of Missouri and Yale and does that relate to records a university collects and chooses to restrict. Many of the students found the idea that these records should be made avaliable compelling especially if the group that directly created these records had some responsiblity for raising funds for the institution. I prodded a bit about issues that could be related to systemic racism that would be relevant.

This in class exercise got me thinking, ethically speaking how should we deal with issues of access versus restriction when responding to current events, namely events embroiled in controversy. Archivist are no strangers to dealing with the ideas of social justice and documenting under-represented and marginalized groups. Randall Jimmerson’s Archives Power makes a fairly strong call for archivist to become activist social-cultural issues that are relevant and current. We should also keep in mind Mark Green’s rebuttal of this in American ArchivistRoughly stated, Green worries that archival objectivity will be impact in how collections are acquired and promoted.

So this debate has precedence in the archival field, but I want to at least begin thinking about the issue of activism in archives from a different perspective. So these are questions that arise for me at least.

  • When a collection previously restricted collection shows examples of systematic persecution of a group, do you release portions of it when current events dictate it necessary or maintain restrictions?
  • When a collection that documents persecution has relevance to a modern  social movement, how active should an archive be in promoting use of these materials?
    • In this scenario, what would constitute activism and what would constitute objective archival actives
  • When a modern social movement needs to be documented, but the participants have become overwhelmed by the attention their movement has acquired, how should archive approach documenting these movement. Also how should archives approach documenting reaction and opposition to these movement.

Just some thoughts for a Friday.

Archival BFD: Happy Birthday Case

If you haven’t heard, a judge in the 9th Circuit has ruled that Happy Birthday, or at least the words were not transferred to the licensing company, Warner/Chappell and that the authorship of the lyrics to Happy Birthday is in question. This is a BFD in regards to copy right and could signal a shift in how copyright claims for early works are handled or it could just mean that the words for Happy Birthday will be on every major TV show in a few months. Several outlets are reporting that the lyrics are now in the public domain, but that’s not exactly what was in the judge’s opinion. Judge King suggest in his opinion that the Hill sisters who authored the original “Good Morning” to you song that Happy Birthday was based off up never asserted their copyright to the lyrics only a piano arrangement. I admit to splitting hairs here, but it’s good to be cautious with copyright. I’m also still searching for the opinion and will write a new post once I find it. I should mention this case is far from over, and this is just a district judge’s ruling. It’ll have a good year a more to work its way through the federal judicial system.

Here’s a few write ups on the case:

Managing Billions Lines of Code – Archivist Take Note

Google developers logoA piece posted today at Wired by Cade Metz discusses the code repository used by Google to manage the code for all their services, app’s etc. Metz is discussing comments by Google’s Rachel Potvin made at a Silcon Valley engineering conference. According to Potvin and discussed at length by Metz, Google keeps all of of its code for it’s services in one central repository accessible by its 25,000 engineers. The amount of code is staggering. Roughly two billion lines of it is managed, tracked and made accessible through Google’s home-grown repository system known as Piper.

For some archivist, this information is neat and ultimately not relevant to what we do. I insist that in the post-custodial world we live in, examining how massive large-scale software is develop is something to take note of. The software itself may not be considered a record, though that’s up for debate, the interactions between developers, bot, and testers generate records many of which are tracked by version control software like Piper. The question we have to ask ourselves is what should we do with these records, how do we capture them, how does a scenario like a large software code repository translate to other instances where records can be manipulated by large groups of users? I can’t answer any of these, but it’s time to pay attention.