Artist Run Centre Archives: Nontraditional Digital Archiving in a Non-Profit Art Community
Lower technical barriers to entry have increasingly placed the development of digital archives within the reach of smaller organizations; but creating and appropriately maintaining digital archives takes time, money, and specialized knowledge. Canadian artist run centres (ARCs) rarely have an abundance of any of these resources, yet many have developed creative digital archival projects focused on their specific mandates, history, or communities. These non-profit organizations, run by and for artists, have made major contributions to Canada’s cultural identity over the past thirty years resulting in a rich history of exhibitions, publications, and community practice. Unfortunately, archiving this history is typically not a primary function of ARCs and necessarily takes a backseat to the task of developing new programming. Now that this community has accrued a significant historical record of work, both artistic and institutional, many ARCs are looking for ways to use the resources they have to create digital archives to capture, maintain, share, and in some cases make new work based on these records. This presentation discusses my recent research with ARC directors in Alberta and Saskatchewan exploring the archival goals and challenges unique to their organizations. These ARCs have found ingenious ways to use open source tools and online services to develop digital archive projects, often without guaranteed long term funding or additional trained staff. This has resulted in innovative projects that, while often flying in the face of traditional archival practices, work well for these organizations and meet their needs within their often limited resources. I will also introduce a project in development working with one ARC in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to develop and implement a digital archival strategy for their historical records that is sustainable for their organization to maintain and useful for researchers and the public.
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