The guest lectures throughout our Management for Information Professionals module have been incredibly helpful; getting a glimpse into the careers and everyday working lives of librarians from across the profession has given me insight into the library world that I couldn’t hope to find elsewhere. One lecture which stood out to me was Brian McMahon’s talk on his website Brand New Retro. I used to work at the Little Museum of Dublin, where the Brand New Retro exhibition was held last year, so I was aware of the book and the content, but I had somehow managed to miss hearing about the website – which I now realise was a terrible shame.
I was incredibly impressed by the amazing archive of Irish pop culture that Brian had developed with just a WordPress account and a scanner. I was particularly interested in his innovative approach to archiving: to take documenting the past into your own hands, on your own time. I had been reading recently about those archiving their family and personal collections (Lyons, 2013; Ashenfelder, 2016), but to see someone take on the task of documenting a period in the history of a whole city is truly remarkable, and the finished product and its fantastic reception show just how valuable this work is.
In my own working life, I’ve dealt with similar collections relating to Dublin’s history, in The Little Museum of Dublin and currently at the National Print Museum. These collections came mostly from public donations, and, in the Little Museum particularly, I would often get to speak with potential donors. The most common reason for donating I came across was a desire to have their items recorded and looked after for future generations. Unfortunately, a lack storage meant that we often couldn’t accept donations that were not obviously relevant to the museum’s mission. It struck me during the lecture that Brian’s approach to archiving could save many of these objects from the loss their owners feared. The fact that the tools he used were so basic and accessible gives me hope that more and more people will take on similar projects, or even much smaller-scale endeavours, like digitising family photos.
I found Brian’s lecture truly exciting, as it introduced an open approach to archiving which is so different from the all-too-frequent portrayal of libraries and archives as dusty corners intended only for the initiated few. The success of Brand New Retro shows the impact personal technologies can have on the way we maintain and construct our history, and I’m truly excited to see how these themes develop in the future.
Lyons, B (2013, May 29). Tips on Archiving Family History, Part 1. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/booming/tips-on-archiving-family-history-part-1.html
Ashenfelder, M. (2016, May 11). Your Personal Archiving Project: Where Do You Start? The Signal. Retrieved from: https://blogs.loc.gov/thesignal/2016/05/how-to-begin-a-personal-archiving-project/
Image from Brand New Retro