An article published shortly after Christmas in The Brooklyn Ink caused a bit of a furor in late December between the various groups archiving Occupy Wall Street. The headline casts the working group as “Anarchivists” (a term only one member uses) and sports a very odd MindNode chart that appears to be intentionally cluttered and lacking in usefulness for no other reason than to convey disorder.
Activist Archivist adviser, Howard Besser, was interviewed by the author, Hiten Samtani, in November and found the results of their discussion bewildering. Below is from an email he sent to our group shortly after publication, posted by permission:
“I don’t know quite what to make of the article that appeared today on archiving of Occupy Wall Street. He (Samtani) did a very good job of articulating that archives themselves reflect the bias of the “winners”, those in power, those who are prominent. But until the last paragraph he didn’t even refer to the fact that people can read archives in ways that are counter to that dominant narrative. (Nor did he include my point that, as long as wide swaths of materials are collected, future researchers will be able to re-balance the bias of the archive, particularly in a digital world where one can create multiple finding aids with multiple viewpoints.) The obvious example from our world is that if an archive actually collected Orphan works, future generations find them and bring them to prominence.
I’m also a bit perturbed that he focused so much on my remarks bitching about the mistakes that the analog OWS archivists made in articulating their points to the General Assembly. I certainly said what he attributed to me, but I also put this into the context of a much more widespread issue (passionate people thinking that others will share their passion without having to articulate the reasons why they’re passionate). And these remarks only took up a few minutes of an hour+ interview, where I talked a lot about all the interesting OWS archiving sub-projects being undertaking both by MIAP-ers and others across the country.
He also missed the irony in the photo of myself that he asked me to send him. I was in front of a “Guy Fawkes” store in the UK, but he cropped that out. Finally, that diagram is certainly strange!”