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A Celebration of Herman Lew at The City College of New York, 10/16, 6 PM

October 14, 2014 Uncategorized Comments Off

ActArcs learned a few weeks ago of Herman Lew’s passing. Some of us spent a lovely day with him building shelves in TWN’s storage unit for the benefit of 16mm film. He seemed perfectly lovely, and had the same infectious spirit we’ve come to expect from all the great folks we’ve met at TWN. Herman will be celebrated on Oct 16, please feel free to attend.

“A gathering to celebrate, honor and remember Herman Lew – friend, mentor, filmmaker, cinematographer, professor, activist, loving father of Kian, Cole and Galen, husband of Janice. A CCNY and TWN event.

The City College of New York
Faculty Dining Room – 6 PM
NAC Building,3rd Floor
160 Convent Avenue at 138th Street
New York, NY

RSVP to memorialOct16@gmail.com”



Wilson Center Launches Digital Archive of Declassified Documents

The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project recently announced a launch of the “new, improved” digital archive. The archive is maintained by the Wilson Center (as in Woodrow Wilson) in DC, a research hub for scholars of public policy. The archive primarily makes accessible documents for issues relating to the Cold War, North Korea, and Nuclear Proliferation.

“Constructed and maintained by the Wilson Center’s History and Public Policy Program, the Digital Archive contains newly declassified historical materials from archives around the world—much of it in translation and including diplomatic cables, high level correspondence, meeting minutes and more.”

The ‘documents’ available appear to be mostly second generation English text translations, with decent side-bar metadata on where to find the original source material (although some are PDF scans of original documents). While there is little visual or dynamic media, the information is rich and the interface easy to use. My knowledge of cold-war Budapest is practically non-existent so reading this telegram from 1956 was quite an eye-opener.



New York Times reports on Occupy and Archiving

Jennifer Schuessler of the New York Times interviewed Howard Besser of Activist Archivists and Anna Perricci from the OWS Archives Working Group  about Occupy and archiving:

But despite the profusion of material online some archivists say that the historical record of the future may have some gaping holes. While Twitter, Facebook and other social media have been crucial to the movement, the terms of use of most social media sites prevent anyone from publishing material harvested from them. “Look back at the Arab Spring,” said Howard Besser, an archivist at N.Y.U. and [one of the founders] of Activist Archivists, a group created last fall to coordinate the collection of digital media relating to Occupy. “We actually have precious little that scholars can use to look at how things spread.”



Activist Archivists at CNI 2012 Spring Conference in Baltimore, MD

On Monday, April 2nd, Howard Besser, Director of the Moving Image Archiving and Preservation Program at NYU will present a project briefing on Activist Archivists as part of the Coalition for Networked Information Spring 2012 Membership Meeting.

The entire presentation is called “Archiving Large Swaths of User-Contributed Digital Content: Lessons from Archiving the Occupy Movement” and includes offerings from Sharon Leon at Occupy Archive, Kristine Hanna from Internet Archive, and Dan Millman, the Director of NYU’s Digital Library.

Archiving born-digital content from the “Occupy” movement can serve as a prototype for archiving all kinds of user-contributed content. In this presentation, several organizations will discuss the tools and methods they have developed for ingesting, preserving, and offering discovery services to large numbers of digital works where they cannot really rely on the contributors to follow standards and metadata assignment. Topics covered will range from automatic extraction of time-stamp and location metadata (and an empirical analysis of which upload services strip these out), to app development for uploading content along with permission forms, to maintaining lists of frequently-changing URL nodes for web-crawling, to issues in educating content creators in best practices. Speakers will also discuss issues in trying to document a social movement while it is happening.

For details about the conference, navigate the CNI website:



OWS Archives Share Day, March 31, 2012

How can a social movement be preserved and represented through archives? What are creative ways archives can be utilized now and in the future through digital technologies? Since September 17th 2011, protesters with Occupy Wall Street have raised their voices in public spaces across the country and taken it to the streets as well as online spaces. Empowered by new media and social networking sites, many people are using digital tools to get their messages across, to document and create spontaneous moments in history. The digital archives created with and in reaction to the Occupy Movement include tweets, pictures, field recording, videos, streams, websites, graphic design, software and much more.

Join Demo Day folks for a public event for presentation and off-line file sharing on March 31st 3-6pm at Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, NYC. Anyone who wishes to present their work in art, activism and archive can sign up for a short presentation. Video projection and audio amplification will be available. Attendees are welcome to submit a copy of their digital files for preservation in the OWS digital archive and share their content with like minded others. This event aims to present and archive many views of democracy. This event is presented in collaboration with members of the OWS Archives’ Anna Perricci and Christine O’Heron, and ‘Speakers’ Corners‘ an exhibition by Taeyoon Choi at Eyebeam.

Please send a brief introduction to your work and archive to activisttechnology@gmail.com by March 26th 12:00PM. More information: http://demo-day.org

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Public Forum on OWS Archives on February 5th

February 2, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

The OWS Archives Working Group is hosting a Public Forum on Sunday, February 5, 2012, 5-7pm.  All are invited to attend. Here is the announcement:

What should an archive of Occupy Wall Street look like?

On its surface, it appears to be an impossible task: to document the activities of a major social movement as it is happening.  And yet this has been the monumental task undertaken by the Occupy Wall Street Archives Working Group (OWS Archives WG), a collection of archivally-interested individuals who have established a sizeable collection of signs, flyers, interviews, oral histories, and artifacts ever since the infancy the occupation at Liberty Plaza (formerly known as Zuccotti Park).  And, as you might expect, the OWS Archives working group have encountered this important question of the ultimate vision for an archive of Occupy Wall Street.

The OWS Archives Working Group is seeking input from people throughout the Occupy movement and the broader community of archivists & collectors on how to move forward with the management of the OWS Archives.  In a public forum at Judson Memorial Assembly Hall, we intend to offer a presentation on the status of the Archives of Occupy Wall Street and host a discussion on visions for the future of the collection.  We highly encourage anyone with an interest in archives and the developing history of the Occupy movement to attend for an exciting and urgent discussion.

Judson Memorial Church Assembly Hall
239 Thompson St.
(This venue is wheelchair accessible)

Sunday Februrary 5, 2012, 5-7pm
Please RSVP to archive@nycga.net

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Photo Credit: Todd Blaisdell


InformaCam, a new plugin for video activists in the works

January 29, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

The Guardian Project, in association with WITNESS (one of ActArc’s collaborators) is currently developing a plugin for ObscuraCam, a phone application that provides video activists with the ability to redact or pixilate sensitive areas of the image (such as a person’s face). InformaCam takes the feature a step farther:

“As with ObscuraCam, the user can perform image filtering and obfuscation on image regions. InformaCam also adds the “Identify” filter, which prompts the user for the subject’s name (or pseudonym) and to fill in whether or not the subject has given his or her consent to be filmed. This checklist of subject permissions can be further developed to match the needs of any organization to provide further protection to the people in front of the camera. Notice again the sensor notifications: the context surrounding each edit to the image is recorded and will be inserted into the media as metadata once the media is saved.”



The Brooklyn Ink Reports on OWS “Anarchivists”

January 29, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

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!”



The Daily News picks up on the increasing interest in Occupy Wall Street.

January 25, 2012 Uncategorized Comments Off

Activists Archivists are largely concerned with digital matters, but support the Working Groups efforts to archive ephemera material as well. The Smithsonian and the New York Historical Society, mentioned in the article, are two institutions that attend our monthly national call.

Occupy Wall Street may still be working to shake the notion it represents a passing outburst of rage, but some establishment institutions have already decided the movement’s artifacts are worthy of historic preservation.

More than a half-dozen major museums and organizations from the Smithsonian Institution to the New-York Historical Society have been avidly collecting materials produced by the Occupy movement.

Staffers have been sent to occupied parks to rummage for buttons, signs, posters and documents. Websites and tweets have been archived for digital eternity. And museums have approached individual protesters directly to obtain posters and other ephemera.



HuffPo reports on institutional interest in OWS

December 29, 2011 Uncategorized Comments Off

There has been a recent spate of mainstream articles regarding the interest of collecting institutions in Occupy Wall Street. This one, written by Christian Salazar and Randy Herschaft,  appeared on Christmas Eve in the Huffington Post and offers a rundown on the landscape:

“Much of the frenzied collection by institutions began in the early weeks of the protests. In part, they were seeking to collect and preserve as insurance against the possibility history might be lost – not an unusual stance by archivists.

What appears to be different is the level of interest from mainstream institutions across a wide geographic spectrum and the new digital-only ventures that have sprung up to preserve the movement’s online history.”

Full Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/24/occupy-wall-street-museums-organizations_n_1168893.html


The Economist reports on Occupy Archive

December 20, 2011 Uncategorized Comments Off

The Economist spoke with Sharon Leon, director of the Center for the History of New Media, an ActArc collaborator, regarding the center’s Occupy Archive:

“What we’re doing is preserving a post-print movement,” Ms Leon says. She expects the site will be useful for future historians of social movements. “It’s hard to tell what scholarly output will be in the end, but we felt the Occupy protests were large enough to preserve them.”

Full Link: www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2011/12/documenting-occupy-protests