BLDGBLOG, that he would be blogging from the CCA this summer irritated me, partly because the idea is not brand new."/>

Design Observer

About
Books
Job Board
Newsletters
Archive
Contact



Observatory

About
Resources
Submissions
Contact


Featured Writers

Michael Bierut
William Drenttel
John Foster
Jessica Helfand
Alexandra Lange
Mark Lamster
Paul Polak
Rick Poynor
John Thackara
Rob Walker


Departments

Advertisement
Audio
Books
Collections
Dear Bonnie
Dialogues
Essays
Events
Foster Column
From Our Archive
Gallery
Interviews
Miscellaneous
New Ideas
Opinions
Partner News
Photos
Poetry
Primary Sources
Projects
Report
Reviews
Slideshows
The Academy
Today Column
Unusual Suspects
Video


Topics

Advertising
Architecture
Art
Books
Branding
Business
Cities / Places
Community
Craft
Culture
Design History
Design Practice
Development
Disaster Relief
Ecology
Economy
Education
Energy
Environment
Fashion
Film / Video
Food/Agriculture
Geography
Global / Local
Graphic Design
Health / Safety
History
Housing
Ideas
Illustration
India
Industry
Info Design
Infrastructure
Interaction Design
Internet / Blogs
Journalism
Landscape
Literature
Magazines
Media
Museums
Music
Nature
Obituary
Other
Peace
Philanthropy
Photography
Planning
Poetry
Politics / Policy
Popular Culture
Poverty
Preservation
Product Design
Public / Private
Public Art
Religion
Reputations
Science
Shelter
Social Enterprise
Sports
Sustainability
Technology
Theory/Criticism
Transportation
TV / Radio
Typography
Urbanism
Water


Comments Posted 06.02.10 | PERMALINK | PRINT

Alexandra Lange

Bloggers in the Archive


I’m trying to figure out why Geoff Manaugh’s announcement, on BLDGBLOG, that he would be blogging from the CCA this summer irritated me. I can’t wait to see what he turns up. The images he posted were fabulous (my favorite above). And the idea of bloggers in archives is terrific. Sign me up.

It was partly that the idea is not brand new. The Smithsonian has been digitizing their collections at the Archives of American Art, and the new book, Lists, edited by archivist Liza Kirwin, seems like a version of a visual blog (selections online). The SVA archives have a lovely blog, Container List, partly written by DCrit student Zachary Sachs. UnderConsideration LLC blogged wonderfully about the RIT Archives on Speak Up. Maybe graphic designers are better about sharing their fetish objects than architects.

It was also that some bloggers in the archives do a better job than others. I loved Nothing Is New, Folk Object, and the like at first, but after a while the lack of commentary (and minimum attribution) began to get to me. I want the blogger to build something out of the archive, add value to the image, rather than just say, Isn’t this old thing neat? Not that some mornings, a healthy dose of Swiss grids doesn’t make me happy.

But really, this was the crux of my irritation.

Call all of it part of “Bloggers in the Archive,” and suddenly collections all over the world are being appreciated and seen by more than the five professors who have been deemed qualified enough to explore a specific phase in architecture, design, or landscape history…

After all, are academic essays the only textual form appropriate for archival exploration, or does the relatively ad hoc, point-and-shoot blog post, motivated less by scholarly expertise than by curiosity and personal enthusiasm, also have something valuable to offer? Somewhere between front-line archival reportage, historical research, and what we might call popular outreach.

Reader, I am one of those five professors (except there are thousands of us). If I had a blog when I was writing my dissertation and visiting archives across the greater Midwest, I would have blogged about it, to be sure. Most of us aren’t trying to be obscure, and I would have thought Manaugh, of all people, would not kick academia when its younger members are so down. Even the New Yorker got into the act.

I don’t think it is the gatekeepers that are the problem, and I don’t think Manaugh should so casually dismiss the academic essay. Someone has to bother to step away from everything that is on screen and sit among the dusty and undigitized boxes. And sit. And sit. Archival research is a zen experience, but the idiosyncratic rules can be maddening. After you sift, you have to construct a narrative. And you want desperately for someone to read it when its done. The academic means of distribution are partly at fault—much of what I have written from the archives couldn’t be linked to if I tried.

So I am very interested to see what “front-line architectural reportage” entails, and I hope it passes the comma into “historical research.” Says the author of a “niche monograph.” No, I’m not bitter. I just hope for more than archival enthusiasm.

|
Share This Story

Comments

Design Observer encourages comments to be short and to the point; as a general rule, they should not run longer than the original post. Comments should show a courteous regard for the presence of other voices in the discussion. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments that do not adhere to this standard.
Read Complete Comments Policy >>


Name             

Email address 




Please type the text shown in the graphic.


|
Share This Story



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect's Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.
More Bio >>

DESIGN OBSERVER JOBS









BOOKS BY Alexandra Lange

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012

Design Research
Chronicle Books, 2010

More books by contributors >>

RELATED POSTS


You’ll Never Guess the Amazing Ways Online Design Writing and Criticism Has Changed
A call to support better desgn journalism.

Premature Demolition
The Folk Art Museum, David Adjaye's market hall, and the first addition to the Morgan Library. If three makes a trend, then premature demolition qualifies.

Why Tatlin Can Never Go Home Again
Raoul Hausmann’s photomontage Tatlin at Home is much pinned on Pinterest, but what has become of the original?

The Compulsively Visual World of Pinterest
I have always liked Pinterest’s exclusively visual focus and unlimited boards structure. A week ago I joined.

Year of the Women
A year-end wrap-up of my favorite stories. The common theme? Women and the making of design.