cover arch evArchive Everything - Mapping The Everyday is all about archiving. "Archives now consist of not only documents and sites but also artworks, installations, museums, social media platforms, and mediated and mixed reality environments. Giannachi tracks the evolution of these diverse archival practices across the centuries."



Archive Everything - Mapping The Everyday

Gabriella Giannachi



MIT Press

2016 | 240 pages ISBN: 9780262035293


Reviewed by

Jeff Thurston


Mention the word 'archive' and it is likely to conjur different meanings to different people. Most would probably think about written records tucked in far away places, visited irregularly and seemingly unavilable without knowledge of where or how to access them. But far from that scenario, archiving today has changed considerably, and both the technology for archiving and kinds of materials that are being archived have changed significantly. 

In this book - "Archives now consist of not only documents and sites but also artworks, installations, museums, social media platforms, and mediated and mixed reality environments. Giannachi tracks the evolution of these diverse archival practices across the centuries." The author considers archiving as a 'memory laboratory' enriched with new technologies and practices, but also interlinked with participatory interaction and wider social responsibilities. 

The common association of archives with archaeological practices and concepts is expanded upon as the author describes what archives are, intended for and how they are implmented. Archiving can be viewed as a an augmentation of our environments, and the purpose of these archives is to provide a lens through which we can see this relationship. And examples, like the Vatican Archives, are more than a single archive, often including an array of collections with numerous kinds of materials and records. 

From earliest record keeping to the major transitions bringing electronic archiving, each is explained through time and their significance is outlined. We learn much about the history of this practice, Stories, photos, emails, maps, graphics and written text are just a few of the kinds of information we find in archives. Challenges such as interactive mixed media, virtual reality and others are also posing unique challenges. Concepts including 'stable and retroactive' perspectives are giving way to new forms for understanding archives labelled as 'generative'. The later involving critics and reviews of contents that, in effect, act as guides to using and interacting with archives. 

In a sense, this book provides a unique glimpse into design since it helps readers to understand how archives work, and the various mechanisms and challenges for interacting with them successfull - and fully, We read about Archives 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0. In essense, the archaeological functioning of archives, usually built on the past, then become doors into seeing and understanding how the present and future might unfold.

The author describes the role of new tools like GPS. remote sensing, mapping, geological graphic analysis and others and how they are forming part of the archival pathways for many projects and places. In other examples, historical records emanating from Auschwitz and other past recorded events take on alternative characteristics as materials are sometimes generated from memories - and even yet to be archived. This causes us to wonder, what is the role of memory in archiving, and what should it be?

Consider new initiatives like social media that enable large numbers of people to engage and create memories and records of places and events. Do we have proper systems for archiving these materials, and do we understand how and what to archive from the many billions of records. Imagine looking at today's archives 100 or 200 years into the future, what would you see? Want to see? And would it make sense or be understandable? 

This book speaks to questions about archiving diplomatic events, marginalized communities, environmental record and artistic impression. Suddenly we find that simple records from the past are teaching us to learn about context in archiving and the use of tools and approaches that enable more understanding to flow from records. Yet, there is a constant mention of objective and subjective valuation going on during the valuation process - which again points to the standardization and documentation methods in practice and under development. 

I found when I opened this book that I had a very rudimentary understanding of archiving and archives. But the more I read and learned, led to greater appreciation of the importance of archives and why they are valuable. Indeed, in the later sections involving the 'Art of Archiving' many lessons on the practice are shared and provided for this involved in this field and those wishing to learn more. 

In summary, this book is remarkable for providing a glimpse into practice, art and challenges for archiving. Readers will, I think, see that archives are much more than they may have previously imagined. In fact, archives are constantly evolving and struggling to adjust as both technology and conceptual practice change. And if we thought that this field was filled with old practice, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Gabriella Giannachi does an excellent job of explaining what archives were, are and where they might be going. She helps us to see the dynamic nature of archiving to keep pace with social, technological and practice changes. Anyone involved in archiving, documentation including records of any kind or students learning about this field will find this book very useful. It is a pleasure to read because it addresses so many questions we all seem to have "about recording history."