Q: What makes something archival?
A: On a basic level, archival documents are unpublished primary records of some kind of activity by an individual or organization. However, in practice, there are all kinds of records and forms of documentation that are of archival relevance, both published and unpublished. Many people consider the documentation process itself to be a kind of archival practice, as when people “archive” their blog posts or write an article about something that happened. At TINI we want to push this documentation into the preservation and documentation of a broader array of artists records, both material and digital. We want to provide resources so artists can learn how to store various media formats like analog recordings, posters and artworks, digital recordings and old hard drives. Also, because of the many issues around preservation of recorded music and the interests of music collectors in published artifacts, we want to counterbalance awareness in these areas with resources to preserve traditional research archival records, such as financial records, correspondence and textual archives. Many artists don’t realize they possess in their personal papers information of value to the collective memory of the independent music community. In sum, TINI sees archival value in both institutional and material archives, the larger documentation of dispersed archives in private collections, and the promotion of a wider historical appreciation of independent music in Toronto and beyond.
Q: I want to know everything I can about the recording of “We’re Desperate” by X in 1978 for this documentary on early punk I’m making. Can you help me with that?
A: No. That’s research. There are no shortcuts for research.
Q: I’ve got this box of mix tapes in the garage which probably has some really cool tracks on it. Is there somewhere I can just drop it off and you guys will preserve it for me?
A: No. We are giving you the tools to take control of this project on your own. There are no shortcuts for preservation and, alas, not everything in the universe can be preserved.
Q: I backed my hard drives up on the cloud. I’m good, right?
A: Clouds are very moist environments, not typically good for archival records. Of course, that’s a very snarly answer and we’re still fleshing out these FAQs. Sorry. We hope to write a blog post about digital preservation in the near future and we will definitely tackle this issue in more detail. Duplication is often a very good stop gap to some level of digital control. If you back up your files on an external hard drive, consider buying two and replace one every couple years. Spending $100 on a couple terabytes of backup storage is a whole lot better than trying to recover data from a failed hard drive. And those things wear down all the time… Don’t put off backing up your important files. And too much is never enough.
Q: Is Nobu Adilman really the Chief Archivist at the CBC? Do you know him?
A: No, there are real archivists who work at the CBC. Not many, but some, and they don’t wear lab coats very often. Nobu is a nice guy though. He’s funny. Archivists get portrayed in all kinds of silly ways in main stream media. Good archivists kind of smile about this, unless you try and take away their limited job opportunities and hire a bunch of students to make a mess of a real archive that should have been preserved by a professional so that you can put some old photos of unidentified people up on your alumni website. That shit drives archivists crazy.
Q: What kind of an FAQ page is this anyway?
A: Hey, send us a question and if we get a couple in the same ballpark, we’ll do our best to answer ’em. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org