You all know that hundreds of libraries around the world are sharing their special collections on JSTOR, right? That they include photos, posters, postcards, buttons, stickers, pamphlets, drawings, and a lot more, right? And that they're all freely accessible to everyone, no login needed, right? Right?
It’s Manuals Monday!
Manuals Monday is back! Most Mondays we feature an excerpt from a graphics standards manual from the archives.
Today’s manual features Massimo Vignelli’s sketched mockup draft for the Washington DC Metro graphics program recently discovered in the archives.
Here is the project described in the Vignellis’ own words from our design: Vignelli exhibition label:
"Washington MetroTransportation Graphic Program1968The architect of the Washington Metro is Harry Weese. When he asked us to design the signage for his majestic subway stations, he specified that he did not want anything to be attached to the walls or to interfere with the architectural statement, so we decided to make use of some freestanding outdoor pylons inside the station platforms: one element only, at the point of need, to carry all the required information. The whole system was so well designed that there was very little need for graphics. However, someone finally found a way to clutter it with redundant signs. Tremendous discipline is required to implement and protect a mass-transportation sign system, and very few cities seem to have the ability to overcome a laissez-faire attitude."
We have shared other DC Metro artifacts from the archives: https://vignellicenter.tumblr.com/search/wmata
You can also view some artifacts in our Digital archives: https://artsandculture.google.com/search?q=vignelli%20wmata
Hi! So I'm a fanbinder who's been going wild making books, and sending them out as gifts when I can. The post about letters of provenance, etc made an impact, especially since lots of my books do leave my direct control. So, I'm very curious, from the perspective of an archivist, what added information would stand out to you as something helpful? Is it any different for books I gift vs. keep? I've tried to leave me out of my work before, but now I'm considering how to correct that going forward
Hi, thanks for the ask! Hope you don't mind that I made this public since I'd like this to reach a wide audience. Also fair warning you HAVE tapped into my feral archivist hindbrain so I am not responsible for any shouting about hyper specific archive problems that happens. Also fam what you do is SUPER COOL and you should definitely keep doing it.
Number one. First, most PRIMARY AND BASIC thing you can do, on everything you create, that will make any and every (and yes I mean all of us) archivist or future person literally PUNCH THE AIR IN VICTORY is date your work.
If you do NOTHING ELSE, please, please date your creations. If you can, and if the dates are significantly different, include the date of the binding and the date of the work. A date will help add context to the work; that should have obvious implications when it comes to the written material (historical context, zeitgeist, cultural influence, etc), but it also has implications for the binding.
For example, does this item need care? Can we get an indication of what materials are used, which is useful for cultural anthropologists? (For a real-life application of this see The Great Paper Shift in the mid 1850s when literacy rates were skyrocketing because of moveable type/printing presses and newspapers made the switch from cotton rag paper to acidic wood pulp which we can track down to the decade because GUESS WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS HAD.)
Second. I'm sure you do already, but include a maker's mark or signature or something else somehow identifying it as your work. This is where provenance comes in, it's helpful to know whose work you're looking at. Again, from a practical purpose as someone might be familiar with your binding style and what materials you use and that can come in handy for physical maintenance.
But also again, from a social standpoint. If we know, for sure because of the maker's mark, who is responsible for this binding, we have a solid way to track the impact of your work. How far did this binder actually have contacts? How wide is this network? How interconnected is this fandom? Etc. (Do please also include the author of the work you're binding as well, obviously.)
Third. I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to write a separate letter of provenance; those can be time consuming and perhaps difficult to attach to the work, especially if you're trying to make the binding more about the work and less about you. But. What I will encourage you to include, especially in gifts, is something like "X gifted to X on X date".
This will ensure YOU, the binder, are explicitly attached to the work (see above for importance of that), it establishes WHO the work went to after it left your direct control (in case it then leaves the sphere of that person and ends up with someone else), and it sheds light on the fandom network. ALSO YES HEY LOOK DATES MADE ANOTHER APPEARANCE.
(Also if you could add a vague “home” location somewhere in there that would be great too.)
Fourth. And yes, this is entirely wishful thinking on my part. If you can find a way to include the materials you used in the binding process? It will help long term storage efforts ASTRONOMICALLY.
Different types of inks, paints, glues, papers, textiles, etc all have different care needs and different shelf lives. If the person keeping the work knows what it's made of, preservation will be so very much easier.
ESPECIALLY if you are using organics like leather for covers or animal glue in the binding or cotton-based thread or embossing with metals or using metal corners/clasps because a) you do NOT want to see what happens to leather when it's poorly kept and b) you remember when we all thought lead and asbestos were cool and then suddenly they super weren't? When (not if) that happens again with another Thing we're super chill with now it would be GREAT if the person keeping the object knew they had That Thing to protect against.
Thee Most important things you can do as a fanbinder is date your work, sign your work, leave a brief note about who it is going to if it is being gifted, and leave a list of materials used in your process.
BUT MOSTLY DATE YOUR WORK