We live in archives: the human body is a genetic archive, language is an archive of meaning, the unconscious contains our emotional experiences, even History is more of a data base than an individual account, depending on who explains it.
Archives can be crucial in order to determine the present, even more so when the archive is related to artistic experiences in urban environments, for specialized users will be able to keep consulting them and, what is more important, enriching them with constant contributions. On the other hand, we are all witnessing the rise of a Web that is more semantic and filled with meanings every day, a Web in which different agents constantly participate by adding new significances to that which has happened or has been experienced.
We could say that the state of art in documental administration begins in 2001-2002 with the Website and intranet formulas, in which the concept of decentralization becomes paramount according to new business processes and work fluxes. We are constantly concerned with the regulation of our new digital environment, which is oriented towards information storage, search and visualization of archives in a coherent and ordered way, and many organizations have to deal with their own digitalization as a challenge by spending resources and money in long work processes to create a comprehensive and solid archive.
Madrid Abierto’s archive is the product of several years of work and institutional archaeology, and contains, in printed and digital form, some 134 artistic projects that have been presented during its six editions. Due to the quantity of accumulated information it has been necessary to review and organize it. Thanks to this effort and to negotiations with Matadero’s coordination team, Madrid Abierto’s Archive is already available to be consulted and checked, after previously requesting appointment, in this institution.
Apart from the information, already accessible in madridabierto.com, it contains unprecedented files and materials, and other data of restricted access due to intellectual property issues, such as sound and audiovisual works. That includes everything that wasn’t digitalized nor translated, because there wasn’t enough time or because we lacked the authors’ permission to openly show it. I would like to mention the valuable recorded material of different debate sessions, the complete recordings of the collaboration project between the Rodríguez Foundation and the Montehermoso Cultural Centre called TV Interventions and the radio broadcast of selected sound pieces for the Libelula program in Radio 3 that have been presented to Madrid Abierto in its different editions, as well as everything that has appeared in the media.
It shares a room with three archives related to the city’s cultural activity: the Audiovisual Creators’ Archive, the drama or Artea archive, and the so called Freshmadrid that deals with architecture. It is a warm place to investigate and access physical documents on paper, as well as digital files thanks to the new technologies.
In a first stage we compiled scattered materials from different editions to later provide technical support, renaming files, organizing them correctly and analyzing the information to assess possibilities according to the Association’s goals, intended audience and study of different existing archives in order to design a structure or table of contents and analyze and establish the relation between artistic and management processes to finally enhance processes themselves, before introducing them, rather than results.
This material could be found in all sorts of formats. It contains interviews, critical texts, transcriptions, interventions’ edited videos, sound files, physical documents, works of art, original projects, investigations, publications, memos, dossiers on media following, etc.
With the use of an interactive and bidirectional structure we were able to clarify and follow the artists’ creative process from the initial project, to preproduction, production, conclusions and materials or previous and subsequent works related to their intervention in MA. We found it important to record the management process carried out by the Association before presenting the projects and some of the judgements and conclusions that were collected.
Thanks to new open communication systems we have been able to take a qualitative leap and provide all this information so that people can have access to the experiences of MA’s events.
This leap toward digitalization was inevitable and the decision to do so has been made with perfect timing, just when the economy and services were demanding it, most of all because we were concerned with the fact that these materials’ quality diminishes every day, a new formula was needed to properly preserve them.
MA’s established action protocol was:
- Designate the team of people who should manage the data base.
- Analyze the fund inventory, type, quantity, formats and legal situation.
- Selection of formats to be used.
- Document centre workflow (automate the majority of processes).
- Meet the administrators.
- Assess technological investments to be made.
- Digitalization of existing formats.
- Analyze and record documents by inserting their information in the data base.
- Develop the content management base.
According to MA’s goals and possibilities, a series of needs where outlined and are being solved:
- Create a local network data base ready to work in the Internet, based on international regulations, that defines the number of fields, how it works and how to upload information.
- A content management base in the Internet, using the previous information to feed the online search system, for public or restrained access (depending on the type of user), that facilitates multiple access to the information from any location. The chosen data base is MySQL and the “open” content manager JOOMLA.
We say online management because all the actions it enables the administrators to modify, add or delete are done exclusively through a web explorer connected to the Internet with an http protocol. Assembled on a management data base system in open source and hosted in a local network server of ours to ensure that the uploaded information is always MA’s property, avoiding hosting rent issues. It is prepared to access art works and information from the global hamlet and online work, making it possible to upload materials with a user’s password which should be previously given by the administrator.
The archive realises its functions once its documents are assessed, spread through public consultation, enriching new exhibitions or providing contents for educational and research programmes that contribute to the knowledge and value of the interventions, protecting our urban memory and sustaining its identity.
At the moment the archive is available for an initiated public (critics, curators and researchers) interested in obtaining more precise information about projects and the different editions, since duration and immediacy sometimes make it impossible to get to each and everyone due to people being located in different and remote city environments. Thus, we can discuss different artists’ interventions for any edition.
The benefits of document management are clear: offer an in depth assessment of information on different events, have every document available at all times, preserve information and also provide participating artists with a space to promote other related works.
The data and management base content is structured as follows:
- PREVIOUS: Material produced by the organization to start the open calls. It contains presentations, critical texts, material for the call, the list of sponsors, collaborators and other materials.
- DEBATE SESSIONS: Programmes, videos, transcriptions and photographs.
- PROJECTS: Material presented by the artists: initial proposal and CV.
- INTERVENTIONS: Includes preproduction, production, location and the programme’s related projects.
- SOUND: It gives access to the sound works, reference card, descriptions and artists’ CV.
- AUDIOVISUAL: Audiovisual works, reference card, descriptions and artist’s CV.
- EDUCATIONAL PROJECT: Archives on theoretical principles, preproduction and production of this project carried out in MA’s last edition.
- MEDIA: It contains a dossier which is divided in written press, radio, television and Internet information and has texts, audio, video and physical material which makes direct reference to the artists. It also has videos of each edition and a press release.
- COMMON MATERIAL: Reports, brochures, memos or personal texts.
- ARTIST ARCHIVE: Other works, catalogues, artist information not related to MA.
- PUBLIC ART DOCUMENTS: Publications that are directly or indirectly related to MA.
As you can see, this structure is adjusted to a process route to highlight the process by which an event like this takes place.
In the MA archive we should distinguish between works of art (photographs, documents, videos and other productions) and articles in any of these same mediums, in other words, between what is considered artistic production and documents generated by the organization and the channels to spread and report the editions; documents that are beyond classification, like author work, and will be available to be visualized.
To finish, we would like to stress the fact that we are on the first stage of our work with these documents, which will be enlarged and perfected in time for you to consult until we achieve all our goals.
Manuela Sevilla and María Díaz