About Heather Darnell

I am going into my second year of library school at the University of Maryland, studying archiving with a focus on music and sound librarianship.

Archivists: World Shapers and Window Makers

Every archival document has the capacity to act as a source of knowledge about the past, but a very particular, precious, and unique source. Archival documents are the only evidential window we have on the action-oriented past, because they arise in the course of our acting in relation to one another and to events in the world.

–Terry Eastwood, “How Goes it with Appraisal?”

During my previous job as a processing assistant, I loved to view each record as a little window into another world.  I would stare into each photograph, letter, or manuscript and wonder.  I would wonder what those people in the photograph looked like before they became little black-and-white pictures.  I would imagine what the air must have felt like around them and how the politics during their period affected their lives.  I would wonder if they loved someone or something.  And I would try to connect all the records in a collection like worlds in a universe and sculpt a story with them.  I always wished I could jump right into the photograph or become the hand that was penning the letter.  I wished that I could see and feel this other world, this world whose only connection to mine was through a little window that I would soon place into a protective sleeve and then into an acid-free box.

This trip to the Festival Fringe in Edinburgh allowed us to jump into another world. We were not just archivists, silent documenters and preservers of the world around us.  We were making active decisions that both affected history and the way people would remember it.  Each picture taken, camera angle chosen, and question asked potentially provided a different view of the world we were in. In other words, we were world shapers and window makers.

As window makers, we were lucky to have guidance, experience, and a clear strategy.  We were under the direction of two experienced archivists, Dr. Mary Choquette (UMD) and Kathy Carbone (CalArts).  All of us had at least one year of library school under our belts and therefore had a foundation of the basic principles and techniques behind the archival process.  Lastly, many of us (myself included) had archival experience.  We worked as a group to come up with a recording plan that would most accurately represent the show, an oral history technique that would allow us to gain needed information from the interviewees, and a cataloguing and metadata strategy that would best describe our archives.

As world shapers, we participated in Fringe festivities, attended shows, and interacted with the subjects we documented on a daily basis.  We made friends, both with each other and with the CalArts folks we worked with.  We ate, drank, and traveled together.  And many of our memories will only be within us.  But some of them have been captured, and it excites me to think that one day, someone might go through our collection.  And that person might look through our photos, read our blog posts, or watch our recordings.  And she might catch a wonderful glimpse of our world.

Below are a few of my favorite windows:

About Heather Darnell

I am going into my second year of library school at the University of Maryland, studying archiving with a focus on music and sound librarianship.

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The Artistic Evolution of “Whispering in the Dark”

Last time I left off, I was just about to attend the dress rehearsal of the show I’m working on, “Whispering in the Dark,”  which is about two lesbians in 1950′s New Zealand who commit matricide, are torn apart, and meet again in the afterlife. Things went better than expected, though the crew did run into some technical difficulties and had to make a few compromises with the media they were displaying.  The actresses had to adapt to the situation as well, and the show went on!  Though everything started running more smoothly with the next two performances, the show certainly didn’t remain static.  The director, who also wrote the play in collaboration with the two actresses that star in it, made different artistic decisions each night.  Lines were said differently, the actresses moved differently, media was cut or added, and new lighting and sound decisions were made.  Seeing the show performed differently each night provided an interesting look into the evolution of this production.  I had the great fortune of conducting an oral history interview with Caitlin Teeley, one of the actresses in the play and the person who first thought of the idea behind the story.  Click the media player below to hear what she had to say about the evolution of the show and her relationship with costar Kat Ortiz.

Caitlin Teeley Performs in "Whispering in the Dark"

Caitlin Teeley Performs in “Whispering in the Dark”

 

 

About Heather Darnell

I am going into my second year of library school at the University of Maryland, studying archiving with a focus on music and sound librarianship.

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On the Fringe

MLS Group at the Mitchell Library

UMD MLS Group at the Mitchell Library

It’s been quite a journey since we set foot in Scotland a few days ago! We began our trip in the quiet serenity of Glasgow’s West End, which I felt encompassed everything a quaint little British village should.  While there, we toured Glasgow’s beautiful Mitchell Library, which holds a vast collection on the Scottish poet and lyricist Robert Burns, and had a wonderful group dinner at the Mussel Inn.  Still in good spirits, we hopped on a train for Edinburgh and made our way eastward through the countryside, dotted with sheep and cattle.  I dozed on and off on the train, only to awaken to little pictures of rolling green hills and fields of heather through my window.

And then BAM! Edinburgh!

Dark Evil Castle (aka Scott Monument)

Dark Evil Castle (aka Scott Monument)

I got off the train and rubbed my eyes several times, wondering if I had fallen down a rabbit hole.  The hills, the fields, the quaint little cottages were all gone! Only to be replaced by tall, castle-like buildings glaring down from every avenue, and twisted streets that seemed to change their path each time you walked them.  Even the weather had changed!  Whereas Glasgow had been bright and sunny, Edinburgh was gray and drizzly, and I had the feeling that it held some old, dark magic deep inside of it.

Things only got more bizarre as I walked around the festival. A man on stilts greeted me as I walked in, his face painted in a permanent smile.  Men in drag gave monologues in the middle of the road.  A fellow in a top hat rolled around on a unicycle.  A group of college-age students sang a cappella jazz on the sidewalk.  My head was filled with a cacophony of voices, instruments, and camera shutters.

I was on the fringe.

It took a few days to get everything together.  To accept that I was not, in fact, in Hogwarts. To remember that I had a great deal of work to do.  And to get my technology and strategy together to document the CalArts theater group I would be working with.

Fringe Performer

Fringe Performer

I was thankful to see I wasn’t the only one at my wits end.  My partner, Alison, and I dove into work by attending the “tech” of our theater group.  Tech, for those who aren’t familiar with theater, is a rehearsal where technology, such as audio and lights, are checked along with stage cues.  Our group, performing Whispering in the Dark, only had about an hour and a half to run through their play and check the technology with it.  The show itself only has two actresses and relies a great deal on lighting, audio effects, and screen projections to convey the mood and story.  As someone who has never done theater, I was amazed to watch how many elements were involved and how delicate the orchestration was.  If an actress missed her line, it was easy for a lighting or audio cue to be missed.  At the same time, a mistake in lighting could lead to the wrong mood or idea on stage.

Given the time restraints and the foreign area, the group seemed right on the fringe—they were nervous to get everything together and have everything in working order before today, the dress rehearsal.  Everything was happening last second and there was a certain tenseness in the air. Even Alison and I were struggling with our own video camera, still image camera, and audio device to figure out how we were going to record everything properly.  When we left that night, not everything had been worked out.  The cast and crew seemed stressed and tired.

But hey—it’s the Fringe.  Tonight is the dress rehearsal, and after all I’ve seen of Scotland, I’m willing to bet just about anything can happen.

About Heather Darnell

I am going into my second year of library school at the University of Maryland, studying archiving with a focus on music and sound librarianship.

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