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Storing for the Future


Shohini Ghosh

GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES ON AUDIO VISUAL ARCHIVES IN THE 21ST CENTURY
Edited by Anthony Seeger and Shubha Chaudhuri
Seagull Books, Kolkata, 2004, pp. 300, Rs. 350.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 6 June 2005

Almost all disciplines that require an engagement with history are beginning to understand the importance of archives and archiving. At a time when a large number of disciplines and institutions are becoming increasingly preoccupied with the idea of archiving, this anthology can only be a welcome contribution. A collection of essays on Archiving for Ethnomusicology, the anthology has emerged from a workshop held in 1999 that was organized by the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) with a grant from the Ford Foundation, New York. The introduction explains that the participants were mostly archivists chosen from industrializing countries where the archives were located in the very area from which the materials were collected. These were distinct from those archives, common in many western countries, where material was collected from not their immediate surroundings but from “the field”. The participants were chosen to represent a range of experiences from a diversity of countries. The contributors to the volume bear evidence to this diversity and include Dr. Dietrich Schuller (Vienna, Austria), Australia, China, Cuba, Maxwell Addo (Ghana), India, Indonesia, Don Niles (Papua New Guinea), Alex Huerta (Peru), The Philippines, South Africa, Ali al Daw (Sudan), and the USA.   Each of the participants in the conference and therefore, the contributors to the book represents an administrative unit of a larger non-archive organization of which the archives is one part. In such situations that relationship between this unit to the larger institutions has various ramifications. Ten out of the fifteen participating archives felt that the institution that supervised their work was not sympathetic to their needs. Others felt that their parent organizations lacked clarity and vision about the purpose of the archives. The relationship between the parent organization and the archive, whether conflictual or not, impacted on “setting priorities for money and space”. Since the running of archives requires both operating budgets and special funds, the nature of such an institutional relationship could prove beneficial or disastrous. Most of the essays in the volume have something important to contribute to the knowledge and skills of those who take a keen interest in archiving.   Shubha Chaudhuri’s unconventionally titled essay, ‘How Do You Turn a House into an Archives? Air Conditioning and Tape Storage in a Hot and Humid Environment’ is a useful map of things to consider for many of us who may be interested in ...


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