Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Conference presentation on archival ecologies and affective atmospheres

Over the last few days I have been in Brisbane (Queensland, Australia) attending the International Association for the Study of Popular Music Australia-New Zealand branch annual conference. This year the theme was Popular Music Communities, Places and Ecologies and the conference sought to foster scholarly engagement with the various ways in which music, people and place are connected (see the original call for papers here).

The paper I presented at the conference was called ‘Archival ecologies: the affective atmosphere of do-it-yourself jazz archives’. I had originally intended to look at three of the DIY jazz archives I had visited for the research, but in writing the paper I ended up focusing on the Victorian Jazz Archive

The paper expanded upon work I presented earlier in the year in Rotterdam  in which I began to unpack the idea of what it might mean to archive affectively. That work, co-written with Alison Huber, focused not on jazz archives, but on the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame  in Tamworth, Australia. Affective archiving in the DIY institution is not bound by genre!

The theme of the conference, ‘Ecologies’, offered an opportunity to delve further into the affective dimension of the DIY institutions of my study to think about their archival ecologies, and specifically what Ben Anderson (2009) would call the ‘affective atmospheres’ of these places.

The original abstract for the conference paper was as follows :

This paper reflects on research undertaken for the Australian Research Council funded projects ‘Popular Music and Cultural Memory’ (2010-12) and ‘Do-it-Yourself Popular Music Archives’ (2013-15). In the course of these international comparative projects I have visited a number of archives which have been started up by jazz enthusiasts and which rely on the contributions of volunteers who share a desire to preserve jazz artefacts and/or recordings. Places like the Victorian Jazz Archive (Australia), Nederlands Jazz Archief (Netherlands), and National Jazz Archive (UK) all established themselves in parallel to national programs of cultural preservation. They emerged from within communities of jazz consumption, where groups of interested people have undertaken to ‘do-it-themselves’, creating places to store – and in some cases, display publicly – the material history of jazz culture. As ‘self-authorised’ sites of popular music heritage (Roberts and Cohen, 2013), these DIY institutions share similar goals to national institutions in regards to preservation, collection, accessibility and the national interest. However, they do so with limited financial support, relying primarily on volunteer labour, grant funding, memberships and donations to remain operational, and are often dealing with significant space constraints. In this paper, I draw on interviews undertaken at three jazz archives as a way of thinking through the ‘archival ecologies’ of DIY institutions. My focus is on the creation of ‘affective atmospheres’ (Anderson 2009) in these places and the extent to which the affective dimension of the DIY institution (Baker and Huber, forthcoming) helps foster a strong sense of community among workers and emotional connections between volunteers and the objects in their care. The paper considers how the archival ecologies of these places of jazz preservation shape the DIY practice of ‘archiving affectively’.