the Archive the politics and poetics of collecting
objects tell a story... December 15, 2000
To launch Inside The Archive, Susan
Yelavich lectured on the fragile nature of collections.
As Director for Public Programs at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (Smithsonian
Institute) and author of Design for Life, Yelavich
is keenly aware of the challenges facing todayıs museums, conservators and curators
in keeping their collections vibrant and resonant. Moving through a variety of
objects ranging from delicate white lace, to fine crystal glasses, to enameled
pictorial buttons, she considered possible curatorial interfaces for understanding
the function and context of these objects. Although removed from the realm of
utility and placed on display within the Cooper-Hewitt, everyday household items
have the potential to reveal intimate and social narratives. Associative arrangements
form idiosyncratic yet revealing timelines telling stories of public and private
desires, tastes and lifestyles.
Beyond the preservation and curation of more traditional objects Yelavich touched
upon the dilemmas of collecting the present. Acknowledging that the internet is
one of the most important innovations of our time, how should the museum document
or collect websites and other forms of digital design? Given the rapid pace of
technological change should software and hardware also be archived? If so, how
are the perimeters of this relatively new process of collecting circumscribed?
These questions at the forefront of contemporary curatorial interest remained
open for debate.
York) is Assistant Director for Public Programs at the Smithsonian's Cooper-Hewitt,
National Design Museum. She is the author of two books Design for Life (1997)
and The Edge of the Millennium (1992) as well as numerous articles including Narrative:
A Security Blanket for the Nervous Nineties (ACD Journal 1999).