Archiving, Librarianship, and Art

So the other day I was digging through old papers and found this antiquated gem–it’s basically the opener to an essay I submitted that eventually got me the grant to gain my archives certificate while I was studying Library Science at Pratt Institute, back in 2006. Sadly, my archives certificate is gathering dust, as my career has moved onto more acquisitions-based duties. However, I can say without a doubt that the skills I’ve gained with archival practice have stayed with me, especially through my ongoing collecting of heavy metal music ephemera. Upon re-reading this section of my essay, I got nostalgic and a bit weepy if I really admit, that yes, this was a great reminder of why I wanted to study archives and be a librarian.

During my undergraduate years, I was a double major in Art (Drawing & Painting) and Art History (Medieval Art & Architecture). Being an art student gave me an easy way to transition into librarianship. I was in the slide library at my school on most days researching for art assignments anyway! And, I recall becoming heavily-influenced with visual resources and their influence on poets, writers, musicians and painters. The strong impact of an image on the brain was something I could never ignore. The visual image, as created by an artist, arises as part expression, part dreams realized. It’s probably why I didn’t hesitate to use John Constantine in my opening quote below. There’s something beyond our comprehension in art that sparks the wonder that amazes the human brain. Finding and preserving that experience is part of what motivates me in my daily work.

So read on below and hopefully enjoy one of my earliest essays that steered me towards my first passion of librarianship.

“One thing I’ve learned. You can know anything. It’s all there. You just have to find it.”
John Constantine, in SANDMAN #3: “Dream a Little Dream of Me

From the beginning, my thoughts on archival study and librarianship were tied with the needs of both knowing and preserving. As a child, I had been enamored of the adventures and mysteries of history. Learning to unlock secrets of the past, the feel of something old, traveling through places I could never go, somehow traveling through time and correlating experiences with the past had all been wonders to me. Now, as an adult, I find myself pursuing an extension of that youthful bewilderment and want. I have come to believe Constantine’s quote of being able to know anything because the answers to the glamours of history are all somewhere out there, waiting to be found. The unwrapping of the past and the thrill of discovery have been strong attractions to my curious mind. I found that in my first two semesters in the SILS program at Pratt, I have been able to learn the new and various ways in which to access this knowledge, these secrets. With formal education came a need to further my opportunities with exposure to great minds. I wanted to learn more and to know that that information would last through the future, that there was not a time limit on intellectual value.

To me, nothing could have grounded this need for exploring and preserving more than the passing of my mother last summer. Previously, it had not truly struck me just how much I would come to treasure not only the memories of our life together, but also the physical remnants of everything that I had shared with her. Unfortunately, there is very little of the physical left to remind me of her greatness, perhaps a necklace or other such jewelry, some photos, and myself – the most physical thing I have remaining to remember her by.

Instead of allowing the sense of loss to sadden me, I found a way to foster this need to remember and preserve. I found the key through educating myself and others. It wasn’t long after my enrollment at Pratt Institute that I came to understand the truth of my goal of gaining a Master’s degree. I wanted, and still want, to preserve information and help to disseminate its distilled knowledge to others. It has become a desire to both educate and inform the community of the importance of knowledge and its preservation.

I’ve found that almost all people innately collect. But why? Is it an effort to remember; to retell or to learn? What becomes so special about preserving the past? The value is subjective. It lies in the experience and knowledge gained through the act of preservation. By preserving and caring about our past, we gain insights into how to care for our future. We learn to be advocates of enduring values, both physical and intellectual. It is my hope that, by the end of this program, I will have the skills necessary to aid in the preservation of history, and show people that they can know anything, that they just need to search hard enough and experience the joy of discovery.

Needless to say, I became a recipient of the Archives Certificate program grant at Pratt and had the wonderful opportunity of working with the Othmer Library’s archival materials (see pictures above) housed within the Brooklyn Historical Society building in Brooklyn Heights. It was really an influential time in my budding career and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

And for those interested, here’s the link to the finding aid I helped revised during my work at The Brooklyn Historical Society:

Reblog from Pearrls.Com – Fine Art Degree – Will-I-Ever-Practice?

Over at, there’s a great post on gender inequality and the practice of fitting in Art Making after one’s graduated.

It’s a great read. I especially liked the part below as it’s definitely been a struggle for me in the past:

The experiences of the panel highlight that motherhood and maternity remain as complex an issue in the art world as in any other sector. Despite a perceived flexibility in working hours reducing one problematic element for artists with children, women continue to battle age-old ideological obstacles. If women artists are feeling the need to hide (as in one case related by Boyce) and downplay motherhood, or, as Sarah Maple admitted, muse about how best to fit childbirth into an exhibition schedule, it is clearly a tangible concern.

And the part:

Evidently, the extraordinary experience of having a child is unlikely to negatively impact the quality of an artist’s work. Therefore it is more likely that gallerists – as are huge swathes of other managerial professionals (of both genders) – feel some sort of socially-generated nervousness about investing their time and money into those who they fear will either fall victim to some sort of child-induced creative lobotomy, or prove incapable of juggling their careers and families.

Art Making – “Inspiration” is the Word of the Day

I’ve been marinating some ideas for getting creative again. It’s been awhile since I’ve painted or created anything remotely artistic. I’ve been too mired in academia and while that’s ok, lately I’ve been needing some sort of expressive outlet.

It goes without saying that creating and having music play in the background goes hand in hand for me. I used to paint with both music and a glass of something alcoholic to add to the ambiance. I can’t say that I’ve done that at all recently, especially after having my daughter, I’m not sure I can even recall the last time I just let go artistically.

So I think another project I have on the burner is to start getting myself to create a piece of art each week, whether it’s a doodle here or there, or something more substantial. My newest idea involves working collaborating with a friend(s) on a zine. I’m still not sure if I want to do something more along the lines of an informative and artistic zine or just an artist book. Either way, it’s already got my mind stimulated with ideas. I also want to explore my hand at book arts as I have some bindery tools gathering dust in my basement. Being around books all day isn’t the only inspiration. I’ve started a Pinterest account and it’s both awe inspiring and amazing to see all the things people pin when you search book arts as a keyword.

Some subjects and themes of inspiration for drawing/illustrating/painting are:
dia de los muertos
pop surrealism
sheet music
women musicians
musical instruments
fairy tales

Some artists who inspire me:
Camille Rose Garcia
Alex Gross
Zak Smith
Audrey Kawasaki
Natalia Fabia

But where does one find the time outside full-time work, full-time school, and full-time mothering to be creative? I haven’t an answer to this yet and I’m hoping it doesn’t hold me back from creating.

Space Madness and the Anthropology of Aliens?

Over at the Mindhacks  blog, the authors have a great post on the Rise and Fall of Space Madness. The post discusses how during the 1950’s the popular belief regarding space travel was that it would have a negative affect on the mental health of astronauts. It was thought that long stretches of time, along with space stress and loneliness would inevitably traumatize the mind. What NASA scientists found was the opposite and what seems to be even more interesting (at least to me) is how Hollywood was able to profit on a culturally created “space madness disease”  that in actuality-never happened. What’s even more clear is that this perceived madness is still popular today.

Continue reading

Study habit(us)

In both my anthropology classes, I’ve been getting a great introduction to classic and modern anthropological theory. Just recently we had a couple of readings that had to do with embodiment. In many of these readings, the anthropologist Pierre Bourdieu and his concept of ‘habitus‘ were referenced. Habitus as defined by Bourdieu (1990) is a principle that consists of objects of knowledge,  a system of structured and structuring dispositions; it is a system of interacting elements or as Smith (2003) calls it, an attribute of individuals.

It’s this idea of habitus that Bourdieu places great importance on the body and action. Central to his concept is that habitus occurs through embodiment. When I read  Mindhack’s article on Study Habits that discussed inherent studying habits that have been occurring since education and teaching have existed,  I was intrigued with the possible notion of how we embody learning habits and how we can embody better study habits that move us (as students) from a passive role to active role. So instead of simply ingesting a lecture, we are now creating a dialogue with it; transforming the objective into subjective (from spectator to participant). It’s interesting to see that by thinking ‘deeply’, we can purposely affect our memory and what our minds are correlating.

Stressed? Who isn’t?

Feeling very exhausted this morning. I didn’t get to bed until 5am. It’s interesting how sleep and stress are directly related. I’d like to think that stress is some alien emotion that has nothing to do with the realm of sleep, but there it goes, intruding with creeping thoughts and sticky fingers. Yikes!

Last week was the culmination of a variety of stressors; it was tax week, graduate application  deadlines week, not to mention the annual performance-review-at-work week. All these events in one week doesn’t bode well for a luxurious sleep.

So it was with great timing that I stumbled upon a related blog post at NeuroAnthropology discussing just this problem: Worry and Stress.

The writer along with his colleagues hope to explore the different facets of “insecurity, stress, and mental and behavioral health in their long-term fieldsite in Costa Rica.”

They’ve listed a great bibliography that makes a librarian like me happy and well less stressed. The bibliography links out to various abstracts and studies occurring in the realm of stress and psychology. Some highlights from their list:

Boutain, D.M
2001 Managing worry, stress and high blood pressure: African-American women holding it together through ‘family’. Ethnicity & Disease 11(4):773.

Nolen-Hoeksema, S., B. E. Wisco, and S. Lyubomirsky
2008 Rethinking rumination. Perspectives on Psychological Science 3(5):400-424.

Schoenberg, N. E., et al.
2005 Situating stress: Lessons from lay discourses on diabetes. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 19(2):171-193.

Wells, A., and C. Papageorgiou
1995 Worry and the incubation of intrusive images following stress. Behaviour Research and Therapy 33(5):579-583.

For the entire blog post over at NeuroAnthropology, click here.

If Only….

 Just read this blog post over at Mindhacks and found myself both laughing and crying at the same time. And that’s because it’s a study all about Regrets, specifically a study titled, “Regrets of a Typical American”.

 I’m laughing because my husband is often pointing out how much I dwell too long over actions that I’ve already committed. At the same time all this dwelling makes me sad cos, that’s right….it’s depressing.

 And although I can’t access the full study from the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science, the review remains intriguing, so I’ll just have to see if I can get access from my office.

 Not surprisingly, like the author points, Love tops the charts with Family and Education right after. Continue reading