February 26, 2013

Archiving the Text

Almost since the first Text Festival (back in 2005), I have had requests from researchers and artists to access the Text Festival Archive. Generally, while trying to be supportive to their needs, I have put them off 'accessing the archive' because it didn't exist - except in dispersed boxes, cupboards and filing systems. I hasten to add that the art collection - works commissioned, acquired, etc - arising from the festival was safely stored in the vaults. But this didn't get away from the absence of an archive. There was a reason for this: generally, I am more interested in what I am going to do next rather than what I have previously done. Over the years the occasional requests for access have increased because there have now been 3 festivals plus various projects between - most recently the Text show in Tampere, Finland - people interested in studying/using the Text naturally assume that it must have a significant volume by now. It does, but is still not in a usable form. 

So this week we were able to announce the news that we have joined up with the Contemporary Poetics Research Centre at Birkbeck, University of London to establish a national Text Archive with a Cultural Engagement Award from the Arts Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and supported by the National Archives Council.  Most of the credit is due to Carol Watts for pulling the bid together. But the thing that makes the project interesting to me is the prospect of making the Text a resource for new thinking, new creative practice. We have appointed Holly Pester to be the Text Archive Curator and in addition to establishing the archive, we will be seeking donations and acquisitions that make it even more representative of the international practice of language across artforms. 

The project also involves two public events underlining the exchange between Bury and Birkbeck: a colloquium held in the Museum in May 2013, and a colloquium and installation in Birkbeck's Forum for the Arts in early July. I've no doubt that it will generate future elements for the next Text Festival in 2014.  

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