maura @ 9:20 pm
Last week we took a field trip at work to visit Interference Archive in Gowanus. It’s a neat space and project focused on collecting print and other artifacts from social and activist movements (and fully run by volunteers!). It was interesting to hear about the origins and mission of the archive — it began with the collections of two activists — and their goals to preserve the past via use. They collect multiple copies whenever possible, but they don’t focus on conservation of materials and everything can be taken out and examined. My colleagues and I noted some interesting parallels between their mission and our own, since we’re a teaching rather than a research library.
One of the things I found most fascinating about our visit is the sheer variety of materials in the archive. Books, flyers, pamphlets, zines, posters, banners, and other paper items, but also records, videos, t-shirts, buttons, etc. I’m much less familiar with the content in Interference Archive (and it’s on my radar to become moreso), but the buttons grabbed my attention right away. I love buttons (what the British call badges). While I’ve thinned my collection over the years I still have a fair number of indiepop and other music buttons. And my librarian self has a couple of open access buttons, a librarians against DRM button, and a set of 6 library buttons from the University of Chicago. I even have an old hippie button promoting breastfeeding that was my mom’s when I was little.
Not all of the buttons at Interference Archive have been cataloged, but the ones that have are stored in long boxes that look a bit like individual card catalog drawers. Inside each button is pinned to an index card and they’re arranged alphabetically. The effect is really neat, sort of like a 3D card catalog.
I’ve found myself thinking of the buttons a lot since our visit, wondering about those buttons specifically and my buttons specifically and buttons themselves more generally. When were buttons invented? Has there ever been a history of buttons in general written, or buttons for particular uses — activism, politics, music, etc.? If not, someone should write one. And maybe when I’m finished with all of the projects I’ve currently got on my plate, that person will be me.