Activation of Interference Archive

Activation of Interference Archive



Edition Size



Offset print, Risograph, Screenprint


Brooklyn, NY

$ 1,500.00


View Collectors

Brooklyn Public Library

Bucknell University

CCS Hessel Museum of Art

University of Connecticut (UCONN)

University of Toronto

In 2021, Interference Archive marked a decade of activity. Activation of Interference Archive is a collection of materials from these 10 years that documents their activation through the many forms of community use of the archives. The collection is a look at what it means to open stacks to the public. Activation of Interference Archive includes general informational materials created by Interference Archive, Promotional material created for Interference Archive exhibitions and public programs, and Publications created as educational resources related to Interference Archive exhibitions. The collection is arranged in two series: Series 1 contains Ephemera and Publications; Series 2 contains posters. The finding aid for Activation of Interference Archive can be found here.

Since its start, Interference Archive has sought to explore the relationship between cultural production and social movements. This work has manifested in an open stacks archival collection, publications, a study center, and public programs including exhibitions, workshops, talks, and screenings, all of which encourage critical and creative engagement with the rich history of social movements. Interference Archive operates under the belief that use is preservation, and making materials accessible to the public preserves both physical materials and collective history.

“While an archive of an archive might seem superfluous or self indulgent, as we passed the tenth year of Interference Archive in 2021—a difficult time to be alive, and also a difficult time to be an all-volunteer, community-supported archive—we became more aware than ever that there is an aspect of our work that feels different, and feels critical to share.

This awareness was heightened by the fact that during the COVID19 pandemic, we felt like we were not able to do our work (a sentiment shared by most). And yet: although the doors of the archive were closed to the public, and our open stacks collection saw very few visitors taking down boxes and leafing through folders, we were still successfully carrying out the work that many archives set as their key goals: we were providing safe storage for collections; we were accepting new materials and processing them, albeit a little slower than normal; we were supporting researchers in their work, although this required the few volunteers in the space to search for materials and email scans instead of pointing researchers towards open stacks shelves.

Why, then, did it feel like something was missing? While we were still doing what an archive ostensibly should, why did it feel like everything had stopped?

The rich history of activating social movement history at Interference Archive has been key to our work for this first decade of collaboration. We have put together exhibitions on topics ranging from comics to gender justice to antinuclear movements. We have hosted free public events, including film screenings, hands-on workshops, and reading groups, and we’ve toured dozens of classes through the collections. We’ve rolled out play mats and sharpened crayons for radical playdates, and we’ve welcomed thousands of activists, artists, and researchers through the door to engage with our open stacks collection during public visiting hours. We believe that this core focus on activating an archive’s collections—and these many formats of activation—is unique to Interference Archive. With this collection of materials, we offer an archive of the activation of an archive.

The COVID19 pandemic made us more aware than ever of how much activating the archive means to us because so much of that work was not possible, or was not possible in the way we had grown used to. While the collections were still there, we were not using them in the ways we felt we were good at; we were not helping others use them in ways that so much of our volunteer labor had been structured to support. In spite of all of this, however, we saw new ideas born out of existing passions: exhibitions shifted from physical to online; class visit infrastructure developed to connect virtually; cataloging workflows were developed for collective processing of born digital content while hanging out together in a zoom room. The archive was still alive, still active and activating, but in new and exciting ways.

Our goal with this collection is not to memorialize one way of doing things, or to write a recipe others might follow. We are not creating an archive of a thing that has been; this is not a complete project, nor a perfect one. Instead, we are offering up the tools and strategies that we have learned for activation of an archive, and that we are in fact learning from right now as we imagine what archives activation looks like in the future. The activation of an archive presented in this collection is born from hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours of labor and love, and from relationships built between individuals, organizations, and archival materials. We hope it inspires your relationships, your labor, and the futures we imagine together.”