The Big Idea

Studio Archiving

Specialized approaches to capturing the creative and personal archives of independent artists, labels and publishers.


Coming of age in the early 1980s, GenX is the last American generation to come of age without ubiquitous Digital technology. Many of us were self-taught, using youthful enthusiasm and a DIY ethos to learn recording, photography, typography and graphic design. Our music was recorded on tape; our pictures shot on film, from 110 to 35mm and beyond. Punk's ads, flyers and other printed "stuff" was made with paper, presstype and stencils; people had to learn how silkscreening was done, or how binding a zine worked - without YouTube. 


Given the typical sprawl and often-immense inventory of a creative life, we have special programs for assisting photographers, filmmakers, musicians, independent labels and other creators and publishers. Using real-world Punk archives as test beds for new ideas, prototypes and practices helps us tune our tools, and at the same time helps artists organize, identify and digitize their collections ...and contribute to a new base of knowledge for American Punk.


Seeing a need for an easy-but-powerful way to catalogue a lifetime of creativity, we developed a process to preserve and share not just the inventory of images, designs, recordings and publications, but the stories behind them - capturing the creative process, techiniques and tools that might be known only to a few.

Our work with creatives and their studios is reciprocal and collaborative - we each get something out of it, and contribute to the larger project at the same time. Working with artists and their teams, we start by mapping the full Creative Archive. In addition to looking for the "steps" in a particular process, like making a record cover, we also just talk - surfacing often-forgotten details and contexts embedded in a particular time, place, and creative movement.


As we map an archive, we also talk about the possibilities - what would be great to have, what's been tried and didn't work, how to set up future-facing solutions that don't undo work already done, what hidden issues - like privacy, existing agreements and the like - must also be accounted for. These practical, solutions-focused conversations help us brainstorm better systems for everyone, and inform the design of everything from datasets to messaging.

Once the full Archive is mapped, we integrate its key holdings into the Punk Archive's indexes, and activate its ongoing care, economic sustainability, relevance and legacy through publishing and preservation in alignment with the artist's goals and wishes. Some people are happy simply preserving and sharing their work through our digital library; some are interested in publishing and other public access.


the tl;dr

A Studio or Artist's Archive is a different beast - it usually has not just the final version of something, but all the steps it took to get there. For mostly-analogue art, that can be everything from silk screens and stencils to multitracks, layouts and masters and contact sheets.

We work with artists to sequence and connect their process - whether from demos to studio mixes to test pressings, of from a negative to final cut, proof or print.  


Minor Threat in Texas, by Bill Daniel

Cardboard head liner from the Minor Threat van.

Screenshot of Minor Threat video from Chatsworth, California April 1983.

Flyer for Chatsworth RollerWorks show, artist unknown, probably Mark Stern.

All from the Summerland Trust collection, courtesy Nuit Hansgen.