Help get Punk's history out of boxes.
The reality is, a lot of Punk's history is in the bottom of closets and the back of storage units. Sometimes people know what's in their boxes, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they know, but their heirs and loved ones don't. Sometimes those boxes get wet, lost, left behind, or just have to go.
Other people know exactly what they have and how valuable their collections are - to themselves and to history. They may eventually sell to a private collector, or donate to one of the Punk collections in their local libraries, academic institutions or history centers.
Unfortunately, even the best-funded public archives often lack the resources to document, digitize, annotate and present what is donated to them; things go into storage and to-do lists, waiting for volunteers or grant money to make sense of the content or get it ready for display. Some institutions don't catalogue at the "item-level" so no own outside the staff know what is actually in the boxes; others only have limited digitization or indexing capacity.
And, most memory institutions are locally-focused; even if they have specialists in underground cultures, they don't have easy ways to connect and reconnect objects to the names, dates and places that make them accessible and usable - much less network them with other libraries or collections - public, private or personal.
While there are other public and private archives (like the Punk Archive at Yale, and the government-held DC Punk Archive), we think we're the first non-profit cultural heritage institution focused on the DIY movement and American Punk. Our hybrid digital and physical collection model ensures we can accept donations in both formats, and catalogue them so they are not only preserved but can be interconnected - the flyers go with the bands go with the venues and the photos and board tapes.
The Archive collects primary sources that help build understanding and context for the creative counterculture in America.
During this phase of development, our work is focused on documenting the rise of American Punk music, between 1975 and 1986. These dates flexible, and are solely for scope control as we work on prototyping the methods and platforms for gathering and safeguarding the artistic, economic, cultural and personal value of the digital and physical objects in our care.
While this emphasis is core to the goals of the Punk Archive, the CAI’s larger mission is to preserve and encourage the study of the full range of America’s creative countercultures and self-empowered and community-based artistic movements; we welcome oral histories, primary sources and artistic works from related revolutionary and independent creative groups and movements, including Magickal and Metaphysical Spiritual communities, and pre-digital Queer Culture, Arts Colonies, Collectives and Communes.
What We Collect
We collect physical and ultra-high resolution digital materials. If you have things on tape, we actively help prepare and preserve damaged analogue and early-digital source materials through our Fragile Formats program; we also can re-digitize material created at lower resolution (like, home-burned CDs.)
We look for work that connects to our curatorial interests around
Our curatorial emphasis is on documenting and showcasing the process of “getting to the master” - collect artifacts and ephemera up to and including the original examples of a completed record, handdrawn flyer, silkscreened shirt or other artifact.
For example, for a recording, this chain might include written lyrics and composition notes, the writer’s demo tapes and variations, a working version with the band, studio recordings, including multitracks, masters, cassette or other mixdowns, engineering notes, studio records, test pressings and other artifacts of the pressing and initial vinyl duplication process. And this doesn’t even take into account the artwork generated for the cover, liner notes, and other packaging - largely analogue and early desktop production processes that have their own workflows and artifacts.
We also focus on capturing a range of perspectives from around a scene. Original interview tapes, essays, transcripts and notes are particularly useful, as are original letters, diaries, journals and other unpublished business and personal papers and writings. We also accept library donations from DIY authors and publishers.
FILM, VIDEO RECORDINGS and PHOTOGRAPHS
We are actively seeking the visual record of American Punk, particularly original source films and early video formats.
We accept (or can help create) ultra-high-res digital versions of unpublished or out-of-print photographs, as well as the negatives, contact sheets and other steps behind (and including) prints of all sizes.
We accept interview, performance, rehearsal and demo recordings on tape of any size.
We are happy to accept unrestricted gifts of unusual and rare vinyl of all sizes, as well as promotional copies, alternate colors and covers, etc.
FLYERS, FLATS and PAPER EPHEMERA
While there are many, many flyer and 'zine archives, we do accept both, with an emphasis on documenting the graphic design process and original "master" used for reproduction.
We also look for posters, set lists, handbills, stickers, tickets - in both ultra-high resolution digital and as physical copies.
badges/pins/buttons, t-shirts and jackets
VISUAL ART and STUDIO ARCHIVES
preliminary sketches, scrapbooks, portfolios, notes and the other process tools and papers - for example, the papers used in a collage, as well as the final itself.
EXTRA-EXTRA OBJECTS and SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Collectors who own encyclopedic collections, studio and business archives, and large-scale objects (like vans, printing presses and big-big-big performance, media and studio gear) are very welcome to contact us. We work with potential donors and our board to assess our capacity for the time and financial commitment of special transport, storage, installation, or conservation needs these items often carry with them.