Dissenting Ephemera Conference

7th December 2019

This event is closed however if you have a particular interest in the area please email rosemary@maydayrooms.org and we will try and fit you it.

In Brief: For the last year MayDay Rooms in collaboration with 0x2620 Berlin have been working on a digital archiving platform that is attempting to aggregate various sources of radical political ephemera together on one platform. This includes a substantial part of the MDR collection but also takes from other publicly available sources. We now have a large body of material (around 15,000 items) and have been experimenting with different ways of structuring this collection and think through different ways of distributing the archive and further integrating the materials. The purpose of this workshop is bring people together working in a similar area, learn from their experiences (be that technical set-up or theoretical contributions) and help our platform grow.

Context: leftove.rs is a project that seeks to create a shared online archive of radical, anti-oppressive, and working class movements, and the material traces they have left. The platform will aid the dissemination of archived ephemera from these movements, campaigns, and struggles, casting light on histories of resistance from below. We hope that the project will become a vital resource through opening up archives of radical dissent. It will also offer an occasion to scrutinise digital documents, make connections between materials that conventional cataloguing and metadata systems have often suppressed, and to think of new ways of distributing the archive, or even of creating distributed archives

In a time where most institutions of historical resources are engaging in mass digitisation projects of archival holdings, the fruits of this labour are more often than not heavily confined by digital rights management with occasional tokenistic gestures made towards open access. We take our inspiration from comrades who undertake the arduous and necessary work of producing libraries and collections that are not only open access but demand the abolition of a system of the cultural production based on intellectual property (aaaaarg.fail, ubuweb, memoryoftheworld.org, monoskop, libcom, open media library, libgen and many more). Whilst taking its cue from many of these projects, we also understand that nature of the documents that we are dealing with requires specific attention and care. Due to its transience, ephemera can not be considered in the same way as more durable archival objects, and our approach to developing this digital archive will reflect this. To do this we will be looking beyond established categories and methods of defining documents. Instead we are explore how different archival collections and items operate within different models of distribution, structures and platforms, as well as the different structural qualities of digital document formats. The form of this archive is yet to be determined and we look forward to experimenting with different forms of creating, distributing and redefining an archive of dissent.


The workshop will split into two parts; firstly we will be introducing the leftove.rs platform and raising key ideas and questions that come out of the process of development and hearing from our other participant in a workshop setting (see session below). There will be short presentations from different groups and individuals in each session, but we really want to open these problems out to all participants.

Then there will be an evening session that is open to the public which will further attempt to grapple with the material and digital nature of political ephemera and how we might best create an online repository.

Morning Session 11am- 1pm: Introductions and selected contributions.

During this session we will be presenting Leftove.rs archiving platform to you, as well as a presentations from Anthony Iles and Nick Thoburn about political ephemera.

Lunch: we will be cooking in the MDR kitchen.

Afternoon 1 (2- 3.30pm): Distributed Archive and Archival Distribution.

During this session we will hear from those experimenting with different types of distributed collections, file systems and storage to see how this can influence the form of our archive online and how we think more broadly about digital archives.

Afternoon 2 (3.45 -5.15pm): ‘The knowledge of the world is contained in PDFs that nobody reads’ or is open access enough to create an archive of dissent? This final session will look at how will can think past a focus on distribution and access and look at ways documents are read online and further ‘activated’ across different archival set ups.

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