‘Pamphlets were small, insignificant, ephemeral, disposable, untrustworthy, unruly, noisy, deceitful, poorly printed, addictive, a waste of time’
Nick Thoburn’s Anti-Book: On the Art and Politics of Radical Publishing
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. Ephemera due to its transience can not be considered in the same way 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 choosing to explore how different archival collections and items operate within different model of distribution, structures and platforms, as well as the different structural qualities of digital document formats. As of yet the form of this archive is yet to be determined and we look forwards to experimenting with different forms of creating, distributing and redefining an archive of dissent.
The project has a number of strands which are helping us produce and think through this provocation:
1) Experimenting with archival data
We will be having regular meet ups at which will explore the different ways of scraping, downloading and circumnavigation of institutional rights of digitised material. We are all learning ourselves and want foster an environment of looking at how define archival material from the bottom up, challenging traditional hierarchical systems of information management. We will be looking at webcrawlers, mediawikis, datascraping with python, setting up torrents for horded material, compiling databases, looking into p2p exchange and much more. To fuel this we will be taking digitised material and data-sets from an array of sources from online archival catalogues, individual collections from peoples attics, sisterly archives and skips.
Further details of these events can be found here
2) Establishing networks of archives
We are currently helping restart the Network of Radical Libraries and Archives (NORLA), as well as starting an archival education program called ‘Archiving from Below’ which incorporates many radical archives from around London to develop a public education and finding aides to various collections.
3) Digitisation Program and Scan-a-thons
MayDay Rooms is currently engaged in an extensive digitisation program of a substantial part of our collection. We will be organising a number of scan-a-thons at other archives and pooling archival scans from different sources.
4) Developing an archival platform
During the final stage of this project we will be combing all these various elements to start developing an online archive. The form of this is not yet determined but we are looking forward to experimenting with this. Currently we are using pandora software to compile documents and experiment with their associated metadata.
Leftove.rs is a collaboration between MayDay Rooms and 0x2620 Berlin.
This project is supported in part by the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust and the Lipman-Miliband Trust