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Living Archives


Our archives are the traces of our culture. They are repositories of our hopes and fears, our accomplishments and our failures as a society, and they are increasingly in digital format. Social media and networked technologies are in the process of dramatically transforming archival practices. This project will research, analyze and prototype how archives for public cultural heritage can become a significant social resource, creating social change, cultural awareness and collective collaboration pointing towards a shared future of a society.

Contact: Susan Kozel

Keywords: cultural heritage archives, memory, interaction design, media and communication studies


Click here for the full project description, on gdocs.

MORE – Today, most archives have been digitized, but many of them are still dormant and inaccessible to the broad spectra of citizens. Revitalizing public archives into living social resources implies shedding the conception that they are the dormant and disembodied narratives of a dominant culture. With the Living Archives project, we shake the digital dust off archives and open the process of archiving so that it embraces contemporary practices associated with open data, social networking, mobile media, storytelling, gaming, and performance. The purpose is both to see how public cultural heritage can become a significant social resource, creating social change, and how archival practices outside institutions can be facilitated, performed and valued.

Archiving is not just located in the past, it occurs in the present, and it impacts the future. As such, archiving faces the same general problems as knowledge circulation: call it narrowing or shallowing. We know that search engines serve as amplifiers of popularity, continually reinforcing a consensus about what information is important and what is not. Digital information that is marginal, unusual, or even simply associated with atypical keywords is left out of the wave of what constitutes knowledge. If we replace knowledge with archives in the previous sentence, then there is a risk that cultural memory becomes narrower, both in terms of accessing what already exists but also what is being generated now. In this project, we do not only open up dormant archives, but also address the wider problems of a narrowing of content (what is archived?) and a narrowing of inclusion (who does the archiving?). This project is significant because participatory and performative social actions and openness of data will become increasingly important in our digitized society, creating conditions and possibilities for action and thought.

The project develops tools, methods and best practices, and is carried out by a collaborative and multidisciplinary team of researchers, contributing knowledge and methods from the fields of History, Artistic Research, Interaction Design, Computer Science, Media and Communication Studies, and Cultural and Critical Theory.

Research team
Susan Kozel, Professor of New Media at Medea, heads the project. Other participants are: Marie Gustavsson Friberger, PhD in Computer Science at the School of Technology; Anders Høg Hansen, PhD in Media and Communications Studies at the Faculty of Culture and Society; Roger Johansson, Professor in History at the Faculty of Education and Society; Erling Björvinsson, PhD in Interaction design at Medea; Elisabet M. Nilsson, PhD in Pedagogy, games researcher at Medea.

Read more
Public project description, on gdocs.
Living Archives receives 18 million from Vetenskapsrådet

4 thoughts on “Living Archives”

  1. This is basicly a project on archives with no archivists lead by Malmö Högskola that has no education or research in the archiving field? Have I understood it correctly?

  2. The Living Archives project does not take a conventional approach to archiving: we will approach this varied practice through the research strands of performing memory, open data and participatory design. Our team reflects these areas well: Roger Johansson is a Professor of History and Director of the Institutet för Studier i Malmös Historia (IMH); Professor Susan Kozel (Project Leader) is an expert in performance practices and philosophy; Erling Björgvinsson & Elisabet Nilsson combine theoretical and practical knowledge in participatory design; Anders Hog Hanssen contributes cultural and critical perspectives on memory; Marie Gustafsson Friberger provides a perspective from computing science on open data. We look forward to filling a fully funded PhD position and two post-doctorates to complement our group. There will be opportunities over the 4 year project for public participation in the process. 

    • From your reply it seems like you have a very conventional view of the archiving profession. Don´t you believe that the professional archivists in institutions and government archives have thoughts, theories and even work on these subjects on a daily basis? I bet that just a few miles away in Lund there are students at the ABM-program writing their master thesis about these subjects as I am writing this.

      Wouldn’t you say that your project have a better chance of actually achieve something useful if you worked with the people who does much of the legwork in saving and presenting our heritage instead of just looking in from the outside? 

  3. It sounds like you are quite passionate about this. Come talk to us sometime. We will begin our process in January and have plenty of opportunity for discussion with anyone interested.

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