The creative process for large fashion corporations, from design houses to fast-fashion behemoths, is breakneck, furious and often wasteful. Fashion companies on average deliver up to eight collections a year and mass companies can churn out up to 52 “micro-seasons” a year, with new trends hitting stores weekly. Season after season, week after week, ideas are generated, textiles are developed, prints and patterns are drawn, stitches, patterns and techniques are developed and samples are created. All parts of the product development life cycle are carefully detailed and documented to share with manufacturing facilities around the world. This process utilizes thousands of people and continues non-stop, every day, all year long. In order to keep deliveries on time, and ultimately, customers coming back for more, this process requires working twelve months or more in advance. And once the process of garment creation is underway there is an immediate need to market these collections.
Industry giants dedicate tens of millions of dollars a year to launch massive advertising and public relation campaigns in order to keep fashion feeling new and exciting. Like the creation of apparel, marketing also follows a relentless life cycle creating new visuals and ideas of engagement season after season. Ideas are generated, photo shoots are executed, media is bought, pictures are printed, websites designed, stores are updated, packaging created, direct mailers are delivered and the excitement continues.
How many of these ideas are actually new? How many times are garments recreated? Is fashion ever original? How many unique and innovative images and campaigns can be created year after year? Or is repetition reinvention? Are familiar designs and a recognizable aesthetic the keys to a successful brand identity and, ultimately, longevity? Does recognizing a brand’s past help build a solid future? Or does it matter at all?
My thesis is rapidly approaching and the process of research has begun. These are the questions my I will attempt to answer by exploring the value and meaning of corporate archives in today’s fashion industry. It will also take a look at principles and practices—how to build them, what the benefits are and the cultural effects they may or may not.
Creating archives for non-fashion related corporations has been well documented, dissected and debated. There are countless journals and associations related to the research and development of business archives. Many of these journals, paper and articles are going to help serve as research for my thesis. Yet despite the growing interest in creating fashion-related archives, evidenced by the number of diverse brands that have existing archives, there remains a dearth of information on the development, utilization, management of these private libraries. In addition, business and historical archiving, as well as library science are void of fashion specific information technology.
Creating Digital History has served as a wellspring of information, rich in resources and platforms that will benefit my thesis and possibly the end use of creating a real archive for my current employer. The use of Omeka as an archival tool, while not the most fluid or advanced interface, is basic and solid in its straightforward and uncomplicated user experience. I can clearly see how this could translate into a similar system for a fashion company and the development of a corporate repository. All of the information combined in this course has given me hope and confidence that a universal, yet customizable, archiving system for fashion companies can easily be developed. Now bring on my thesis!
Posted in 20th Century, Archival Resources, Creating Digital History, Digital Archive, How To, Interesting Facts | Tagged Digital Archive, digital projects, digital tools, fashion, web archiving | 2 Comments »
I had heard of Evernote before I took this class, from a friend of mine who swore that it was a lifesaver in terms of helping her keep her life organized. I have even attempted to use it before, but to little effect — I found the setup confusing and, despite having the app on my phone, often forgot I had it available to me and would just continue keeping notes the old-fashioned pen-and-paper way.
This time, my use of Evernote was a little more involved and, therefore, a little more productive. I made a conscious effort to use it instead of just writing it off after a week the way I did the first time I used it, and I made use of the Web Clipper for things like wikipedia articles and random news articles that were clogging up my Bookmarks tab. Again, though, I found myself forgetting to use it, even though I had it on both my phone and my laptop, and even though the little elephant icon for the Web Clipper is always sitting there up on the taskbar of my Google Chrome window.
Part of it may just be reluctance to try something new: I know that even though I have the Web Clipper available to me, I only started using it when my bookmarks were getting too clogged up, simply because the ability to access the page itself — rather than a live version of it hosted on Evernote — felt, strangely, more secure. But part of it is just that, despite my efforts to go into it with an open mind, Evernote’s organizational framework and my own don’t really work together as well as I would have hoped.
About halfway through the semester, I discovered another note-taking software, OneNote. I did not use this one for either class notes or for my digital archive and exhibit; instead, I used it for my fiction writing. However, I found that, despite its many flaws (one of which being how irregular the syncing process can be), it worked better for me as an organizational tool for taking notes than Evernote does. The way the notebooks work in OneNote made organization both easier and more visually appealing. In particular, the way that the notebooks can be divided into sections made it much easier to separate different aspects of whatever project I was working on into categories, and that in turn made it easier to find things when I needed them.
Granted, OneNote does lack the tagging system which for many people is Evernote’s main appeal. But for me personally, sections and folders are easier to find things in than tag lists, especially when the amount of material you have in one tag starts to pile up. (I know this from my experiences in trying to find specific photos of a certain celebrity on a Tumblr blog whose tag for that person has 15+ pages of posts.)
This sounds like a negative review, but it isn’t. I don’t hate Evernote. I don’t even dislike it, really. I just struggled to adapt it to my own organizational style, and, when that failed, adapt my style to it. It’s obviously a very useful program for notetaking and organizing, and I have to admit that the Web Clipper is pretty amazing even though I didn’t use it much. It’s just not for me — simple as that.
I’ve spent the last two years in library school, but somehow it still never occurred to me to use note-taking and information management software for my own purposes until I took this class. I’ve used the same system for note-taking and information storage since my freshman year of college. Though for the most part it has served me well, I have noticed that as projects got larger, I tended to spend much more time skimming frantically through multiple documents searching for one thing I vaguely remembered reading somewhere. Evernote’s full-text indexing and searching, as well as its tagging feature, have helped me synthesize my research and complete my assignments more efficiently.
I typically take notes in an outline format using word processing software. It’s not a very sophisticated system, and it transferred almost seamlessly into Evernote. The one incredibly small issue I had with it is that when taking notes, I tend to have the active document on the left side of the screen, and other documents (for reference, etc.) to the right side of the screen. I think this is a holdover from when I took notes on paper: since I’m left handed, my paper was always on the left, and my book was always on the right. Evernote’s layout (as far as I know) can’t be switched around, so it took a little practice to get used to referring to the right side of my screen for the active document. I wonder if Ned Flanders’ Leftorium has expanded into software yet….
Tagging was probably the feature of Evernote that I enjoyed the most. (Full-text searching across the entirety of the documents in the database was a close second, but it doesn’t save that much more time than searching OCR-ed PDFs individually.) Being able to supply my own more detailed and granular metadata made it much easier and faster to retrieve information. My previous storage system used hierarchies of folders to mimic a very rough tagging system, but it doesn’t allow me to associate multiple tags with the same object, and tends to involve a lot of clicking. It also requires me to remember where in the multi-folder hierarchy I saved a document: since I couldn’t associate multiple categories with objects, if an object applied to more than one folder category, I would save it on the same level as both folder categories. I thought this was ingenious when I “invented” it in college, but now I realize that it was NOT the best way to do things. Rather than relying on the OS X directory structure to organize my research, I should have investigated third party software sooner. It would have made my senior thesis much less frustrating.
I wish that the tagging functionality in Evernote did allow for some hierarchical organization, if only for the sake of having a neater-looking and more navigable tag page. I can imagine that for projects longer and larger than this one, the tag page in Evernote gets very messy, very fast. I also wish that I had spent a little more time developing my tagging system. Some tags ended up referring to too many notes to be of much use, and I wasn’t always consistent about applying both subject- and format-related tags to notes. (This is another example of how hierarchical tagging in Evernote would be useful: I could tag notes related to people or places as “visual” or “non-visual,” depending upon whether they included illustrations that I could use in my archive or exhibit.) I’ll keep that lesson in mind when I begin organizing my capstone research.
I did not end up using Evernote to draft my blog posts or exhibit text. I need a visually “quiet” desktop environment for writing, and Evernote just has too many things going on that catch my attention and distract me. I also did not use Evernote to store most of the items I used in my digital archive, since the free version only permits a ludicrously small amount of data to be imported every month, and I’m pretty sure a single TIFF would exceed that allowance. Even the relatively low resolution JPEG photographs of archival materials that I took on my phone were too large to import in a single month. At least the Web Clipper can download PDFs directly into Evernote without using the imported data allowance! I would probably have stopped using Evernote if that function didn’t exist.
One other slight roadblock to using Evernote as the one database to rule them all was the fact that I ended up needing to use several books in my research. It would be really great if Evernote had a mobile application similar to the Web Clipper, which provided document scanning and OCR functionality through smartphone cameras. The fact that this doesn’t exist yet makes me think that it’s because of (everyone’s favorite!) copyright law. The Web Clipper can download PDFs exported by academic publishers’ databases, but it doesn’t work even for single (full) pages of books in ebrary or other access platforms for e-books which are still under copyright. Evernote’s Web Clipper is only one of many content-scraping web tools which have various legitimate and nefarious applications, and which publishers’ digital rights management software is built to block. Print books don’t have the same DRM software built in, but Evernote’s developers could still be sued by publishers for facilitating users’ copyright infringement if they did provide a document-scanning app like the one I described above.
Evernote is not a perfect solution, but no software ever is. Furthermore, most of my frustration with the software was the result of my being too cheap to upgrade to a paid version, and I recognize that it’s not entirely fair to blame the product itself for the business model which supports it. It would be nice to have a free, open-source platform with similar functionality to Evernote. After my experience using Evernote for this class, I plan to investigate those options further before I begin the research for my capstone project next semester. However, if that search is unsuccessful, I’ll probably pony up the $50 for a yearlong Evernote subscription.
In today’s world, there is an endless supply of digital tools and applications. These digital tools provide a means of organization and accessibility. Prior to this class, Creating Digital History, I had never used nor heard of Evernote. Throughout my entire career as a student, I have created notes the old fashioned way, paper and pencil (well mostly pens). Overall, I have found Evernote to be easy to use as well as a useful tool for organizing notes and for saving research. Personally, I do find that I often forget about Evernote outside of class. This could be due to the fact that I am not completely used to using it just yet. At the beginning of the semester, I made a conscious effort to use Evernote for all of my note taking, both in class and outside of class time. I would organize my thoughts about the assigned readings via Evernote and would add to those notes in class during discussion time.
When I began researching for the digital archive, I used Evernote to brainstorm and save documents for future use. I have found it useful for working with documents in an archive, because of its search capabilities and features. When I want to return to an object or note at a later date, I can search for it in Evernote. Evernote assists with organization and keeping track of previous notes or web clippings. Unfortunately, I recognize that as a user I have not used Evernote to its complete potential as a resource. In the future I will make more of an effort to tag my notes. The tagging feature will make searching in Evernote even more enjoyable. Tags make notes easily accessible; especially as your notebook continues to grow.
Overall I have dabbled with the web clipper feature. The web clipper is a way to integrate Evernote into your Internet research. The web clipper essentially saves information directly to your Evernote notebook. There are various ways of saving with web clipper (PDF, screenshot, links, etc.). I also like that there is an Evernote app. I downloaded it to my iPhone, but to be honest, I have not really used it. I have found that it is much simpler to use Evernote on my laptop. If I had a tablet, I might enjoy the application more – due to the screen size, etc.
Evernote is an useful tool for saving information and its use of “notebooks” creates an accessible space for your research and notes. I think with continual and consistent use, Evernote could easily become a staple tool in my academic career – potentially as a professional tool. I will definitely continue to use Evernote for research and gathering Internet search information because of the web clipper feature. I will also try to be more consistent with the tagging feature as a means to beef up the search ability of my notes. The app makes it easy to take Evernote on the go! There is no longer a need to carry around notebooks and pens. Evernote not only helps organize notes, but it also helps alleviate back pain caused by overly stuffed backpacks.
An exhibition about the Subject of the Artist School seems like it would be a rather straightforward task: display some advertisements or invitations that were used to promote the evening lectures, include some edited lecture notes compiled by the founding members and guest speakers, and choose some photographs that show the attendees. However, after combing through the archives of New York City’s art museums that own works by the schools founders — David Hare, William Baziotes, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman — and after looking through the papers compiled by these artist’s estates, there is a possibility no physical materials were ever produced during the year of 1948-1949 when the school was in operation. Or, if physical materials were produced, they no longer exist. Very few materials documenting Studio 35 (what the Subject of the Artist School was renamed when New York University acquired the 35 West 8th Street space in 1949) remain. An invitation to one of Studio 35’s lectures is housed in the Louise Bourgeois Archive, while the Dedalus Foundation has a few photographs taken by Aaron Siskind and Max Yavno, photographers who happened to capture the discussions of the school while trying to document the downtown arts scene more generally. A discussion between Julia Link Haifley and artist Grace Hartigan in 2008, which was later transcribed for the Archives of American Art, at least reveals a few details about the otherwise mysterious Studio 35, including the fact members had to be voted in to the school in order to enjoy the conversations and cheap steak dinners hosted on Friday nights. This likely means no advertisements were ever produced for Studio 35 since members and attendees likely heard about the lectures through word of mouth, when they attended a gallery show or frequented a local hangout like Cedar Bar Tavern. Furthermore, the school was discussion-based. They were not a studio school that produced work nor an exhibition space that would have had a greater chance of being documented.
The transition of the Subject of the Artist School to Studio 35 is one worthy of scholarly research not only due to the well-known names attached to the venture, but also because the school was founded at a pivotal moment in history when the art capital shifted from Paris to New York after World War II. The founders were among a collective of artists who learned from the stylistic traditions of the expatriates who relocated to New York after the war but were determined to push the medium of painting forward into new territory. The art produced by these artists transitioned from work rooted in Surrealism to new work that would later become recognized as Abstract expressionism. Although the doors of the Subject of the Artist School and Studio 35 did not remain open for long, the conversations that occurred likely influenced the signature styles of the founders and the rise of one of the most important American art movements.
Barnett Newman’s Concord, 1948, which displays the artist’s signature vertical “zips.” Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The challenge becomes how to document the school’s part in this crucial moment in American history when there are few resources to work with. Even when art historians organize exhibitions about performance art, conceptual art, land art or art work that has deteriorated due to the unconventional materials from which it was originally constructed, these professionals often have documentation to display. In the case of my project, I have a few poor photographs and some oral histories, footnotes, invitations and wrinkled letters that mention the mere existence of the school. In order to produce an online exhibition that is both visually interesting and engaging for a general audience, I have had to rely on short gallery advertisements, excepts from experimental magazines like The Tiger’s Eye and VVV magazine, as well as images of artwork produced by the founders during this time period. For my exhibition I will also build my own visual tools, both maps and timelines, to make the context more manageable, especially since there are multiple founders showing at different galleries, producing different works and contributing to different publications simultaneously. As I continue my research in hope of filling a whole in the Greenwich Village Blog still lacking in entries from the 1940s and hope to fill a hole within the art historical literature, I am very much open to suggestions on how to find additional resources and how to go about the final display of my materials.
Posted in 1940s, 20th Century, abstract art, Art Education, Barnett Newman, David Hare, Greenwich Village History, Interesting People, Interesting Places, Mark Rothko, Modern Art, Robert Motherwell, Studio 35, Subject of the Artist School, William Baziotes | Leave a Comment »
My favorite person in the early New York punk scene may be an eight-year-old girl.
Let me explain.
A large part of my research thus far has involved trawling the “vault” of PUNK magazine, whose website includes select scans from the magazine’s back issues. The one thing in the magazine that really grabbed my attention – more so even than John Holmstrom’s illustrated front covers – was a feature called “PUNK of the Month,” in which the magazine took submissions from readers who would explain, through often-sardonic claims of the ways in which they embody the punk rock lifestyle, why they deserved to be crowned punk of the month.
The submissions vary greatly from each other, each of them showing, through both text and layout, the unique style and temperament of the person who submitted it. There are huge disparities in tone above all else, with some “punks of the month” writing in a relatively calm tone while others went straight for the jugular with whatever cynical, shocking, and offensive statements they could come up with. The November 1977 PUNK of the Month, instead of submitting a photo, sent a “blood smear” (maybe fake; maybe not; who knows?) and proclaimed: “Here’s more of me than a picture could ever have.” (This particular submission also employed a non-reclamatory use of a homophobic slur, which just goes to show that even within what is meant to be an anti-establishment, anti-“ism” scene, you still come across a lot of “bro” types who just don’t Get It.)
And then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have little girls who love Patti Smith and beat up boys with their hairbrushes.
I admit I was surprised to see eight-year-old Nellie the “Live Wire” in a publication that is known for lewdness, swearing, and all sorts of inappropriate content. I was much more surprised to see how indulgent the magazine was with her submission, captioning her challenging pose with “Don’t get in her way!” Too often do we see adult male fans of rock music – from hardcore punk to pop-punk to alt. rock to emo – dismiss the musical tastes of young girls and even attempt, both consciously and unconsciously, to chase them out of the scene. It’s incredibly important to see that, even from the very beginning, young girls have been fans of punk rock, and it’s important that the magazine that gave the scene its name is not ashamed to acknowledge that.
I hope to find a place for Nellie in my exhibit. I’m not yet sure where I could put her, but the girls of the punk scene are an important part of the development of the punk aesthetic and its journey into the mainstream, so this gem may not be a complete tangent after all.
To see the rest of the PUNK vault, click here.