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Archive for the ‘Digital Archive’ Category

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.[1] 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!

Sources:

[1] Whitehead, Shannon. “5 Truths the Fast Fashion Industry Doesn’t Want You To Know.” Huffington Post. October 19, 2014. 

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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.

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This semester, for the larger Greenwich Village History Digital Archive, I would like to contribute an online exhibition that examines the Subject of the Artist School founded by artists Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, William Baziotes, David Hare and Mark Rothko at 35 East Eighth Street in Greenwich Village in 1949. These artists, who were all either associated with Abstract Expressionism or Surrealism, organized a series of lectures in order to convey the idea there was meaning in abstract art. It was this lecture series that endured after the school failed financially just a year after it opened its doors. Organized by professors from New York University, the series continued once the space became Studio 35.

My research is in its beginning stages, but it seems this project will be a bit of a challenge since the school is often unfamiliar even to art historians. In fact, the school has usually only been mentioned briefly in footnotes. However, I have been able to find a few scholarly articles using Worldcat and at least book, Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35 (1950), all of which contain rich bibliographies that will lead to me to other sources. Additionally, I will look through the 1949-1950 issues of the Education Sun, the student newspaper for New York University’s School of Education at New York University’s University Archives, as well as contune searching through the artist collections of the Archives of American Art. While visiting the Archives of American Art’s website, I discovered a few transcribed interviews with artists who speak about the school’s mission. At least one of these interviews is in the public domain and readily available to use in my archive. These interviews are incredibly valuable resources for my project because they describe who attended the series and what events actually occurred during the meetings. Similarly, these artists’ estates may have primary sources that can reveal further details about this short-lived, experimental venture.


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New York University’s Bobcat database has been an essential tool during the beginning stages of my research.


By completing this project I hope I can not only contribute an online entry that fills a hole in the course’s Greenwich History Blog and Archive, which is currently lacking in entries and exhibitions from the 1940s, but I also hope to fill a hole in the art historical literature, which, at this time, contains more information about Studio 35 than the Subject of the Artist School. Sources are limited, but I hope to be able to determine why these founders initially came together, what ideas they hoped to convey, what methods they used to convey their ideas, how their philosophies compared or related to other artist-run schools the time, who attended the school and lectures, and ultimately what was the lasting legacy of the short-lived venture.

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