NYU’s Fales Library acquires Triple Canopy’s archive

Triple Canopy is pleased to announce the acquisition of its archive by New York University’s Fales Library & Special Collections. This novel initiative will guide the renowned library’s future efforts to archive the work of artists, writers, and organizations whose work exists primarily in—but cannot be reduced to—digital formats. A schedule of related public discussions and software releases will be announced during the coming year.

Fales Library’s acquisition of Triple Canopy’s archive will preserve the history and legacy of the magazine and all future projects and publications, as documented through its extensive collection of drafts of prose, poetry, and artworks; print publications and editions; videos of discussions and performances; website analytics; correspondence; and (mostly digital) reams of administrative and financial records that evidence the work of sustaining an ambitious and unconventional endeavor. Fales Library will make the archive available for research and exhibition, and will collaborate with Triple Canopy to develop open-source tools and improved standards for archiving the work of organizations whose activities range from digital artworks to books to emails to exhibitions.

The acquisition is particularly significant because of the dynamic and potentially ephemeral nature of the magazine’s work, and also because of its relative youth. Historically, organizations and individuals have donated their records to (or had them acquired by) archives after decades of work, and often after their operations have ceased or their lives have ended. The partnership between Triple Canopy and Fales Library is a recognition that, in a digital environment, retroactive archiving risks an unacceptable (and ultimately insurmountable) loss of information; and archiving in general requires expensive equipment, technical expertise, and an abundance of time, none of which are likely to be available to small organizations and individuals.

Marvin J. Taylor, director of Fales Library & Special Collections, says: “Downtown New York artists were excellent at adapting and, in turn, influencing commercial technologies through creative practice. Triple Canopy’s roots lie in the work of downtown artists who were engaged in both the production of culture and the criticism of cultural production. Triple Canopy has pushed the boundaries of what can be done with digital technology more than any other organization working at the junction of contemporary art and cultural expression. The partnership between Fales and Triple Canopy urges both organizations to rethink what archiving looks like in the digital world. We know how to handle born-digital business files. Working together, we will be creating new ways of preserving born-digital artistic production.”

Sarah Resnick, a Triple Canopy senior editor and alumna of NYU’s Moving Image Archive and Preservation Program, initiated this partnership, of which she says: “The Web has always been at the core of Triple Canopy’s activities, as both a medium for publication and a tool for examination. The question of how we read and engage with text and visual media online, and of how to exploit the Web’s inherent dynamism to enhance these experiences, has always been a kind of lodestar for us. Yet the medium is unstable, unreliable, and, by any measure, not built to last. Browsers update, links rot, and standards evolve—often at a rapid pace. Although we long ago recognized the necessity of actively archiving our work, the challenge has always been in the implementation. How might we capture not merely the contents of an online project but the experience of engaging with it, all the while upholding the relationship between the website and our ‘offline’ endeavors? These are questions with few easy answers—and they certainly are not ours alone. In our partnership with Fales, whose expertise and resources far exceed our own, we hope to serve as a test case as we begin to address these questions; we hope to develop tools and practices to be shared, discussed, adopted, and improved by a larger community of artists and writers working with born-digital media.”

The partnership between Fales Library and Triple Canopy was facilitated by the generous and essential work of Triple Canopy’s outside counsel, Foley & Lardner. The firm devised a means of addressing the “rolling” acquisition of the archive and the status of intellectual property rights as the magazine continues to publish work by artists and writers. Triple Canopy is particularly grateful to board member Selig Sacks, Robert Weisbein, and Raquel Aragon for their efforts on the magazine’s behalf.

About Triple Canopy

Since the debut of its online magazine in 2008, Triple Canopy has presented the work of more than 650 visual and performing artists, writers, and scholars. Triple Canopy has addressed the conditions of life in the digital age by examining and mindfully employing digital media as well as by developing publishing systems that intelligently incorporate networked forms of production and circulation. At the same time, the magazine has mined the history of new-media publications and reflected on the inevitable obsolescence of all such endeavors—no matter how they manage media so as to keep up with evolving Web standards and the proliferation of reading and viewing devices.

About NYU’s Fales Library & Special Collections

Fales Library & Special Collections acquires, preserves, and provides access to a wide range of primary research materials in their original formats, including books, manuscripts, media, archives, and other items. Since founding the Downtown Collection in 1993, which chronicles the New York arts scene that evolved in SoHo and the Lower East Side during the 1970s through the early 1990s, and includes the personal papers of artists, filmmakers, writers, and performers, and the archives of art galleries, theatre groups, and art collectives, Fales Library has documented with ardor the intersection of the contemporary arts with other forms of cultural and artistic expression. Through its partnership with Triple Canopy, Fales Library hopes to further explore how to preserve meaningful relationships between diverse sites and media, which are increasingly critical to the study of culture.