Both Eiko and I have a lot to learn about archiving, from best practices to – good thing that Patsy is in charge of compiling the actual inventory! But from looking at some of the completed inventories done by the Dance Heritage Coalition, I’m starting to get the hang of things.
The first order of business is to determine what is called the series. Basically, these are the categories of materials the archive contains. For Eiko & Koma, we determined that our series are the following: Press, Programs (including flyers and posters), Photographic Material, Audio Material, Moving Image Material, Paper Materials (including office files, project binders, and original artwork), and Sets and Costumes. When the inventory is finished, we’ll have a detailed record of all the materials
Within each series, the materials must be in some sort of container that can be numbered, named, or otherwise be identified, e.g. “Press Binder #4,” “Flyers 2001,” or “The Romantic Rose Album of Precious Memories.” That Tupperware container of random snapshots? Not archivable. The big plastic tub of random clippings and papers? Also not archivable. A chronological series of binders containing photos? Perfect. A filing cabinet filled with folders containing flyers and programs? Good to go.
In order for the inventory work to get started, Eiko and I first had to make all of the archive materials easily accessible. Since everything is stored in closets and filing cabinets in Eiko and Koma’s Manhattan apartment – except costumes and sets kept in a storage facility in New Jersey, and a few files kept in their manager’s office – this meant some major reorganization so we could separate the materials ready to be inventoried from those that haven’t yet been organized.
First we set up a long folding table in the corner of the living room to use as a sorting surface. As we went through closets, moving aside a vacuum cleaner and clothing, we quickly covered the table with boxes of press clippings and miscellaneous papers that still need to be sorted and filed. More boxes soon went under the table, containing Japanese files, extra postcards, and unlabeled folders. As tempting as it was to tackle these piles first, we needed to prioritize the materials that are already organized in folders and binders so that Patsy would have somewhere to start her inventory. Also, since the inventory of paper materials is generally only happening at the container or folder level, it won’t matter if we later add more materials to a particular folder. As long as the container or folder remain the same, the inventory will still be valid.
The addition of a filing cabinet and a bookshelf to the wall next to the folding table gave us needed workspace for press binders, photo binders, and hanging folders with flyers, some dating back as far as 1971. We left the videos, film reels, and mini-DVs in their already well-organized bedroom closet. Other files also stayed in various filing cabinets in the bedroom and front closet.
Looks like we’re ready to begin!