OBIE sighting: Dedalus Fellow Julia Feldman

03 Nov

Recent grad Julia Feldman writes in with an update on her new life at the Museum of Modern Art. Julia graduated just this May. See her update below the jump.

My position at MoMA is “Dedalus Fellow,” a two-year position in the archives department sponsored by the Dedalus Foundation, which was founded by Robert Motherwell. MoMA’s archives is an institutional archives, which means that its primary function is to document the history of the museum. The collections are very diverse, but we have historical things like the personal papers of Alfred H. Barr, Jr., MoMA’s first director, as well as more artistic things, like a series of notebooks that belonged to Vito Acconci. There’s also a tie made by Picasso that he sent as a gift to Barr, and we recently received a letter sent from Ray Johnson to someone that includes a fossilized slice of baloney from the ’60s. Working in an art archives means one frequently encounters objects that are not easy to classify, but you can imagine that someone like Ray Johnson is an archival nightmare.

My primary responsibility is the audio/video collection, which contains all kinds of crazy stuff. I keep track of what has and hasn’t been preserved in the collection, and when we do receive money to preserve recordings, I put together a list of items that are high priority – either because they are damaged, or because there is a lot of demand from the public to access them.
Dealing with the MoMA’s archival collection is kind of like dealing with the Art Library’s collection, except that everything is crazy. Imagine that instead of just Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress, you had about one hundred unique systems in place for figuring out what’s where in the collection, and some are so arcane and confusing that you end up just randomly sorting through boxes, looking for something by sight. But this also means that I am always discovering amazing new things – it’s a wonderful feeling to scrounge through a box and emerge with a fistful of letters from Giorgio DeChirico, like discovering buried treasure. It’s also very interesting to me that, of course, the line between what is archival material and what is art is becoming increasingly blurry, and a number of artists specifically play with this (Christian Boltanski, Sophie Calle, etc.). I think it will be exciting to see how the way we look at archives continues to change and evolve.
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Posted by on November 3, 2008 in Obie Sighting


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