Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Books vs Water (and something about archives)

Yesterday I visited my mothers to check on my storage unit (a shipping container which she has left on a friend's farm). The last time I went there it smelt a bit damp and I'd been getting worried about my books. Anyway it turns out that one of my worst imaginable nightmares has come true — the container had developed small rust holes in the roof directly above where all my books were stacked (in cardboard boxes). So for about three months now, whenever it has rained, the water has been dripping in on top of the boxes of books. Needless to say I suppose, there is a lot of damage. Thousands of dollars worth! Some are complete throwaways, some are salvageable. I spent lastnight going through them. I should have taken some photos, it was pretty awful, because not only was everything wet but mould had set in in a big way. It's been quite heartbreaking. All my design and art books are the worst affected too. To anyone who doesn't know I have (had!) a fairly hefty collection of these sorts of books, a small library you might say. I use them for teaching and for my own research, but also I'm a bit of a collector (a 'hoarder' Nadine would say) and for many of these books my attachment is sentimental. Similar to how I feel about my record collection, I think of the 'collection' as a sort of map of where I've been over the years. Going through the carnage lastnight I thought more about archives. I've always wanted to archive my own work in a decent sort of way, but I never have (partly because I keep moving). I kept thinking about Julian Dashper's garage/studio. Julian went to America on a Fulbright scholarship (I think?) to research artist's archives. I wondered what became of his research? I wondered what designer's archives are like?


  1. That's terrible news, sorry to hear it. I share the same nightmare. We're moving into a new place and my first thought — more than whether it's a safe and fun environment for my son — is how my books and vinyl will go in certain bedrooms ie the damp/heat factors of such spaces. I'm not sure if it's selfish, or like you say, recognising the value of (personal) archives.

    I tend to justify such hoarding with the romantic notion of opening up my books to the wider community via an underground, suburban library. That way so much trawling through second-hand book stores has a purpose. I do think there is value in keeping and archiving one's stuff — as they say, history is in the making, so we never really know who or how such material might benefit.

    I hope some of your stuff is still usable. Anything you want you should consider a second use for: a project maybe? Or for someone else to experience (albeit in a waterlogged fashion).

  2. An underground library is a nice idea. have you heard about Stuart Bailey's 'Serving Library'?

    Read about it here: http://www.banffcentre.ca/programs/program.aspx?id=1072

    ... although the first time I heard about it the 'serving' part meant that it was going to have a bar!