A Google image search for “librarians” yields many photographs of sexy bookworms. But where are the quiet ones who catalog the web?
The Internet is a living and breathing creature of creativity and craft. So, who are the people feeling the Internet’s breath on their necks? Los Angeles Times contributor John Lopez writes: “…an increasingly hyper-connected world might be stoking artistic enthusiasm: Seventy-five percent said it was an inspiring time to be in the creative arts. With access to new tools, you can create exciting work and reach new audiences; you just might not get paid well for it.”
Lopez cites Mark Lisanti as an example of someone who has benefited from free digitized expression. Lisanti writes for Movieline.com but initially started his blogging career as the Defamer. Says Lisanti, “It’s kind of like the golden age of art and creativity because you have access to so much more stuff, but it’s harder to find it.”
With so many young people creating and sharing their artistic work, how can we know that we are accessing the best of it? If the way you experience art online is not all that great, you may be tempted to make generalizations about all art.
For arts to thrive in American culture, the majority of people have to believe the arts are worthwhile. If everyone is making and sharing their art, chances are that a lot of it is not particularly compelling.
Traditionally, archivists work in museums or libraries collecting, organizing, analyzing, and preserving documents for historians, scholars, and the public. Obviously, a museum or library can’t save EVERY document. Even with widespread digitization, an archivist has to choose what is relevant and what is most important to a cultural narrative. The archivist needs a background in history, culture, and anthropology, and must be able to fit the documents into a greater context.
The more we share on the web, the more we need archivists, especially talented ones that know which documents to save for posterity.
Every time I visit a Tumblr site, I think of archivists. The most popular Tumblr sites are run by archivists, even though most Tumblr bloggers would not define themselves as such. Tumblr blogs have very little original content – most of the content is reblogged from elsewhere and shared again and again.
A look at the top 25 Tumblr blogs should give you a better idea of the type of things readers like to consume on the Internet. A lot of the most popular Tumblr blogs have even snagged book deals. Why? Because they are examples of well-compiled archives. This Is Why You’re Fat and Look at This Fucking Hipster reblog images from other sources, but the people who update and maintain these sites thought the content was funny enough to include on their website for readers to enjoy; in this way, they are archivists.
What does it take to be a good archivist? An archivist needs to understand what’s important to the art-appreciating public and what might interest those who don’t necessarily like art. An archivist needs to have a love for the subject matter. If the archivist is reblogging photographs of buildings, then the archivist should be obsessed with photographs of buildings. Archivists are people that have an especially quirky interest, and their passion must be able to infect people. I should be able to visit an archivist’s website and fall in love with the subject matter.
We need these cultural editors to prove that art is worthwhile, that not all of it is of exceptional but that some of it is vital and necessary for society.
(Photo by Changing World Photography)