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honoria in ciberspazio

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Mail Art Archives
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Every so often I am asked how to secure mail art archives.  Crackerjack Kid seems to tell people I have this knowledge.  Here is the sum of my knowledge as written to the most recent inquiry.

Dear Sheril,

Thanks for your letter about your mail art collection blues.

Chuck and David did contact me about David’s archive before he died.  Then an archivist working with David's collection before and after he died also contacted me. 

I do not have any personal information about collecting, donating, or securing mail art archives, although I think Chuck Welch thinks I do.  When I was doing my doctoral research on mail art one of my main findings was that mail artists of a certain age were very concerned about the safety of their archives and wanted to find them a home in an institution. 

Here is what I learned and it may be helpful to you.

John Held Jr. a professional librarian with a well-organized archive has sold parts of it to various institutions such as the Smithsonian National Archives and the Getty.  John has received a lot of flack for selling mail art, but in fact, that’s a way to get a large institution interested.  If you are giving away an archive then it has no actual value to the acquiring organization such as university library or museum.

Judith Hoffberg also a professional librarian donated her archive of artists’ books to her university's library. 

> Anna Banana sent me a statement from a blog that cited the fact (from
>  you) that I had GIVEN my artist book collection to UCLA.  In fact, they
>  purchased my collection in three increments from 1985 through the mid
>  1990s.

>  My mail art collection was GIVEN to them by me in the 1990s, but my
>  archive and other mail art has gone to the UCSB (Santa Barbara) Art
>  Library and Special Collections.

I would start by talking to these two mail artists about their archives and how to get yours secured into an institution.  Then publish how you did it on the web at mailartist.com.  Send your solution to me and I will post it there.

Another avenue is to contact a school of information (formerly called school of library science) at a university.  Offer your archive as a capstone project and let students research how to handle mail art archives.  I think this is the best idea yet.  Grad students get a unique problem they can 1) research 2) solve and then 3) write about in scholarly journals.  A byproduct would be that you would secure the works you care about.

I wish you the best of luck in securing your archive or repurposing it into new art.  I am a recycler myself so I don’t have an archive and I don’t have archive legacy issues that go with archives.

Best wishes,

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Part of my Archive went back to the senders country

All mail-art I received from the former Eart-Germany I donated to the Schwerin Museum in Schwerin. The director of the museum has organised a special exhibition of mail-art in Eastern Germany once, and documented it with large publications. They will treasure the mail from this history better then I can. Also it feels good to know that These eastern Germany Mail-artists, who once only could reveil their art this way, are remembered in the new Germany.


Thank you Ruud,
I will send this information on to Sheril!

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