FOR A COMMON ARCHIVE POLICY A call for a good practice agreement

If 10 years ago—in her emblematic keynote address—Suely Rolnik warned about the “furor of the archive” unleashed around ephemeral or dematerialized practices that intertwined art and politics since the sixties and seventies in Latin America, today there can be no doubt about the devastating consequences caused by the withdrawal of the State (and the subsequent lack of public policies) as well as the art market’s excessive voracity for these and many other documentary collections.

This appeal embraces and joins a broader concern regarding the deterioration, fragmentation and privatization to which archives of different nature are being exposed (a concern voiced by international organizations such as the International Council on Archives and Archivists Without Borders, among others). Finding, therefore, a common heritage at risk, we now feel the compelling need to respond to the urgent appeal made to us by a shared responsibility. The two fires that destroyed most of the Helio Oiticica Archive and the Brazilian National Museum, respectfully—although dramatic milestones of an irreparable loss—, aren’t but the most visible face of what is prompting this alert state. The privatization and dispersion of numerous collections in the hands of private collectors reveals a more insidious, persistent, silent face.

In view of this situation, we call to contribute to laying the foundations to reach an agreement in order to promote a binding policy for a common archival management that will not get caught in the dichotomy between public and private spheres. We see it necessary to harmonize criteria and methodologies, and unite communities that can sustain and be co-responsible for an archival policy committed to promoting cognitive justice and epistemological solidarity thus broadening the scope of their political and institutional imagination.

We launch this call for all those individuals and groups involved in activities related to archives; depositors and guardians, archivists, researchers, artists, activists, institutions such as archives, libraries, universities, museums, documentation or research centers, local, national and international networks, in order to establish together a series of criteria and guidelines for good practices and, above all, to implement common measures for reducing the hazards that now threaten archives or have already affected them.

We regard the following to be some basic non-negotiable starting points, when it comes to promoting a common archive policy:

  1. Defend the integrity oftt archives and documentary sets: Prioritizing the indivisibility of archives is a fundamental archival principle, if we want to prevent their fragmentation and dispersion. The distinction between original artwork and its record has favored the segmentation of the documentary body by highlighting some parts to the detriment of the rest. Therefore, we also stress the need to respect the internal logic of each archive in order to safeguard their production contexts, rejecting the imposition of any previously defined organizational criterion that might erase or obliterate the unique history of each documentary body.
  2. Promote localization: leave no institutional option untried that may allow archives to remain in the site where the experiences they convey took place in order to prevent their decontextualization or alienation from their original contexts, and to favor situated knowledge around their memories. In cases where archives have already been relocated, ensure access (either digital or through physical copies) to the place of origin of the practices, even if the archives are no longer physically there. A situated institution is not that which is located at a specific geographical place, but that which is able to protect contexts and restore archives’ historical and social conditions.
  3. Generate adequate conditions for the preservation of records and facilitate access to them, both material and digital. Digitization per se does not guarantee an easy access to material documents nor their successful destination, and it is necessary to be alert to the risk of technological obsolescence of the recording and storage devices we use. Both material and immaterial preservation of documents are to be opted for, and for this, access an use (reading, consultation, exhibition, writing on the collection) is crucial.We call all those involved in archival work and policy-making to ensure public access to these materials, favoring diverse uses, which shouldn’t just be restricted to consultation or exhibition, but allow for other modes of activation. To recover an access policy at different levels, allowing remote digital access, but also reinvigorating the invaluable experience of a direct relationship with physical materials, shared with other people, by appealing to the communities involved and all those interested.
  4. Promote co-responsibility agreements between institutions, depositors and custodians, subjects of documents, artists, activists, researchers and their respective communities and all those interested, based on the reciprocity between the different agents involved in each archive, irrespective of their level, and commitments shared for the sustainability of the archives in the long term. Contribute to forming a community of care around each file.
  5. Activate archival imagination as a strategy to respond more effectively to the actual changing critical moment, and to an increasingly aggressive market. Diversify and create tactics to preserve the integrity of the archives, with the prospect of establishing institutional and extra-institutional alliance policies that might allow archives to be maintained as a common property jointly managed. 

We conceive of this archival imagination as a way to leave this call open to inventing new possibilities, for we know that the first four urgent points may not be enough. Archival imagination means, thus, a call to attend to the present movements in order to find situated answers. For this, we call all those interested to activate both historical imagination—which can bring us back practices of older times capable of summoning their disruptive power over the present, and encouraging their future dimension—, and internationalist imagination, which can help share conflicts and solutions of different latitudes, new decentered solutions that refuse to be aligned along the traditional north-south axis or the center-periphery distinction.

We invite all those who, individually, collectively or institutionally, agree with this proposal to adhere to this call as a a stance-taking act, to expand its scope and, above all, to promote it as a common and binding policy for the different concrete archive situations we are involved in.


Red Conceptualismos del Sur

Archiveras sin fronteras (Chile) 

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (España)

Archivo General de la Universidad de la República (Uruguay)

Centro de Artes Visuales / Museo del Barro (Paraguay)

Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende (Chile)

Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, MUAC-UNAM (México)

Asociación Civil Clemente Padín (Uruguay) 

Archivo Graciela Carnevale (Argentina)

Archivo Elena Lucca (Argentina)

Archivo memorias de la resistencia, Centro Cultural Tallersol (Chile) 

Archivo Guillermo Nuñez (Chile)

Archivo fotográfico Kena Lorenzini (Chile)

Museo de la Memoria  y los Derechos Humanos (Chile)

Memoria Abierta (Argentina)

Proyecto Juan Acha (México) (Brasil)

Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (El Salvador)

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes Juan B. Castagnino (Museo Castagnino + Macro, Rosario, Argentina)

Centro de Arte Experimental Vigo (Argentina)

Archivo Luz Donoso (Chile) 

Archivo Guillermo Deisler (Chile) 

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Montevideo (Uruguay)

Museo de Arte Moderno Chiloé (Chile)

Archivo Central Andrés Bello de la Universidad de Chile (Chile)

Maestría Museología y Gestión del Patrimonio de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia (Colombia)

CRAC, Valparaíso (Chile)

Departamento Teoría de las Artes Universidad de Chile (Chile)

Núcleo de Estudios y Documentación de la Imagen, Instituto de Investigaciones Geohistóricas Universidad Nacional del Nordeste (Argentina)

Biblioteca de la Facultad de Bellas Artes de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (España)

Archivo histórico de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (España) 

Biblioteca General de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid (España)

Sociedad Española de Documentación e Información Científica SEDIOC (España)

Archivo José Carlos Mariátegui (Perú)

Alta Tecnología Andina – ATA (Perú)

Magíster Arte, Pensamiento y Cultura Latinoamericana de la USACH (Chile)

Archivo Yeguas del Apocalipsis (Chile) 

Archivo Memorias Subterráneas (Argentina)

Revista Archivoz (España)

Museo de la Palabra y la Imagen (El Salvador)

WET Labs (México)

Anarchivo Sida (España/ Chile)

La Virreina Centre de la Image de Barcelona(España)

Londres 38 (Chile)

Centro de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (Argentina) 

Archivo ArteFacto, Managua (Nicaragua)

We think this call relationally, as something open and binding. In effect, this call names itself as an incomplete or even to be completed code of good practice. An open source that knows that its fragility, its holes, can be its strength. That is why we want this call to be reviewed, discussed and reworked in different countries and cities to continue deepening its transregional power from local experiences and perspectives. And that way I can contribute to create a community of care of art / political archives.

To adhere to the appeal: