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Volunteering at Interference Archive: sharing the voices from our collections

For those of you who don’t get to visit Interference Archive regularly, we thought we would start a series of short posts about what we do as volunteers. This post was shared by volunteer Louise Barry.

If you’re interested in volunteering at Interference Archive, check out our website on info for how to get involved, or email info@interferencearchive.org. You can also support the amazing work of all our volunteers by making a financial donation.

volunteer_lifting boxesI started volunteering at Interference Archive about two years ago. My background is in the arts and I’ve worked in nonprofits as well as a gallery and a museum, but my frustrating experiences in those environments made me curious about alternative institutions and horizontal organization. I liked that Interference was relatively new and still forming, with a flexible structure and room for input from a lot of people. I started by staffing once a week, and slowly got to know the archive and its collection.

When I was working on the 2014 exhibition, We Are Who We Archive, a showcase of recent I started to become aware of how important the donors to our collection are. For the most part, they are activists who collected these materials throughout their lives, because they felt it was important and needed to be preserved. People who have been doing this are usually thrilled to discover there’s a place they can donate these materials to allow them to be shared with the public.

During We Are Who We Archive, I interviewed Nancy Peckenham, one of our donors, about her life as an activist in solidarity with people’s movements in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Sometimes we talk about these movements in the abstract, but there’s a very human history attached to each object in our collection, and it made my understanding of the material richer to speak with someone who’d been part of these movements. That context—the lives and personalities of the people who created the movements we document and preserve—is a huge part of the archive as well.

The idea behind the Audio Working Group was to share some of those voices and provide context for the collection materials in a different way. Eventually, this working group developed its own podcast, Audio Interference, with a new episode every other week. We’ve interviewed lifelong activists like Laura Whitehorn and Susan Jahoda, artists like Dread Scott and Steven Rodriguez, and the members of legendary collectives including Tabloid and Peoples’ Press. One of our most recent episodes featured the voices of five members of Mobile Print Power, the Queens-based printmaking collective whose collaborative work is the subject of our current exhibition. Right now, we’re working on producing upcoming episodes with Greg Sholette and Diana Block, as well as building skills through informal training sessions and distributing the podcast through itunes. Like all of the projects I’ve worked on at Interference, the podcast has contributed to my sense of the archive as made of up multiple perspectives histories.