Pietrobruno (2013) outlines traditional archives as a hegemonic-authorised collection of historical and cultural significant records, each with distinct meanings, which Collins (2014) builds on, suggesting that archives and their attendant communities share complex and interwoven relationships with ideas of history.
Since the summer of 2014, I have been involved in a community-based closed-group on Facebook titled Download Festival (https://www.facebook.com/groups/DownloadMusicFestival/), which serves as a virtual meeting place for fellow Download-goers to interact and discuss various aspects of the festival as well as to arrange group meet-ups throughout the weekend of the festival. However, since joining the group, it has grown inordinately (28,687 members to date) and has become not only a virtual stomping ground for festival goers, but an archive of festival and musical history. The group is administrated by two members of the group who ensure that the topics posted don’t veer too far away from the essence of Download – or music in general – and ensure that any harmful content is removed and blocked. Using Baker and Collins (2015) suggestion that community archives are a variant of heritage practice that doesn’t seek authorisation, and has a distinct emphasis on everyday practice, cultural bricolage, and individual and collective memory, I would argue that this group is an online community archive. The group’s unintentional archival nature allows it to blossom into a collection of gig tickets, band tattoos, photos with famous artists and so on. Only the other day, I was sharing my own tattoos which are all musically-themed after one member of the group shared their latest Avenged Sevenfold tattoo, in response to an earlier post regarding the new Avenged Sevenfold album. The group’s accidental archival nature highlights its importance in preserving what official institutions may see as hoarding unnecessary content which to others is a hive of interlinking memories. The group has also become of importance to the official Download Festival social media pages who have used content posted on the group and provided to them by us to promote the festival (an older thread which asked members to post pictures from their favourite year of Download sparked a series of photos from the first few Download Festivals that the festival itself didn’t have as much archival records of).
Whilst I agree with Joinson’s (2008) notion that the virtual world is increasingly becoming the way in which we learn about others’ ‘life-worlds’, we shouldn’t shy away from the importance of physical archives, particularly authorised ones that operate as official flagbearers of musical heritage.
The British Library holds one of the largest collections of popular music in the world, with their aim being to collect a copy of each commercial release in the UK, as well as videos, radio and television programmes, and their own recordings of various events. There is no particular genre specified, nor format, and various parts of it are open physically and online to members of the public. Whilst the idea of collecting copies of releases as well as videos and recordings is important in upholding heritage traditions, particularly when British music is concerned, I fear that archives like this are held in a sense of elitism and will end up being ignored by younger archivists and researchers, as well as those looking to learn about the heritage in the first place. The British Library’s public and private sections highlights the ongoing debate of access long-held in archival research – how can we create our future if we don’t understand our past?
This is why, through personally immersing myself in accidental archiving through the Download Festival group, I feel that community and social archiving is becoming a far more crucial way of archiving for popular music, as it allows almost always open access to content that can be interpreted differently by each user.
Pietrobruno, S. 2013, “YouTube and the social archiving of intangible heritage”, New Media & Society, 15(8), pp. 1259-1276.
Baker, S. and Collins, J. “Sustaining Popular Music’S Material Culture In Community Archives And Museums”. International Journal of Heritage Studies 21(10) (2015): 983-996.
Joinson, A.N. (2008), “Looking at, looking up or keeping up with people? Motives and use of Facebook”, Proceedings of the 26th Annual SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Florence, Italy, Association of Computing Machinery, pp. 1027-36.