Papers that Remain: Post-Custodial Archives on the Continent
The 2022 edition of the Virtual Fellowship Program, Papers that Remain: Post-Custodial Archives on the Continent, foregrounds the need to support the collection and preservation of, as well as access to, architecture archives held in perpetuity across distinct African national, regional and urban contexts.
The fellowship builds on a current project, Find and Tell Elsewhere (running from 2021 to 2024), through which the CCA will facilitate access to archival materials that are not held in our vaults and that will not become part of our Collection. The project will both allow the CCA to explore connections, subjects, and networks beyond our Collection and allow the owners or custodians of the archival material to benefit from our capacity to create meaningful forms of digital access and engagement. As a first step, the CCA is collaborating with the custodians of the papers of Sudanese architect Abdel Moneim Mustafa. By examining his significant interventions in Khartoum, including the headquarters of the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (1980) and the Nifidi and Malik Mixed Use Developments (n.d.), the CCA hopes to further research into architecture’s role in making manifest notions of national independence and post-colonial rule.
The digital archive of Mustafa can serve as a point of departure for Virtual Fellows if relevant. For example, it could be of interest for those invested in expanding best-practices for what materials are included in documentation and preservation processes, but also for those questioning more broadly what constitute African-led architecture archives and what they could be in the future. Notions of the decolonial archive could also be explored by putting Mustafa’s archive in conversation with collections held at the CCA, such as the archives of planner Coen Beeker and architects Georg Lippsmeier and Kiran Mukerji—these were the starting point for Centring Africa: Postcolonial Perspectives on Architecture, part of the CCA’s ongoing Mellon-funded Multidisciplinary Research Program.
In line with this project, applicants can also surface how such architectural archives become the basis for new spaces of interpretation, scholarship, and exhibition practices. Through these lines of inquiry, Virtual Fellows could address a range of topics that probe what archival and architectural interventions are needed to make research materials more accessible, both on and off the continent.
These topics might include:
• The collection and preservation of African architecture archives from any period
• Decolonial archival practices on the continent, particularly those tied to documenting the built environment
• New architectural histories premised on “marginal” archives and archival practices
• Histories that address the constitution of architectural archives and their place in the built environment
• Diasporic archives and their relationships to transnational architectural practice, with a particular focus on distinct African nations and locations off the continent
• Notions of architectural ”risk” and ”damage” in relation to the legacies of post-independence modernisms across different national African contexts
• The design of purpose-built institutions for the preservation, collection, and dissemination of African archives on the continent
• Analyses of established networks, institutions, and practices of architectural preservation on the continent
Fellows are encouraged to put CCA Collection material into conversation with a wide array of research materials held elsewhere, particularly with established or nascent archives related to the built environment on the continent. The broader aim is to draw connections across these bodies of material with a view to creating more accessible research materials. Within archival sciences, these protocols prioritizing ownership, access, and use are known as a post-custodial model for archives. In this model, the management or use of these records is separated from their physical ownership, such that creators retain custody of their records and archivists provide some oversight. The post-custodial model of archival practice often uses digital technology in the pursuit of a more collaborative approach to transnational archival work. It in fact originated as a response to the rapid increase of born-digital materials produced by institutions, but it was quickly taken up by archivists interested in human rights and social justice to shift the balance of power in archival preservation.
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