Archiving of Art History and Documentation Workshop

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I was glad as I was invited and given the opportunity to attend  “Archiving of Art History and Documentation Workshop” organised by National Visual Art Gallery & Asia Art Archive today. Initiated by NVAG curator Koon Tan; workshop was facilitated by two representative from Asia Art Archive (AAA) , David Smith (Digital Collection Manager) and Chantal Wong (Program Strategy).

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetParticipants from various background from art researcher, writers, academicians, artist, arts managers and other related fields meet discussing about archiving process and practice, digitalization and access collection relating art materials, art history and ways to co-operate in the sectors. Using the AAA as a example, this collaborative advocacy efforts from NVAG & AAA should be given a good credit in bring various background of art practitioner in Malaysia together.

Documentation is important  not only for personal  used  and personal keeping but become more important and useful when the documentation  is been share  for public use as knowledge and information. It can be as proof of project/events etc done in the past but most importantly references for future use. And this references not only should be accessible  but also open to use for free.

This was one of my reason I was so eager to join the workshop, to learn from the expert and see how in future I can contribute to the development of any archive.

First session was more on introduction of AAA, how they started, brief organisational structures, process of gathering data, focus of areas, how they compile the data received and develop the data, digitalizing data etc. I was interested also on the copyright issues since they don’t practice of keeping the original material received from contributor and  they are dealing with thousand of data collections,  David informed the need of clear agreement with the contributors and this need to be agreed upon both parties before the contributors contribute.


Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetAAA is a good example to refer, as they have existed  for quite sometime and have extended from online to physical space (read more about them here). Their effort on making materials relation to historical arts documentation available online and accessible is astonishing but how they managed to sustained and expanded is something most of us here need to work on. From what I see and learn from this workshop is an effort of team work and collaboration from various people and organisation in supporting the vision of AAA. Neutral ground is important…Building trust between people they work with that help contributing to the databased is one of the key element. The concept of sharing and also giving credit to the contributors from my point of view that develop of feeling of ownership to the project which is very important element to make sure that the art community, and public at large supports its vision.



Session two discussing more on the what art historical materials or infrastructure exists in Malaysia. Its good exercise  to brainstorm on this area, so participant have a general overview on who is doing what etc. Infrastructure in Malaysia that we have lists down such as, Malaysia Art Archive and Research Support ( MARRS ), Southeast Asian Art Resource channel  ( SEARCH ) ,  Kebun Rupa, NVAG, Malaysian Design Archive, Petronas galleries, National Library, University (USM), Rupe, Rogue art, malaysian art galleries, art history books, exhibition and events catalogue, newspaper clippings and so on. We also identified on individual researcher on different areas in arts that interested in from performance arts (Intan Rafiza), community arts (Lost Gens, Koon, Mark, myself) prints (Anum) , new media an so on. Names such as Nur hanim, Saubin, Ooi, rachel, Beverly, Serena, Zabas, Hasnul J. Saidon, Simon Soon Chong Yoong are just of the few names listed down as individual that doing  or have done research and also write.

We also look on the challenges one of the things identified was how to integrated the data from the individual as well the institutions, who manage all the data, since Malaysia is a diverse country the issue of language and translation also been discussed and also on the technical an funding. On the issue of translation some of the opinions to leave the language or data as they were and its up to the researcher or interested individual initiative to have it translated for their used.  We also discussed on importance of consolidate data. Our suggestion it to support by link with each  organisation and individual that have website or blog or where the resources are taken.

my personal suggestion… I also think institution such as NVAG resource center and MARRS can collaborate resources and expertise. If NVAG focus in not focusing on making the data accessible online, MARRS as institution should take a role  to  establish  an integrated system that is dedicated in archiving all this data from institutions, print materials, researchers etc  for the purpose of archiving  visual arts in future.  Supports to MARRS as a centralise databased should be acknowledge and support by other institutions, such as galleries, library, universities, researcher etc. Im just taking MARRS and NVAG as example because….the way I see it, NVAG is an establish Institution that represent Malaysia art for this country, by right it should have the capacity resources (be it in funding, human resources, materials etc) to support the work like independent resource center such as MARRS because they have the same common ground “compiles, preserves and archiving Malaysian Visual Arts” MARRS it self is new and there are areas to grow and as a supporter of local arts we should support initiative like MARRS

Its not an easy tasks, but it is workable if we refer to AAA methods. It is time to think for a solution that is workable and doable for all instead of highlighting the blame game that is not beneficial for the growth of Malaysian art scene. A good example on AAA is  how they develop level of trust and support an manage to  work collaboratively with various of people, establish s user-friendly for the contributor etc should be taken as a steps to move forward on the idea of establishing Malaysian Art Archive. Engagement between institutions and interested individual is important in developing this process. A consistance effort from NVAG on art advocacy should be supported by various people not only art practioners or art advocacy but also other stake holders in this country to develop the understanding of importance of arts in developing as democratic culture in this country.


P/S: I just sharing what I learn today and some of my point of view …which I hope its beneficial to others.







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