Using the modernist archive requires finding it first. The modernist archive does not live in one collection at one repository, such as a single university special collections department or one pivotal private library. Rather, the modernist archive is a term used to conceptualize a networked set of collections across many repositories in the United States or abroad. The fact that the modernist archive is dispersed rather than centralized is critical because each institution’s holdings are more or less discoverable based on local application of user experience (UX) principles. Weave, a Journal of Library User Experience defines UX as employing a variety of methodologies to inform improvements to physical and digital space so that the user can easily access collections and services. Th US Department of Health and Human Services provides an overview of UX basics that, adapted for libraries and archives, would require repositories to identify their users, what they want, what skills they have, and which they don’t. According to Coral Sheldon-Hess, when UX is properly implemented, users of all levels of expertise can more easily access what they need. When UX is ignored or poorly applied, users are more likely to perpetuate pre-existing archival silences as well as less likely to have successful searches.
The past twenty years, along with the promises and perils of the digital turn, have seen a robust engagement with the modernist archive. One can map nearly point for point the rise of the New Modernist Studies and the Modernist Studies Association with the rise of digital resources that have reenergized the field: the Modernist Journals Project (1997), the Modernist Magazines Project (2006), the Blue Mountain Project (2012), the Modernist Versions Project (2012), ModNets (2013), and the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (2013), among others, have all contributed to the “expansive” forces enlarging the universe of material modernity.
This blog concerns itself with the messy, multidisciplinary spaces of the archives—both real and imagined. It brings together everyone involved in the creation of archives to discuss how these spaces shape, have shaped, and will shape the study of modernism.