The Archive of the Archive: An Ontology of Indigenous Sound Recordings

Aaron A. Fox, Columbia University

Venue: 102 Olin

In this paper I examine the documentary trail of legal agreements, memoranda, correspondence, and contracts that mark the history of the “Laura Boulton Collection’s” acquisition by Columbia University as intellectual property, and the subsequent distribution and management of the associated rights by Columbia, Indiana University, and the Library of Congress. My argument is that this hidden “archive of the archive” provides the necessary context for understanding what “the archive” is. While the ostensible motivation for this construction was scientific and scholarly, I show that every actor in the story had a covert economic interest in the fiction that the collection was a unitary object that could be owned, sold, or transferred in the name of science.

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