Friday, December 01, 2006

Mysteries of the Archive

Shawn and I knew we were approaching the end of our Communist critic's papers... they had ceased to come in standard boxes and were arriving in "balíky" (parcels) which could mean anything from a file box to a batch of loose papers tied in synthetic twine. The archivists were getting a little evasive about why additional balíky weren't showing up in a timely fashion, too.
The other day, everything we were given as new turned out to be something we had already seen, which was disconcerting. Finally Shawn, who is more fluent than I am, got one of the archivists to take him down to the depository to scope out the situation. The depository proved to be practically in the next room, so distance had obviously not been a factor. Shawn poked around for awhile but couldn't find anything we hadn't already examined. He did notice that the box numbers, which we had assumed had some genuine archival significance, had evidently been assigned purely for us and were now in complete disarray. Since part of our agreement at being allowed to paw through an uncategorized collection was that we would provide a rough guide to the contents, this makes our numbered notes a bit useless to anyone but ourselves.
We called it a day and Shawn ordered some cartons of Nejedlý's papers instead. We then went off to a conference on politics and contemporary art.
When Shawn returned to the archive to look at the Nejedlý papers, he was surprised to find four new balíky relating to our previous interest. Or, allegedly so, as one of these turned out to be mislabeled and belonged to an entirely different person's papers.
He says he will let me know if there is anything of actual interest to me. I believe that the last thing I ran across of interest was a postcard sent by Karel Michl (school friend of Jindřich Štyrský) which depicted the mother of Klement Gottwald wearing a peasant kerchief. While this bore no relation to my research, I had to photograph it and Shawn says he is going to put it on his Christmas cards this year.
Speaking of Communist imagery, Anna, one of the new Fulbrighters, tells me that she has been finding lots of fine examples of socialist realist public art in towns here and there.


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