Exhibition at Royal BC Museum: Fugitives in Archives

Kate Hennessy and Trudi Smith are preparing to open their exhibition ‘Fugitives in the Archive’ at the Royal British Columbia Museum. The exhibition runs from Nov. 2 2018 through January 2019.

The exhibition is based on their work with the BC Archives in which they interviewed archivists and conservators about objects that acted in unexpected ways in archives and the relationships that human caretakers had with them. The objects are seen as fugitive because they cannot be kept within archival structures for a range of intriguing reasons. The exhibition takes place in the museum’s Pocket Gallery and Lightbox Gallery, which feature photographs and an experimental film created by Trudi and Kate, as well as an installation of some of the original objects.

Here are some of the installation-in-process photos…

Photograph by Trudi Lynn Smith

Photo by Trudi Lynn Smith

Photo by Trudi Lynn Smith

November 02, 2018

Fugitives hiding out at the BC Archives

VICTORIA, BC–Researchers know the BC Archives is a phenomenal resource for historical documents, and it turns out that the shelves also hold a surprising selection of odd material items, like bullets, wallets and rocks that just don’t quite fit.

Fugitives in the Archive, the new Pocket Gallery exhibition at the Royal BC Museum, is inspired by the unexpected objects that two artist-anthropologists encountered while conducting research at the BC Archives.

Fugitives in the Archive is a collaboration between Dr. Trudi Lynn Smith, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the School of Environmental Studies at the University of Victoria, and Dr. Kate Hennessy, Associate Professor at the School of Interactive Arts & Technology at Simon Fraser University, and the BC Archives, part of the Royal BC Museum.

The term “fugitives” is used by by Smith and Hennessy to describe objects that resist archival preservation techniques or do not conform to archival conventions.  Fugitives in the Archive features photographs, video, and displays of diverse objects such as bullet fragments and acid-burnt paper, each bearing a unique story.

For example, the exhibition features an image of a box of cellulose nitrate negatives, which in unstable conditions can be extremely volatile.  Used widely between the 1880s and the early 1950s, cellulose nitrate was notorious for starting fires in cinema projection rooms.  (They are now part of the BC Archives’ sample collection and used to demonstrate the unstable nature and decomposition of nitrate negatives.

In another example, the artists work with a film from 1970 about the BC Plywood Industry that has turned bright magenta because of color loss. Smith and Hennessy remix the film to connect it to the current problem of wildfires in the province.

The exhibition is a rare fusion of art and archives, provoking questions about the ongoing human connection to materials in archives and our responsibility to consider the role of archives in our society.

The Pocket Gallery occupies a corner “pocket” in the museum’s ground floor Clifford Carl Hall and is thus readily accessible, for free, to all visitors during opening hours (10:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week).

The Pocket Gallery was originally envisioned, in early 2016, to cast a bright light on the amazing array of Royal BC Museum collections, research and conservation work that visitors rarely get to see.

It has since been broadened to also feature the work of partners, like the Sisters of St. Ann, and external research that investigates and interrogates the museum collections, like Fugitives in the Archive.

You can see images of the current Pocket Gallery display at https://royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/visit/exhibitions/pocket-gallery.

The Pocket Gallery is supported by Helijet.

About the Royal BC Museum

The Royal BC Museum explores the province’s human history and natural history, advances new knowledge and understanding of BC, and provides a dynamic forum for discussion and a place for reflection. The museum and archives celebrate culture and history, telling the stories of BC in ways that enlighten, stimulate and inspire. Located in Victoria on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen (Songhees and Xwsepsum Nations), we are a hub of community connections in BC–onsite, offsite and online–taking pride in our collective histories.

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