By Sunny Chen, NYU Student
An event is ephemeral. People come together then part. How can we know what happened if we weren’t there? All that is left is a compilation of images and words.
I joined LPD in the Spring of 2011 and started out as a volunteer for the archive project. The goal was to organize all of the paper related to one conference into a bound copy. The first stage of the work began with my exploration. I found a wealth of information– the programs handed out at the event, the invitation card that was sent, the budget spread sheet, the press coverage, the correspondence with a certain speaker and guest…etc.. I was amazed because I had no prior conference planning experience; I learned about the scope of the work of conference planning by sifting through these papers. Still, I didn’t have a clear idea of how a conference could be presented in a book. Should the archive content be organized chronologically? Should we first trace the initial research of the topic, follow the development of the idea and the eventual twists and turns over which particular speaker to invite — putting the emphasis on the planning process? Or, would it be more helpful to start with the broader view of what the conference had become, beginning with the final programs that were handed out at the actual event? The decision of how to structure an archive is inseparable from who the target audience will be.
Through discussions with Megan, the LPD Coordinator, we decided that we would orient the archive for the newcomer to LPD. We assumed the most accessible way of organizing the information would be to start off with the broad picture of the conference: the Doc Pack, which contains the material distributed at the actual conference including the program and the biographies of speakers. The Doc Pack would be followed by information surrounding the main event, such as advising flyers, posters, invitations, and an announcement of the next conference, as well as the last La Pietra Dialogues Newsletter. The second section would be Media. The third section would contain details of the budget and logistics, followed by correspondence, research, and personal notes and remarks from the conference organizers and the Director. Defining and organizing all the categories was a lot of fun! It also helped me understand what happens before, after, and during the main conference.
An archive is a map to the past; there are various ways of constructing the trip one will take with this particular map. The old map is still valuable because it serves as a reference for our future journey. Each conference planning is a process of exploration. As it is a process, it can become better practiced through repetition. Maybe we haven’t personally gone through the planning process before and we face an entirely new terrain. The archive still provides a continuation from past experiences, allowing us to build from what we already have.