Illuminating Artists Hidden in Plain Sight
Systemic bias in the archival record renders too many figures invisible, distorting for generations our collective understanding of creative legacies. Our goal is to catalogue, identify and make visible artists and communities who have been obscured – to make a new archive accessible anywhere.
Piecing Together the Unattended Archive
Innovative tool for inclusive history
Plain Sight Archive revolutionizes how we hold and connect the world’s knowledge of visual arts and culture. By systematically documenting the uncatalogued, by accumulating vast archival information previously hidden, and by creating networks of relational data so all those pieces speak to each other — our tool connects historically obscured creative legacies and makes visible our rich histories. As a web-based interface, this information is easily accessible to researchers, to educators, to anyone on the internet interested in exploring.
Archives are key to how we see history. Who is looking, who has access, and what they see shapes the story. We must acknowledge the reality of archival loss resulting from museums and institutions choosing not to collect. Yet many unexpected pieces do exist, often widely scattered and hidden by institutional practices.
Traditional methods of archival collection have prioritized specific individual figures. Everyone else remains uncatalogued, too often unidentified, and rendered invisible. Over time these traditional practices of archival management have produced and solidified blindnesses within this hierarchical system. To tell a more inclusive history, this whole practice must be turned on its head — bringing “everyone else” not only into the record but to the fore.
Many people working within the current system come across these hidden pieces – often through happenstance or serendipity, or tremendous investigative digging. With effort those pieces become articles, books, films, or exhibitions telling important stories of lesser-attended figures. Yet too often these significant investigations themselves become obscured. Our tool preserves and connects crucial work done across the decades, fundamentally changing the story.
Together we can forge a radically inclusive history of arts and culture. And in turn tell a wider, more inspiring story about the present…
Activate the Archive
Building knowledge exponentially
Plain Sight Archive is building a relational web-based archive that documents, links, and connects primary sources which are currently hard to see in institutional records. We transform inert paper into digitally-related active knowledge blocks.
Our tool expands history — flattening the hierarchical system of privilege by cataloguing “everyone else.” Our archive emphasizes multiple points of entry and from any starting point connects organically to other pieces — a living ecosystem with exponential possibilities. We call this “archival mycelium.”
By linking pieces of evidence across location, a new kind of mapping emerges. Our archive innovatively connects the dots between institutions, further dissolving traditional barriers and offering possibilities for intersection and collaboration. At the same time, our tool offers a service for institutions to use internally — so they can better see what they already have and tell their stories more inclusively.
Our “archival mycelium” tool offers unprecedented avenues for reimagining history, for seeing new stories.
Expand the Past, Connect the Now, Inspire the Future
What happens when you can access the archive in new ways?
The scale of representation that Plain Sight Archive makes visible is extraordinarily powerful. Our tool offers ways to see oneself as part of long legacies and how these legacies intersect and interact.
Our archive emphasizes relationships and communities – survival, creation, and preservation of their legacies. Understanding places and ways creators came together despite systemic destructive action that sought to crush such creativity and connection. And therefore offers an expanded history of creative practice beyond the art historical tendancy toward the privileged individual.
This tool inspires all kinds of people – researchers, students, educators, curators, legacy builders, artists, and the curious – to create stories and narratives expressing these expanded possibilities. Our mission includes telling some of these stories ourselves as well as supporting others in their efforts to tell a fully inclusive history.
Profoundly benefiting young people to see themselves represented positively through the arts. Engaging wider audiences who have a great desire for these stories. Making our public institutions more welcoming for all. Driving new narratives for future generations.