ABOUT

I’m Anisa Hawes, a researcher and web archivist. I’m interested in critical curatorial practice, and using open-source tools to preserve digital cultural memory.

These interests are shaped by over a decade of experience working in national museums, alongside post-graduate study of the history, theory and practice of archive keeping.

As an embedded researcher at the V&A, I led a collaborative project which investigated the challenges of ‘Collecting and Curating Digital Posters’ for museums and archives. Working with the British Library/UK Web Archive, Digital Preservation Coalition, and Rhizome, we drew up an adapted conceptual framework for collecting — re-imagining traditional museological paradigms to unlock the obstacles we faced.

Through dialogue, we developed a lexicon to articulate the digital poster’s evolved ontology. We spoke about the contextual boundaries surrounding digital objects, new gestures of making, modes of interaction, and transformed territories of circulation. Our findings are collated as an online handbook, available here.

Our case studies also initiated conversations about curatorial practice, specifically how collecting from the web necessarily entwines our point of view, our decisions, and our actions. You can listen to the paper I presented at a forum on ‘Ethics and Archiving the Web’; reflecting on Rhizome’s Webrecorder and curatorial subjectivity, here (starting at 13:15).

I co-ordinated a series of roundtable discussions as part of the ‘Collecting and Curating’ project, and one is included in a book recently published by Bloomsbury Academic. It explores the conceptual and technical challenges of collecting from the web, including digital posters’ intrinsic mutability, and how social media incites the appropriation of graphics.

Whilst working at the V&A, I studied for a Masters degree in archival science at University College London. This dual perspective informed my thesis, which used etymological analysis and Euler diagrams to unpick the often cited dichotomies between archival and curatorial practice: organic/arbitrary; innate/imposed; impartiality/intervention.

Now, I work freelance from my studio in north-east London. Earlier this year, I archived online facets of 14–18 Now for the Imperial War Museum, and spoke about the capture process at a virtual conference ‘Engaging with Web Archives’.

At the moment, I’m working with Amnesty International and Forensic Architecture to archive a website which includes explorable, 3D-modelled architectural spaces and ambient audio. I gave a Lightning Talk about this project at ‘Documenting the Interactive’, a webinar co-organised by IDFA DocLab, MIT Open Documentary Lab and the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

✉️ Contact me to collaborate, or commission an archive of your slice of the Internet.

🕸 CV available here.

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