The Archivist vs The Architect: Audio Rewired


Operate as both the archivist and the architect. For the role of the archivist, please select an existing collection within an archive that relates to the themes/ topics you have been exploring, and analyse its categorisation strategies, thinking about the traditional archival methods outlined during our visit to the London Metropolitan Archive. You can choose to draw this analysis in a format that suits the chosen archive and visualises the strategy in a clear and effective way. We will blog some examples of taxonomy drawings as well as one option for how to show an existing collection. Then as the architect, think about how you would creatively reshuffle, reinterpret, intervene or disrupt the archive to change how it is not only organised but also experienced.


From the previous archiving task, I felt if I could continue my work I would have added audio content to the visual archive of shadows, probably with read passages from the book or interviews with her father. From this I found an interest in searching for audio archives and found that the BBC archive holds over a million hours of audio content stored. Further content has been passed onto the British Sound Library or has been lost or is not deemed essential for archiving.

So as the biggest publicly accessible archive I was interested to investigate the archiving system and ordering. I found that it is particularly difficult to search for content unless you know specifically what you are searching for, therefore their cataloguing system does not lend itself to being used/ heard/ accessed.

I also found it interesting and a little disappointing that as an audio archive there is no sense of audio influence as you search the archive. All content is listed in chronological order under pre-determined and relatively limiting categories. The categories potentially have a great deal of cross over between stored and listed audio clips, however this isn’t the case as each clip appears in only one category. Clips from the WW2 category are not also available in the Genocide category and clips regarding nature are not also listed under our planet; therefore, highlighting an area of weakness in the archive.

To visualise my analysis I have produced a diagram highlighting the web route taken to arrive at audio clips relevant to the theme of the holocaust and documenting WW2 (following on from the last few weeks work).

BBC Audio Archive analysis map

The initial diagram shows the route taken to arrive at a relevant clip and the secondary analysis drawing indicates the potential for crossing over content, which aims to show the potential for freeing or further ordering and disordering of the categorisation system used by the BBC.

There is also discourse between the BBC Archive’s categories and chronological ordering in comparison to the BBC iPlayer’s use of alphabetical ordering; the two routes contrast in arrival avenue and journey despite them both containing similar/ duplicated content.



From this I decided to analyse a small quantity of content of the BBC archive within the collection WW2: Witnessing the Holocaust.

By analysing the audio content and interviews I determined similar threads and themes and then compiled a literal thread diagram of continued thoughts. The string and layering activity was useful in highlighting sentences and phrases which had clear similarities and showed that chronology is not the most obvious method of ordering the content of these archives. The images represent the speaker/ presenter/ radio host or featured interviewee of each audio clip and have been set out on the wall to match the chronological ordering and structure of the BBC Archive web page.


From this I have made a video, similarly to last week’s GIF, built up of BBC iPlayer and BBC Archive content under the theme of WW2: Witnessing the Holocaust. I tried to consider how I might have developed last week’s archive activity and then applied it to the new order of the BBC Audio Archive.


Video located at:


Videos appearing in the video: Chronological Order

  1. Edward Ward: Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1945
  2. Canadian reporter: Gestapo in Holland, 1945
  3. Richard Dimbleby Describes Belsen, 1945
  4. Patrick Gordon Walker: Belsen Facts and Thoughts, 1945
  5. David Lloyd James: Captive Children, 1945
  6. Harold Osmond le Druillenec, Belsen, 1945
  7. Mr Popek: Forgotten Allies, 1955
  8. Pieter Menten’s War: Tonight, 1977
  9. Valerie Singleton: Blue Peter, Anne Frank, 1979
  10. Jewish Holocaust Survivers: The Gathering, 1982
  11. Edward Schulte: The Mysterious Stranger, 1985
  12. Primo Levi: Woman’s Hour, “If Not Now, When?”, 1986


Reflection: On reflection I feel the sequence of clips makes for an overall more interesting sentence than the impression cast upon arrival at the BBC Archive webpage. I envisage that this clip could be played on arrival to the page and the listener could interact with the clip by clicking or acknowledging the moments they find most interesting. Once they then watch or listen to the full clip they could then contribute to the linking process by contributing words or phrases they found most evocative or in summary of the overall clip. This could then aid the listing process and could form more successful categorisation of the Archive as an alternative thread to chronological or simply thematic. I also feel there would be greater cross over of themes and content would appear in multiple places across the archive.

The string pattern exercise has highlighted that several clips are linked to more frequently than others; these clips could be listed at the top of the suggested list or page. This may be a more successful way to guide the audience to the most valued content. There could also be options for the user to recategorize and manipulate the order depending on phrases they feel most relate to their topic of interest. The suggested phrases or quotes from clips could give the audience a greater opportunity to stumble upon content without requiring a initial thought to provoke specific themes.

I feel the concept of reflecting the greater collection through one clip was successful and feel this could become even more abstract and could include a more general selection of clips across many collections with less obvious links.



Cedric Price Spoken Archive- where the audio content drives the direction of research

Random Acts of Kindness- London Tube

AA 100 Woman in Architecture Audio Archive- contact Ed Botoms (AA Archivist) regarding Oral Histories trip to the British Library Sound Archive as part of the History and Theory Course.

Janet Cardiff- Audio walks and combining histories- White Chapple walk, ipod, downloadable audio description, The missing voice, /routes, Embedded fiction, Social and Historical Event Recollection.

Immersive or Conscious listening? Passive hearing?

Does audio content encourage mindfulness?

Battersea Local Collection/ Archive in Battersea Arts Centre. Theatre group/ open air street acting/ oral content?

Local stories and accounts of histories?

Construction and deconstruction of memory/ time/ a scene/ a feeling.

How do you construct and deconstruct feeling sequentially?

Assemble and disassembling a moment of history and a physical object.



Potential Project Direction: Research into empty spaces or missing objects in Battersea’s history and reconnect the existing spaces to their surroundings/ past/ future through temporary or permanent interactive installations with audio or spoken work influences. Perhaps the spaces can link together current past themes regarding the space. Perhaps collecting tweets and current data along side archived content.

The intention is to assist transitional spaces through reflection observation and projection across time to encourage residents and passers-by to accept/ challenge/ remember or recreate areas of spatial significance.

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