How do we archive the story of a year in Malaysia?

  • Arts
  • Monday, 28 Dec 2020

Malaysian Design Archive is crowdsourcing material - be it a meme, a drawing, an item, a piece of paper - that tells your story of 2020. Photo: Malaysian Design Archive

The Malaysian Design Archive (MDA), located at the Zhongshan building in KL, has been busy this month with an online workshop (What Is An Archive?: The 2020 Edition) that explored the inner workings of the archive-making process, and also the launch of the recent Projek 555 project, which invited the public to contribute to “a collection of everyday observations and reflections... through a mini visual diary.”

In a year with so many firsts for the country – from the pandemic to the sudden change of Government – archiving has never been so important, according to Jac SM Kee, who’s part of the MDA team.

With the prevalence of digital gadgets and social media, she adds, more ordinary people are all, in a way, archivers.

“This is a really significant year for so many reasons. Covid-19 has affected us all in intimate and huge ways.”

Additionally, the current political scene in Malaysia also needs sharp attention in terms of documentation work.

“Our 2020 collection is meant to be a space for us to reflect on what this year has meant for us, personally, as well as collectively, ” offers Kee.

MDA members Ezrena Marwan (left) and Kee value community participation in broadening Malaysia’s vast archive of stories. Photo: FilepicMDA members Ezrena Marwan (left) and Kee value community participation in broadening Malaysia’s vast archive of stories. Photo: Filepic

A DIY Archive Kit was launched during the What Is An Archive?: The 2020 Edition workshop on Dec 12. According to Kee, the archive kit works as an online zine, produced by MDA, to “help people think about archives and archival practices and also invite submission to our 2020 collection.”

Basically, this toolkit of archive-making empowers the public.

Kee explains that What Is An Archive? aims to answer questions such as what exactly is an archive? Who and what are involved in the making and naming of memory projects as archives? What kinds of stories become told through archives, and what stories are muted?

Funded by the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Programme and developed in collaboration with writer-researchers Beth Yahp and Fiona Lee from the University of Sydney, What Is An Archive? draws from the conversation held at the MDA Living Archives workshop early this year.

Meanwhile, the idea behind Project 555 is a simple one. Participants, who have received a small notebook (a remake of the familiar “buku 555”), will have a timeframe of a month to jot down and record whatever they want (writings, sketches, poems, scrapbook entries, mini photograph album, etc) for the project.

The notebook has be returned to MDA, which will then include it as part of its 2020 collection... both as a physical artefact that people can check out when they come to MDA, and also digitised.

The Project 555 idea was inspired in part by Brooklyn Art Library’s Sketchbook Project.

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