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Archiving as a Creative Practice

An introduction to “casual” archiving, focused on developing personal methodologies that allow us to engage on a more intimate level with found and historic materials.

CurriculumAll CohortsFacilitators

Course Goals

This course is a five-week introduction to the creative practice of "casual" archiving. Through a mix of short lectures, group discussions, activities, and small weekly homework assignments, students will learn both practical and experimental techniques that will help them to locate and engage with archival content.

Our goal as a cohort isn't to understand the Dewey Decimal System or engage in neutral categorization—instead, we'll each be working to develop a personal methodology, as well as a keen critical eye, that allows us to engage on a more intimate level with found and historical materials.


This course meets for 90 minutes at 8pm ET on Mondays, from June 7 to July 5.

Students should aim to set aside an additional 1-2 hours per week outside of class time to complete short homework assignments.

Students will also have access to a "Casual Archivist" slack where they can ask asynchronous questions to myself and peers throughout the week.


In addition to the techniques and skills we hone together, students will also leave the course with the beginnings of a personal archive of at least 50-100 items to utilize in their own work.

Who should take this course?

Anyone interested in exploring a new way of finding inspiration or engaging with visual history. This course is best suited for folks who already have an established creative practice of some kind.


Class 1—Collecting 101

This week is all about getting to know each other and setting up foundational knowledge and definitions that will guide us over the next four weeks. We’ll also share a bit about ourselves and our creative practices, and what we're hoping to get out of this course.

  • Brief introductions
  • Guided discussion: What is an archive? What can an archive be?
  • Short lecture: The basics of an archival practice + common types of archives
  • In-class activity: Group brainstorm and list exercise
  • Homework: (1) Find one new archive source (2) Collect 5-10 items from that source to save in your personal archive

Class 2—Finder Keeper

This week is focused on practical methods for sourcing, saving, and analyzing found material. We'll also delve a bit into the political implications of the archive, and the false idea of the "neutral" source.

  • Review homework: Share work and go over any questions or difficulties
  • Short lecture: Tools + best practices for archiving
  • Guided discussion: Who decides what goes into an archive? What’s considered worth saving? How does access to archives skew our understanding of history?
  • In-class activity: Archive hunting speed-round
  • Homework: (1) Find one existing collection from a single source (2) Create or assemble a new collection from one or multiple sources (3) Consider what tool / system you want to use for your personal archive

Class 3—Apples to Apples

This week looks at typologies, and the idea of the collection (in and of itself) as artistic end product. We'll discuss some existing typological works, look at artists who use classifications / taxonomies, and discuss some considerations inherent to this organizational method.

  • Review homework: Share work and go over any questions or difficulties
  • Short lecture: "Like" items, pattern spotting & artist examples
  • Guided discussion: What are the limitations of this kind of collection, and where is the hand of the author/curator in this kind of work?
  • In-class demo: Copyright and copyright activism
  • Homework: (1) Assemble a typological collection (2) Add 20-30 new items to your personal archive

Class 4—Duck Duck Goose

This week goes beyond typologies to look at juxtapositions, or, collection as source material. Again, we'll look at artists working with this technique, and discuss some ideas around authorship and ethics. We'll also do a fun exercise where we work together to create an archival piece!

  • Review homework: Share work and go over any questions or difficulties
  • Short lecture: Found vs. created juxtapositions & artist examples
  • Guided discussion: How does juxtaposition change meaning? What, if any, is our responsibility to the original items we utilize and/or their authors?
  • In-class activity: Archive telephone
  • Homework: (1) Continue working on the class activity OR create a piece that utilizes juxtaposition (2) keep adding to your personal archive & be prepared to share an archive of at least 50 pieces with the class next week

Class 5—Up and Away

In our final week, students will share the WIP personal archive they've been working on over the last month, and we'll discuss any future goals or concerns. We'll also briefly talk through how archival research can be used to inspire and inform work without being directly visible.

  • Short lecture: The invisible archive
  • Presentation: Each student shares their archive and a few favorite items
  • Reflection: Lingering questions, and any feedback for the next iteration of the course!

Scholarship Rates

Discounts are available for college students, recent grads, or anyone else interested in the course who has a cost barrier. Please email me at hello@elizabethgoodspeed.com if this applies to you!

About the Facilitator

I'm Elizabeth Goodspeed, a graphic designer and art director obsessed with visual history, archiving, and pattern spotting. In addition to my commercial work, which takes ample advantage of found material, for the last five years I've also maintained a creative practice, Casual Archivist, focused on image sourcing and ephemera design. I believe that many artists and creators would benefit from introducing an archival aspect to their practice, and I'm excited to share what I've learned about collecting with fellow enthusiasts and the archive-curious.

5 weeksUp to 21 learners

This course is best suited for folks who already have an existing creative practice of some kind.

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