The Prom Dress Archive Scandal of 2010 (silly knowledge squelched)

An anecdote from my high school years effectively demonstrates the question posed by the two texts I have just read. What is legitimate archival material? Should we be archiving “silly knowledge?”

During my senior year of high school, a “Prom dress group” was created on Facebook by two other senior girls (best friends Beth and Allie). The purpose of the group was to allow members to upload photographs of their purchased (or potential) prom dresses in order to “claim” them. Essentially, the “UHS Prom dresses 2010” group served as an archive of (most) female junior and senior’s prom dresses.  One had to request to join the group and the administrators of the group would then accept the request. I felt as though the group was unnecessary and uploaded a picture of a heinous dress from the 80s with the caption “I just can’t wait to wear this! It’s vintage! J” Two friends of mine also thought the group was stupid and uploaded several photographs of ridiculous or trashy gowns they had found on the internet (one was strapless and bedazzled with an American flag pattern, one may have been actual lingerie, another was made of feather dusters). The photos they uploaded resulted in their posts being deleted and the administrators banning both of them from the group. One of my friends was actually “blocked” so that she could not find the UHS prom group dress on Facebook or request to rejoin the group. Posting the ugly 80s dress, however, did not result in my removal from the group. Probably because sarcasm does not always translate well via the internet and I my style was a bit quirkier in high school so people may have thought I was seriously going to wear that thing…

But to engage this anecdote with the text, I view the administrators as exerting totalitarian control on the archive and removing what they did not see acceptable. They did not accept the contrary epistemologies my friends attempted to archive within the group. Manoff quotes Adrian Mackenzie regarding archives in cyberspace, “to die is to be disconnected from access to the archives.” Because my friends were banned/blocked from the prom dress archive, the administrators caused their “death,” in a sense. Really, I don’t think the photos my friends posted offended them, the root of the issue was that the action of posting such images signified that my friends had a different opinion—they thought archiving prom dresses and “claiming” them was stupidly competitive and an indulgent show of wealth. To the administrators, the images also represented a non-ideal version of what girls at UHS should be wearing to prom and that resulted in the removal of the images. Moreover, they did not appreciate this sense of humor so it was eliminated.

Since I engaged in archiving “silly knowledge” within the group, and was supportive of my friends doing so as well, I support what Halberstam says in regards to archiving contrary epistemologies. I also found the point she referenced about stupidity actually being another form of knowledge to be quite enlightening. “Stupidity” can represent a different perspective, and therefore is a different form of knowledge. Those who only experience “high culture” will not have the knowledge and experience that those living “low culture” obtain. Really, all culture is worthy of archival in my opinion, because the more we archive, and the more sources we archive from, the more authentic and full picture we have of our time now, which is always escaping up.

Is there really anything unworthy of archival? Or does everything have its right place?

-KL

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