Annie Sollinger, Visual Archivist and Librarian for Art History
University of Massachusetts Amherst
Acid Free is the free biannual publication of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective (LAAC). LAAC was founded in 2014, in the model of the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) and the Women’s Center for Creative Work (WCCW). The Collective “aims to bring the Los Angeles-area archives community together to discuss, collaborate, connect, and support each other.” Membership includes over 900 archives and library workers, students, and other information professions who share an interest in the archival field. LAAC states that Acid Free, founded in 2016, “is a thematic online magazine that seeks to be a smart, complicated, non-academic forum of a variety of voices and issues in our field, to ground archivists locally and regionally while also keeping an eye toward larger conversations and landscapes.”
The Acid Free website is, in a word, cool. The art director is Grace Danico, an artist, designer and archivist who is a member of LAAC. The site is bold and colorful, balancing blocks of color with high-resolution splash images. Some of the text is displayed in graphic fonts that might be difficult for some to read, but the aesthetic effect is striking. This reviewer found it legible; however, the text design makes the magazine difficult to read on mobile. Navigation is straightforward: users scroll down the Acid Free page to view the current issue’s articles, displayed as blocks rather than in the style of a table-of-contents. Scrolling down further reveals previous issues, identified by number and theme.
Acid Free will appeal to archivists especially, but the articles aren’t exclusive to the profession; many information workers and others with passing interest in the topics may enjoy reading the magazine. Like the print magazine Cabinet, each issue has a theme, and the themes are socially conscious and invite critical thought: examples include Money, Control, Organize, and Labor. Authors, who respond to semiannual calls for submissions, are unpaid, and there is no peer review. Editors are listed on the masthead: Editor-in-Chief is Lori Dedeyan, and associate editors are Caroline Bautista, Laura Cherry, Courtney Dean, Jennie Freeburg, Melissa Haley, and Alyssa Loera. Acid Free’s electronic format allows for the team to produce a lightweight publication that does not rely on print.
The most recent issue features eight stories on the theme of money. Each issue is introduced by a colorful splash image and an editor’s note. The stories range from a discussion of real bank notes in collections and how they got there, to a critique of neoliberalism in libraries and an investigation of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in cultural heritage institutions. Other stories include essays by archivists, researchers, and students; expositions of notable collections from California and beyond; and running series called “PERSON/PLACE/THING” and “In Process.”
The digital format of Acid Free makes it easy to deliver assets like digitized photographs, documents, or audio-visual material, while also enabling authors to include links to their collections, relevant articles, or other sources. Clicking through issues and articles, this reviewer found that some assets would not load, in both Firefox and Chrome. Attempts to access the content via the Wayback Machine yielded mixed results. All told, Acid Free is a labor of love that fills the demand of archives workers for realistic depictions of the joys and pains of archival work.