On October 1, 2020, the documenta archiv will embark upon the comprehensive cataloguing and preparation of its holdings. This "cataloguing campaign" is planned to last for ten years. To this end, the State of Hesse and the City of Kassel intend to provide funding totaling EUR 5.4 million by 2030.

Testimonies of the artistic and curatorial work surrounding the documenta exhibitions from 1955 to the present day are to be explored in greater depth and properly prepared and systematized in line with archival and scientific standards.

Angela Dorn, Minister for Science and Art of the State of Hesse: "The State of Hesse sees the unique significance of Kassel's documenta in the world. Which is why we have undertaken great efforts to make the documenta Institute possible. The goal is to provide an appropriate venue for a systematic examination of this so important exhibition. The documenta archiv is pivotal in this development: it is a treasure which – with its sophisticated and scientific approach – makes the documenta a piece of art history, also in institutional terms. We are happy to support this key preparatory step making the documenta archiv accessible to national and international research.

The archive's holdings will form the core of the emerging documenta Institute and facilitate the excellent research to be conducted there. "The City of Kassel is proud that the documenta archiv along with the Bauhaus Archive are among the oldest and most important art archives in Germany," says Lord Mayor Christian Geselle. "It is very important to us to make it fit for the future."

The archive's holdings primarily reflect the history of documenta exhibitions. At the same time, however, the documenta archiv is also a documentation center for contemporary art and curatorial work in general, and thus an invaluable resource for art and cultural studies and research into the reception of exhibitions.

The cataloguing is of crucial importance for the documenta Institute

Commenting on the cataloguing campaign Dr. Sabine Schormann, General Director of documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH, said: "Making the unique holdings of the documenta archiv accessible to academia through in-depth cataloguing while also making them tangible for the general public and urban society is a prerequisite for a lively exchange between science and art, and indeed one that is increasingly in evidence at documenta exhibitions themselves as a rapprochement between these two disciplines.

The first steps towards opening the archive were already taken after the former municipal documenta archiv was affiliated with documenta gGmbH in 2016: Exhibition cooperations were initiated, event series established, a reading room set up and a comprehensive website developed. Now the next key step towards opening up the holdings to a wide circle of users is being taken by means of this cataloguing campaign.

The cataloguing campaign creates international standards

The in-depth cataloguing is accompanied by the launch of the hitherto missing digital infrastructure and a professional data capture system. This includes the recording of the holdings in archive databases, rights analysis and management as well as measures for cataloguing and archiving digital documents.

Founding Director of the documenta Institute, Prof. Dr. Heinz Bude, states: "As an interdisciplinary research institute, the documenta Institute is particularly reliant on the indexing of its archive holdings in accordance with international standards. It is tremendous that these foundations are now being laid so decisively."

"I look forward to working with the team to take on the cataloguing of the valuable holdings. Gearing the documenta archiv up to the future in this way will make it more attractive and, in the best sense, inspire artists, curators and collectors to make further bequests and estates," says Dr. Birgitta Coers, who will take up the post of Director of the documenta archiv on October 1, 2020.

A total of 560 running meters of shelving, 50 terabytes of digital media and 42,000 media units will be catalogued

The cataloguing campaign includes all departments of the documenta archiv: In the records and papers archive, the documents from the first documenta exhibition up to documenta 14 as well as extensive bequests and estates, such as that of documenta founder Arnold Bode, and the collection of press cuttings are to be viewed, recorded and indexed in depth. A total of around 560 running meters of shelving of archival material with over 45,000 indexing units will be processed.

Awaiting systematic structuring in the media collection are over 50 terabytes of digital image and audiovisual media which will then be transferred to a digital archive. Finding aids will be created for more than 65,000 paper prints of photographs, slides and negatives as well as more than 5,000 storage carrier of various kinds. Accessible among other things will be the over 3,000 photographs by Kassel-based photographer Monika Nikolic, which comprehensively document
documenta exhibitions 7 to 14.

About 40% of the library's entire holdings (about 42,000 media units), mainly monographs on artists, are still to be recorded bibliographically. This process will be accompanied by conservation measures.

This will make it possible to answer and resolve more quickly those questions typically asked of the archive material such as: What material is a particular artwork made of? How was it staged? Is there an image of a particular artwork and what about the rights of use? Correspondence between the curators and artists, sketches and instructions, video recordings of events and documentation of exhibition situations provide information on past exhibitions and the processes unfolding "behind the scenes".

In addition, ongoing artistic and social discussions can be promoted and their historical dimension examined.

Further information on the history of the documenta archiv and the cataloguing campaign (in German) can be found here: https://www.degruyter.com/view/journals/iwp/71/2-3/article-p125.xml?rskey=SbFNS6&result=1

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Press Contact:
Johanna Köhler
Head of Communication and Marketing
documenta und Museum Fridericianum gGmbH
T +49 561 70727-2520
E presse[at]documenta.de