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The website as archive

The V2_ archive is part of its website, the structure of which is at the same time the categorisation. Altena explains: "The website shows what V2_ does, has done, what we've developed, and what information is available about it. After first working with separate archival and PR websites, it was finally decided to merge everything into one site. This resulted in a simple data structure that leads with what we digitally archive – events, weather forecasts, people, organisations, media, and articles."

Choices are part of the daily work process at V2_ – "I make decisions in the moment about what to archive and what not to." Around the turn of the century, it had already been decided that the archive was to be digital, making it more easily accessible, says Altena. "When the V2_ archive came into being, it was immediately decided – the archive is digital. That's the future and anyone with an internet connection has access to the material. When people start working for or with V2_, it's now very nice that material is immediately available. We see this during the Summer Residencies, where artists develop a prototype in two months. In the guidance and conversations we have with them, the archive is involved again and again. How deep someone wants to dive into it differs for every artist and moment – one artist may want the technical drawings, but for another a video is enough inspiration."

The analogue archive

The fact that it is mainly about the digital storage of information does not mean that the analogue archive has completely disappeared. Rather, it says something about the working process that, in contrast to correspondence of the past, is increasingly digital. Klap says, "I keep several copies of the end results – three copies of books and two copies of posters in storage cupboards in the attic of the studio. My digital archive is stored with Dropbox, which is carefully combed out and rearranged after completion of each assignment". Altena adds, "In addition to the website and internal archive server, V2_ still has cabinets with boxes and folders containing sheets of paper, diskettes, and CD-ROMs. It sometimes happens that PhD students make use of these for their research if the digital archive doesn't go into sufficient depth."

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Tips for archiving

When more and more designers and digital culture makers start keeping archives themselves, the concept of a distributed network of archives emerges. In addition to the tips that Klap and Altena provide from their own experience, the publication Save As... – Basic rules for digital preservation offers practical tips. Furthermore, 'archiving by design' is on the rise as a method for organising working processes in such a way that archiving becomes easier.

Finally, in the context of digital culture archives, there is the idea of the 'community of care'. The academic Annet Dekker inspired Michel van Dartel, director of V2_, to cite the concept in an interview in the context of the exhibition Speculative Design Archive. Digital culture is characterised by the immaterial – such as interactions and relationships between people – and these are better preserved when the community involved in the development and production of a work (and has the passion to keep the work alive) also takes care of preserving it, hence 'community of care.'

Added together, these practical tips and ideas provide the tools for individuals or communities to create an archive and take care of it. This then enables new generations of designers and digital culture makers to build on the past by gaining insight into processes and context that have led to inspiring, iconic works.

Text: Twan Eikelenboom