The Wilderness Archive is a research-based project that involves the creation of new multimedia archives in different parts of the world. Its purpose is to encourage new perspectives, creative endeavours and learning opportunities aimed at redefining our relationship with nature, starting from the very notion of wilderness. As an open platform and local resource, the Wilderness Archive operates through collaborative research, interdisciplinary residencies and public engagement initiatives.


The Wilderness Archive sites are a curated selection of locations that exist within different ecosystems where wilderness (still) prevails over human intervention. This could be thought of as a distributed library or museum, where each collection of archival material is physically present in and inherently linked to its own ecosystem. Archival records refer to each site’s biodiversity as much as visible and invisible signs of human intervention. Their story is told through multiple perspectives, from the scientific to the institutional, personal or spiritual. In each site, we partner with local hosts who help us design, develop and maintain the archive.

By exploring the boundary between human cultures and untouched or seemingly untouched environments, the Wilderness Archive aims to generate debate and tools that will contest the binary perspective that sees Humanity above Nature. Ultimately, the Wilderness Archive places value upon the uniqueness of different geographies and social contexts, whilst recognising our deep interconnectedness with Nature wherever we are.

About

Collaborative research

In order to set up an archive the initial research phase involves building knowledge of each site by reaching out and engaging communities connected to the ecosystem. This includes local communities, scientists and professionals in a variety of sectors: from policy makers to cultural practitioners. Researching for the Wilderness Archive involves exploring existing databases, publications and archival material as much as inviting communities to share knowledge and personal stories and establishing exchanges and conversations with people connected to the site.

Through such collaborative approaches, a selection of significant elements of each ecosystem will be reconsidered beyond traditional taxonomies. These could be plants, animals, architectural and landscaping interventions, policies or rituals, amongst others. Importantly, no live specimens are taken, using a variety of recording technologies as a substitute to invasive sampling techniques.

Each archival record contains the story of these elements from deep to present time: their connection with other parts of the world, with the history of the site and with the traditions belonging to the First Peoples of the regions hosting the archives. Their link with commercial practices and with connected processes of human intervention on the landscape (near or far) is also explored. We believe that offering multiple perspectives allows a wider audience to find meaning and connection with each ecosystem and reveals the significance and interrelation of each element within a presumed ‘wilderness’.

Residencies

Following the initial research phase and the creation of a prototype archive, we will invite artists, scientists and other creative professionals from around the world to spend time in residence in each Wilderness Archive site, hosted by our local partners. The purpose of the residency is to activate the objects, data and stories contained in the archive through creative responses and create new opportunities for public engagement, such as publications, audio and visual material, concepts for exhibitions, debates or workshops (and more). Each response in turns contributes further knowledge to the archive and allows it to develop and grow.

Participants in the residency programme will not only develop public engagement initiatives within the locale of the archive, but will also be encouraged to share their experience with their own networks and communities, encouraging new international partnerships and a deeper recognition of the interconnectedness of ecosystems and communities that are geographically distant.

Public engagement

Outreach initiatives play a fundamental role in engaging local communities, reaching a wider public and extending the conversation to educational, research and cultural institutions and policy makers.

As archives are built across different locations, we will build a digital platform to connect them. Open to all and accessible, we will particularly encourage schools, universities, libraries and museums to use the digitised archive as a resource by which to rethink traditional modes of knowledge conservation and memory preservation.

The digital archive is designed to complement rather than substitute the experience of researching and developing creative responses on site. Creating a network of physical archives remains the main objective of the Wilderness Archive. We wish to offer an alternative approach to the traditional, centralised model of museums and libraries, where material is often taken out of context and occasionally forgotten. Each archive is an accessible local resource, where new perspectives and projects can be conceived and realised. Each archive is therefore co-developed with and hosted by local organisations in order to remain a live, continuously expanding resource.

Locations

In a world where no territory remains undiscovered, The Wilderness Archive seeks to exist in places where wilderness still prevails, humanity existing on its fringes. We are actively exploring locations and new partner organisations that can host future archives, spaces operating at the boundary with wilderness. This could be desert, mountain, forest, coast or island, each with its own unique geography, ecosystem and conservation challenges.

In addition to our pilot project currently ongoing in Chile, we are in contact with prospective hosts in the south of Italy, Colombia, Alaska and Brazil. Active research is also ongoing in south eastern Spain, Pacific islands, the Philippines, Borneo, South Korea and China.

The Wilderness Archive is a distributed resource with no centre or headquarters. Each Archive will function as a dynamic and accessible resource in its own right, while also forming part of the global Wilderness Archive network where overarching questions relating to the interaction between nature and humanity can be explored in their local, national and global contexts.

As an internationally situated project, we are always on the look out for new locations where more can be learned through a dialogue between wilderness and humanity. Please reach out if you would like to host an archive or suggest a location.

Chile

The first edition of the Wilderness Archive is currently being developed in collaboration with Fundación Mar Adentro, our co-commissioners and host in Chile. We are building the first archive in a forest managed by the Foundation called Bosque Pehuén, in the Araucanía region.

Despite the fact that the central Araucanía of southern Chile is the most biodiverse and endemic area of the country, it has undergone the greatest transformation and remains Chile’s least protected natural region. This area of Chile, previously belonging to the Mapuche people, is still home to indigenous populations whose cultural legacy and contemporary perspective will be integral to the development of the archive.

Bosque Pehuén (Pehuén Forest) is a private, protected area comprising 882 hectares of old and secondary forest. Oak, raulí, coigüe, and araucaria up to 700 years old grow in the conserved space, situated between Volcán Villarrica and Volcán Quetrupillán. The forest is named after the araucaria trees that grow within; called ‘pehuén’ in Mapudungun, the Mapuche language. Unique and threatened species living in the reserve include Darwin’s frog and the monito del monte (also known as ‘little monkey of the bush’), a marsupial native to Chile and parts of Argentina believed to be the only extant species of the Microbiotheria order. Pumas, foxes, woodpeckers and many bird species also inhabit the forest. 

The conservation site of Bosque Pehuén is dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and the development of scientific knowledge and research. Bosque Pehuén was formed by Fundación Mar Adentro in 2006 under the premise that to conserve, one must first understand. It was conceived as an open-air laboratory for research, with the aim of generating multidisciplinary and innovative models of conservation through the link between scientific research, art and education, and outreach activities.

Bosque Pehuén has undergone great transformation as it was previously in part a managed forest, making it particularly suited to connect and combine scientific, socio-political and cultural perspectives and achieve a more holistic understanding of its ecosystem. As such, the Wilderness Archive can also encourage other organisations that share similar conservation concerns to look anew at how they make sense of the areas they are working hard to protect.

We are especially grateful to the Fundación Mar Adentro for all their work, ideas and support whilst developing with us the first prototype archive.

Image and information about Bosque Pehuén courtesy of © Fundación Mar Adentro 

Get Involved

Supporters

The Wilderness Archive needs support from angel philanthropists who believe that our relationship with nature needs to fundamentally change, through a radical rethinking of the way we understand and care for it and a renewed focus on interconnectedness. As a supporter you will have a chance to explore new sites with us, participate in our residencies, contribute to the building of archives and help us develop a far reaching programme of public and institutional engagement. If you would like to discuss how you can support the Wilderness Archive please do get in touch.

Advisory Board

We deeply value new perspectives and experience. If you share our ethos and you are a leader in your field, we would love to hear from you. At this time we are particularly looking for prospective Board members with experience in community engagement and philanthropic fundraising. Advisory board roles require a minimum engagement of 1 day a month and are taken on a voluntary basis.

Hosts

The Wilderness Archive aims to explores issues relating to conservation on a global scale, in all parts of the world. As an internationally situated project, we are always on the look out for new locations where more can be learned through a dialogue between wilderness and humanity. Please reach out if you would like to host an archive or suggest a location.

Research and Engagement Partners

The Wilderness Archive is looking to collaborate with individuals or cultural and educational institutions, public and private, who have a particular focus on wilderness and the environmental impact of human activity. We are always looking for partners who can us help build future archives, engage in collaborative research, contribute content and co-develop initiatives to engage audiences around the world. Please contact us if you or your organisation would like to play a role within the Wilderness Archive.

Residency Participants 

Encouraging and supporting creative responses is what makes the Wilderness Archive different from traditional forms of knowledge creation and preservation. We are looking for talented individuals with experience working across disciplines and an established practice: artists, scientists, conservationists, curators, policy makers, writers, teachers, filmmakers, dancers, healers, chiefs, chefs, and more are invited to become part of the project as contributors or participants in our forthcoming residencies. Please contact us if you wish to submit an expression of interest.

Contact

For general enquiries, to support the Wilderness Archive and respond to our call for partner institutions, residency participants and location suggestions, please email info@wildernessarchive.org

The Wilderness Archive is commissioned and curated by Carlo Rizzo.