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’.
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.
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.