Espigas Study Center: an archive open to the community
Estefanía Radnic

Opening the archive to the community and reaching a broad, non-specialized public is one of the great objectives of the Centro de Estudios Espigas, the first archive of Argentine and Latin American art founded in 1993.

Sala de consulta © Centro de Estudios Espigas

We chat with Agostina Gabanetta, who is in charge of the educational area of the Public Program * that is diversified into different activities: courses, talks, seminars and visits that since last year are carried out virtually.

Estefanía Radnic: What is Fundación Espigas? And what is its history?

Agostina Gabanetta: Espigas Foundation is created from the intention of a group of art collectors and managers who realize that in our country there is no institution dedicated to containing, safeguarding and managing the documents produced by the field of the arts.

Vista de exteriores. Foto: Luisa Tomatti © Centro de Estudios Espigas.

In 2017, the agreement was signed with the UNSAM (General San Martín National University) creating the Espigas Study Center: the heritage of the archive and the documentary funds are placed in the care of a public university. In any case, the Espigas Foundation continues to operate and accompany the Espigas Studies Center. At that time, the headquarters and the work team were renewed: Agustín Díez Fischer took over as director, Luisa Tomatti as coordinator and Melina Cavalo as librarian-archivist.

ER: With regard to the notion of ARCHIVE, I wonder, following the French historian Didi-Huberman **, how to conceive of an archive so that it is not a closed totality but a summation of fragments, between which there are gaps, a true montage, a possible construction among many others …

AG: Espigas as an institution does not consider having to create a unique story about the history of art, but rather allows researchers to access its documentary collections and its archive collections from different disciplines. He conceives the field of the arts as a complex territory that can be approached from different areas of the field of culture, politics, and society.

Not all documentary funds or collections can enter the archive, sometimes a selection is made. Who defines this selection is a committee (made up of external and internal representatives specialized in the subject of research, library and archives, administration and conservation) that makes an evaluation together with the donors. Archives are not discarded as they are considered worthless, but what is analyzed is the thematic relevance, relevance and viability of their preservation and dissemination, among other criteria.

It is interesting to clarify that although the forms of acquisition of documentary funds and collections have changed over the years since the creation of Espigas, at present they are only received by donation. Still it is not possible to accept everything.

Espigas is conceived as an archive that is part of a network of archives of institutions in the field of the arts: libraries, newspaper libraries, museums, universities. Collaborative work is produced with other institutions.

Archives have a social function, consequently, they have to be accessible. That a wide public can use the archive means guaranteeing the accessibility of the funds. In order for their holdings to remain accessible, they have to enter into dialogue with international archival and library guidelines. Decisions are not made at random but must be managed within those regulations.

However, ways are sought to be within the regulations without anyone being left out. Espigas is working with gender politics: when it comes to categorizing an artist, profession is not used but discipline. For example: Marta Minujín does not appear as Marta Minujín – Painter but as Marta Minujín – Painting. Thus, it is easier to expose all those women, trans people, bgender than the categories with which the documents are classified made invisible behind a male.

Sala de archivos especiales © Centro de Estudios Espigas

ER: It is interesting as an Institution to generate an exchange with the community taking charge of that social function that you mentioned. How did the Public Program come about?

AG: The Public Program was born from this new organization that took place in 2017.

The idea of the public program is to open the archive, to continue having direct contact with researchers but also to make the archive available to other audiences who are not used to going to these spaces.

In this sense, the program is diversified into different activities aimed at educational institutions or particular groups.

One of the objectives is to show behind the scenes of the archive: who works, what professions are articulated, what are the tasks, what is the mission of Espigas, what documents and collections make up the heritage heritage.

Encuentro con  diseñadores del estudio de diseño SPIN, de Inglaterra © Centro de Estudios Espigas.

On the other hand, it is intended to transmit to the new generations that these institutions exist, which are meeting places for various professions: people from the fields of administration, library science, conservation, social sciences, art history, etc. work there. Professions are flexible, malleable and spaces such as Espigas open many possibilities to the labor field.

Limpieza de documentos a cargo de las pasantes de TAREA© Centro de Estudios Espigas.

There are also visits for the general public: anyone interested in knowing what an archive is and how the Espigas Studies Center works specifically, what are the characteristics and the decisions it makes, can participate.

These activities are free, making them even more accessible to diverse audiences.

Also, part of the public program has to do with organizing exhibitions. We work collaboratively with independent curators and museums to lend part of the collection to organize the exhibition. In turn, Espigas organizes exhibitions of ongoing research about its heritage. In some way, the exhibition works as a device for making the archive visible and providing accessibility to the documentation. These samples are exhibited in a dedicated room located on the second floor of the headquarters ***.

Vista de exhibición Auras Anónimas de Beatriz González. Foto: Sergio Redondo © Centro de Estudios Espigas.

The Espigas Studies Center has its own publishing house to print the research on the collection and in turn facsimiles (all these publications are available on the web, many with free download).

Reedición del libro de artista “Fiesta” de Alberto Greco. Facsímil de la revista Arturo (único número de 1944)  dirigido por María Amalia García y Raúl Neón con un dossier con la primera traducción completa al inglés y con textos críticos de los dos teóricos. Foto: Luisa Tomatti. © Centro de Estudios Espigas. 
Benedit. Obras 1968-1978. Fernando Davis, David Elliott y otros. 2020. © Centro de Estudios Espigas.

A new diploma in Management and Conservation of Art Archives is also issued.

To discover more about this Institution whose role is fundamental in the preservation of memory: we invite you to join the next virtual visit that will take place on Thursday, May 27 at 3pm. With prior registration here.  For further information:

* Luisa Tomatti carries out the coordination of the Public Program.

** Didi-Huberman Georges. “The file burns”

*** In 2019, the exhibition “A day in the life of Mario Canale” was exhibited based on the research carried out by Milena Gallipoli, Larisa Mantovani and Giulia Murace on the archive of Mario Canale (artist of Sivori’s generation) as a way of accounting for the functioning of the institutions in the field of the arts at the end of the 19th century.

Vista de laboratorio de papel. Foto: Sergio Redondo © Centro de Estudios Espigas.
Sala de procesos técnicos © Centro de Estudios Espigas
Vista de sala de referencia “Claudia Caraballo de Quentin”. Foto: Sergio Redondo © Centro de Estudios Espigas

Vista de sala de referencia “Claudia Caraballo de Quentin”. Foto: Sergio Redondo © Centro de Estudios Espigas

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