The New York Public Library Picture Collection caches over one million original prints, photos, posters, graphics, magazines, illustrations and texts sorted into thousands of binders, each with a specific category and subject. One binder, “UFOs”, claims to hold and archive our cultural interest in the existence of extraterrestrial life. A binder that was composed into this book. Before Google, the Internet and the ‘age of data’ someone at library attempted to collect and archive the entire volume of visual references published in magazines and newspapers that include pictures and drawings depicting aliens and UFOs. It is needless to say that the alleged attempt failed with a finite number of items in the binder scratching 300 pieces.
In total I checked out 121 items. 121 visual references that represent, according to the binder, our collective memory of UFOs, all of which are directly stamped “PROPERTY OF THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY PICTURE COLLECTION”. It became clear to me that this stamp was more than just an odd archivist’s decision, and now an integral part of the image and its composition. Even more bizarre is the strategic decision of the different archivists who over the years stamped the images themselves, literarily. Not on the back side, above or to its margins, but directly on the art-work, image, drawing or anything of visual importance. In the act and process of “archiving” they ultimately imposed an alien element—altering the context of these cultural gems.