An Aspect of the Archive

I’ve been trying to avoid using this word but it is the only way I can feel about the archives; overwhelmed. After we wrapped up our second day, Rod the head archivist asked me what topic I or other students may be most interested in from the archives. Thinking about this felt like ordering in a restaurant where “everything is great”. With that in mind you can’t really go wrong, but may not find satisfaction without serious contemplation or a second visit. There is simply too much to look at, too much to read, too much to experience within the archives to limit yourself to one topic or one short visit. In my imaginary eatery, gorgeous plates fly from the kitchen to hungry mouths. In the archives the stacks overflow with documents, and tables are hidden under fragile, ancient-looking books poured over by eager eyes. My answer to Rod was simply; whaddya got? The response, just as vague and difficult as his question, brought a brief conversation about unlocking what the archive holds. How do you begin to explore so much? Starting with ‘A’ and going through alphabetically would be cumbersome. Thinking up specific subjects would make anyone lose interest eventually. I want the same thing that I would want in my pretend restaurant; a sampler, or buffet as Rod called it. The thin slice of the archives we sampled was enough to wet my appetite, and I’m excited for a second serving.

Our exploration in the archives started with Aspect magazine, a student publication from Northeastern University. Aspect was started by Ed Hogan in the late sixties. He edited, published, and contributed to the magazine until its end in the early eighties. Slim, short, and modest, all issues were staple-bound in different colored covers, adorned with single-tone, abstract illustrations and a preview of the contents. No pages went to waste, the back cover supplied biographical info on each contributor. Poetry, political commentary, short stories, non-fiction was all commonplace in Aspect, which urged first time writers along with veterans to contribute. Welcoming to all perspectives and subject matter, Aspect is undoubtedly a democratic publication.

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