Boo-Hooray is an office, project space, gallery and transition room for some very delicate 20th century counter-culture publications in Manhattan, NYC. Founded in 2010 they publish catalogues, books, artists’ books and LPs regularly, as well as arrange readings, performances and exhibitions.

I came to see the only printed documentation (recently released by Boo-Hooray) of Barbara Rubin’s Christmas on Earth (1963), an experimental erotic outburst on two 16mm reels projected on top of each other. This film, like many others, is extremely vulnerable, the restoration and digitization costly, therefore only shown very rarely to limit exposure. Hands in white gloves I flipped through Rubin’s super-imposed, day-glow vision on printed matter.

still from Christmas on Earth

still from Christmas on Earth

This is part of what Boo-Hooray do: excavating private archives from attics, storage places and basements, documenting them digitally and on occasion producing a publication to exhibit what would otherwise remain invisible. Most of their digitized inventory has been placed with academic institutions such as Yale University (Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library), Cornell University (Division of Rare Manuscript Collections) and Oxford University (Bodleian Library). Where they will be made available to everybody (online library) even if you are not enrolled, according to Boo.

Boo-Hooray's flyer with events scheduled on the back. public events seem their channel to inform the public about their archive.

Boo-Hooray’s flyer with events scheduled on the back. public events are their channel to inform the public about their archive.

At the moment the digitization is to provide adequate material for print publication and an online repository of images. There is no agenda of what else could be done with it and how it could become an integral part of common culture – and subject to use and change. The questions remain: How can we utilize digital technology to preserve culture (beyond digital photography) and allow permeability in various ways (beyond looking at it)? And how can the general public find and access this material?

In the case of Boo-Hooray they organized a screening of Christmas on Earth (in cooperation with the Film-maker’s Coop) to launch the publication and promote their activities. Perhaps this, a comprehensive public engagement strategy can expose the material to new publics and explore hybrid forms of publishing.

Christina Kral

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