Documenting meme culture and preserving ephemera through digital display
ESPN College GameDay came to the James Madison University campus in 2015 and 2017, and functions as a live broadcast, pre-football game event that draws huge crowds. Students bring hand-made signs and posters to the broadcast, and these posters feature prominently in the background of the televised event. When it was announced that the program would come to JMU, Special Collections put out a call on social media to collect student-created GameDay posters, to document the historic athletics event, as well as the student experience around College GameDay. A total of 16 posters were donated, and the collection was formally arranged, described, and digitized for online access in 2022.
The poster, and two presenters from JMU, will discuss the unique challenges of documenting and describing meme culture, and how the ephemeral relevancy of memes required item-level description in order to preserve original meaning and intent. Additionally, the poster and presenters will show how the inherent instability of the medium–cardboard, glue, glitter, markers and tape–of handmade posters made digitization for online access a necessity to preserve the look and meaning behind the rapidly deteriorating physical objects. Presenters will also discuss technologies used to support description and access to the collection, including ArchivesSpace and Artstor, and key takeaways learned from the project, from acquisition to online display.
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Thomsen, G. & Morris, K. (2023). Documenting meme culture and preserving ephemera through digital display. [Virtual poster presentation]. Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) spring 2023 meeting.