The building at 101 Spring Street is one of a few artist homes preserved in New York. As such, it offers a rare glimpse into an artist’s daily process. Judd purchased the building in 1968 after a successful exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. He needed more space than his studio on East 18th street provided, and the cast iron—with its five floors, its open spaces, and its big, wide windows—offered room and light often unavailable in New York. (A few years later, this too would seem confining, and Judd would begin spending part of the year in Marfa, Texas, chosen because of the emptiness surrounding it.) Judd renovated the building along with his then wife, Julie Finch. He smoothed floors and walls, purchased and commissioned art from his friends, and constructed his own furniture. He decided how the building should be used, assigning each floor a specific task: meeting, eating, working, socializing, sleeping. His mark on the space is omnipresent.
Traditionally, the historical record has been created by those in power, based on what is or is not preserved, so it’s important that those of us working in institutions make sure that our collections are as representative and diverse as possible, and that we also support community DIY archives like Brooklyn’s Lesbian Herstory Archives.
Preserving unique documents—be they letters or emails, manuscripts or VHS tapes—ensures that we have a past to study and learn from. Preserving those documents and the context in which they were created, the way an archivist does, enriches our understanding of that past. It makes the past even more complex and contradictory.
Lisa Darms (a former supervisor of mine, founder of the riot grrrl archive at fales/nyu, and an awesome archivist)