Release of Jeffrey Schnapp’s Short Documentary “Cold Storage”

In their 2014 publication The Library Beyond the Book, NovelTM member Jeffrey Schnapp and metaLAB colleague Matthew Battles describe the evolution of the library in the digital age, imagining it as a house of hybrids where both print and pixel commune. The authors argue (or reassure) that books will live on in the future and that our bookshelves will not be “wholly virtual.” Indeed it is the concrete physicality of knowledge — the bookshelf and its stock, which are the focus of their latest collaboration. Cold Storage is a 24-minute documentary short film released earlier this month at Harvard in conjunction with the opening of Icons of Knowledge, an exhibition on the architecture and symbolism of national libraries. The film examines the inner workings and outer casing of the Harvard Depository, Harvard’s off-site library storage facility, which houses some “nine million items and counting.”  Dedicated to Alain Resnais and in response to the French filmmaker’s 1956 cinematic exploration of the  Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris, Toute la mémoire du monde (All the World’s Memories), Cold Storage maintains the “gothic” tone and philosophical resonance of Resnais’s classic, revealing the archive as an evolving organism of man and machine weighing the balance between accessibility and conservation. More information on the project can be found in a recent feature article, “Where the Library Gets Its Books,” on the digital magazine Hyperallergic.com.