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Olejnikov's art

The Archives

Posted on 2014.04.21 at 03:02

The Archives, capital A because it is, after all, an International Repository of Vital Artefacts for the Continuance of the Human Race and the powers that be need to at least pretend that they give a fuck, are located in a series of underground bunkers in the French Alps. They were first located there because it was deemed too much hassle to relocate fifteen years of highly unstable Nazi Tech development across the Atlantic and they continued to be located there because the French have never been a nation to greet random fission testing with anything more than an insouciant shrug and a fresh pack of cigarettes.

Although mostly subterranean, the Archives themselves have the appearance of a airy, if terminally untidy, Grandmother’s attic. The airiness is due to the presence of a late eighties Utopian-tech called Holi-glass that creates accurate, but fake, vistas based on the viewers’ desires. Ultimately the prototype was never released to the general public as it was felt that the mass-soporific effect of believing you were wherever you most desired , as well as fears that the creator’s tendency to screech phrases like ‘crush them like the algae they are’ when stressed were predictive of some severe design flaws. It was brought out of storage in the Archives on the principle that the place most librarians want to be is a library with better light and, as such, they were unlikely to use it to opiate any masses. For most of the Archive’s staff the view is that of an Alpine spring morning, librarians frequently substituting filing for imagination, although at least one over-worked archivist’s mentioned the ‘towering crystal spires of Lake Tranquillity’. Unsurprisingly the question of the windows very quickly found its way onto the Agency’s psych tests.

The filing and rooming systems of the Archives are complicated by the status of the items that they hold. There are several rooms in regular use that do not appear on the Agency’s floor plan, just as there are several rooms on the plan that have been completely inaccessible since the early sixties. Several attempts have been made to reach these rooms by Agency staff from outside the Archives, although none have ever been successful. The general opinion among the Archivists and Academics is that a building with this level of sentient tech is liable to pick up a few tricks and if certain rooms appear off-limits there’s probably a good reason. It is an open-secret among Archive staff that the building also has several so-called ‘panic’ rooms accessible only to the department for use should the Agency decide the Archive itself has ‘outlived its usefulness’. When dealing with machines and meta-humans beyond your ken it’s nice to know that the walls, at least, are on your side.

The opening paragraph termed the Archive locations a series of bunkers. While this is true in principle they are, in reality, far more like the cathedrals of the middle ages than the nuclear bunker of twentieth century legend. The central core of the Archive comprises several towering caverns with tier upon tier of books. Like the copyright libraries of universities, the Archive has an active claim on every text printed. Unlike the university libraries the Archive actually calls in its claim. The digitisation of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century is largely ignored by the Archive. Not because they disapprove of technology, a significant portion of their remit is the rationalisation and storage of new and found tech, but because they are aware of its limitations. At the end of the day books can be destroyed by fire and flood while every criminal fraternity on the planet is united in its desire to create new ways to wipe digital storage. Since the archive store a copy of each of these new programmes on a separate level it is felt that it is simpler to ban smoking and organise a fire watch than to guard against constantly updating digital threats outside and organisational threats within. The extent to which this decision is influenced by the staff’s fondness for the smell of old books is usually glossed over in funding requests for new storage.

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