Not All The World’s A Stage: How Can Archival Objects Frame Cultural Memory

Robin Margolis


This poster focuses a research design developed in collaboration with Dr. Rachel Mattson at La MaMa Archives. The research centers on a collection of 170 historic Off-Off Broadway performances recorded on analog video during critical years of the organization’s history. The experimental nature of the works, which are often improvised and non-narrative, make traditional cataloging approaches difficult and sometimes ill suited, requiring a cataloger to inflict language the performers would consider violent. The fuller context of many of the works exists only in the living memories of New York elders who were the original performers and audiences.

Our project proposes to employ the techniques of oral history and reminiscing work to embark on a community description project. The design looks to integrate oral history with digital reminiscence models, in particular Jeffrey Dean Webster’s Heuristic Reminiscing Model (HRM), emphasizing how to conceive the impact and benefits of the process for the elders we target connected to the collection. The research draws on Erving Goffman’s research surrounding frame theory and the conception of “the play of life,” suggesting ways different modes reminiscence are primed by the surrounding audience.

The poster pairs HRM with Dr. Leisa Gibbon’s Mediated Recordkeeping model to envision how to record the ways the archival object of the digitized performances and proposed discussions and screenings facilitate object- and event- based recall. It will include methodological findings tested in an oral history for the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive incorporating aspects of the proposed project at La MaMa.



Robin Margolis is a current MLIS student specializing in Media Archival Studies at the UCLA School of Information Studies. He completed his B.A. in Media Studies at Pomona College. He approaches archives from a foundation as a teaching artist,
community organizer, and filmmaker, aiming to serve social movements both
emergent and ongoing. His research interests involve community-based archiving,
oral history in the digital age, personal digital archiving, archiving performance,
archives as a site for transmission of culture and political memory, and
revolutionary arts traditions. He has worked in the film industry and as a union researcher. He currently works as a production coordinator for Oral History Projects at the Academy Foundation and as a Reference Desk Assistant at the UCLA Music Library.