National Archives at Philadelphia

Archives Alchemy Exhibit

Archives Alchemy - Quilt 1

Exhibit at the National Archives at Philadelphia

Refer to CaptionCurtain of Red Tape (overview), by Sally Lilychild Willowbee
Refer to CaptionCurtain of Red Tape (detail), by Sally Lilychild Willowbee

Archives Alchemy is an innovative collaboration between the National Archives at Philadelphia and the Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia. The first is a Federal government agency; the second is a loose collective of found-object artists.

The art was made from debris and materials the National Archives staff identified during recent renovations, and while processing records (when archivists preserve and describe records so they can be used by researchers. Staff identified the materials as non-archival. These materials include:

  • Reproductions and enlargements of documents from past exhibits
  • Unsold posters and post cards
  • Volumes from our ad hoc reference collection
  • Microfilm publications
  • Post-hole binders from dis-bound records
  • Leather and cloth book spines and covers that have fallen off due to usual wear and tear
  • Unused blank forms
  • Red, white, pink and grey tape from unbundled records
Refer to CaptionFamily, by Joel Spivak
Refer to CaptionHope, by Sara Benowitz

The artists supplemented these materials with objects in their own stashes.

The exhibit opening on January 10, 2014 also marked the re-opening of the renovated public research room at our Market Street facility. Over 200 guests celebrated with National Archives staff and the artists!

This is the second collaboration initiated by the National Archives in Philadelphia. At the beginning of the renovations, members of the Philadelphia Center for the Book used book spines and covers and red tape to interpret archival holdings. Items from that exhibit Libro Curio are on our Facebook page.

Exhibit hours:

Refer to CaptionWe the People...Fashion 2014, by Eva J Preston

Now extended through Friday, 25 July 2014!
Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m.– 4:45 p.m.
Second Saturday of each month 8:00 a.m.– 4:00 p.m. (March 8 and April 12)


National Archives at Philadelphia
in the Nix Federal Courthouse and Post Office
Entrance on Chestnut Street between 9th and 10th

A valid photo ID is required to enter a federal building.

[include photos: quilt sign (already posted) ; 2 objects; opening event]