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A black and white portraits  projected on some windows.

The "Archiving Memory: The Art of Preservation" exhibit will run through June 2005 at the University's Elmer L. Andersen Library.

3-D photo album of Holocaust survivors

by Pauline Oo

Published on March 17, 2005; updated July 7, 2005

During the day, when natural light streams through the windows and the giant transparencies within their frames, the images of the Holocaust survivors take form on the walls and corridors of the Elmer L. Andersen Library. In the evening, the library's interior lights project the faces outwards, turning the building into a 35-foot-tall piece of art.

Through September 30, 2005, "Archiving Memory: The Art of Preservation" will visually transform three floors of the University's Elmer L. Andersen Library and a part of the West Bank on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis into a photographic memorial celebrating cultural survival in the face of persecution, war, and exile. (The exhibit was originally scheduled to run through June 2005, but it has recently been extended through September due to popular demand.)

The interactive art project, conceived by Minneapolis photographer and visual anthropologist Nancy Ann Coyne, comprises 12 rare, life-size family photos and stories from individuals of the Austrian Holocaust who survived concentration camps, resisted the Nazi regime, and lived in hiding. The photographs are installed chronologically, creating a timeline between 1936 and 1947 through the library's corridors. And each image is accompanied by a story about the individual's life and the circumstances in which the photograph was taken.

"'Archiving Memory' turns the Andersen Library into a three-dimensional open book," says Coyne, "or a photo album that uses state-of-the-art digital imaging and cutting-edge design to invoke the aesthetics of memory." Like memory, she says, the images can appear as fragments and recede. "Literally, [this exhibit] is a walk through time if you wandered down the library's corridor," says Coyne, who collaborated with U professors and architects William Conway and Mary Schulte to bring the exhibit to life. "An image is just a fragment when the sun is rising, but it becomes a full or more complete picture when the sun is right up there shining brightly."

"This [exhibit] has made the University archives sexy, intriguing... ," says anthropologist Nancy Ann Coyne.

Coyne says the location for this exhibit is ideal because both the exhibit and the library hold keys to the past. (The Elmer L. Andersen Library stores more than 1.5 million rare and unique books, manuscripts, illustrations, and artifacts from the U's collections and lesser-used materials from other Minnesota libraries.)

"Archives, historically, have been considered staid and are places with no vibrant life," says Cohen. "This [exhibit] has made the University archives sexy, intriguing... [The exhibit] engages the public, especially at night, to know more about what goes on in the space."

While living in Vienna, Austria, between 1985 and 1996, Coyne's passion for archives led her to discover there was a hole in the public records of Austria's history during World War II.

"Some people fled their country or had to live in exile and they didn't have anything to show from their culture except photographs," she says. "So in this context, archives become important... This project gives [some of those people and those missing in Austria's public archives] a place back in history." The interior part of the exhibit is open for viewing Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., while the exterior can be viewed at all times. The exhibit is free and open to the public. (The library is located on the north end of the Washington Avenue pedestrian bridge.)

"Archiving Memory" is a partnership of the University Libraries, the Special Collections and Rare Books Unit, the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, the Department of Art History, the Center for Austrian Studies, and the University of Minnesota's Public Art on Campus program at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, in cooperation with Public Interest, Inc., and Intermedia Arts.

Major funding for Archiving Memory is provided by the University of Minnesota McKnight Arts and Humanities Endowment, the Beverly Foundation, and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council from an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature.

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