Rod Fisher on The Rod Fisher Archive

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The Rod Fisher Archive is an open access reference collection of global cultural policy, located on the second floor of Goldsmiths Library.

On 1st March 2016, Rod Fisher gave a talk about his archive and began by introducing his archive, all material that he gathered over 40 years in relation to research carried out for various global cultural bodies in Europe, the National Arts Council of Singapore, a foundation in Japan; his work for the Council of Europe from the 1980s, for the Arts Council of Great Britain (before it became Arts Council England), and then his own organisation, the International Arts Bureau from 1994; as well as research materials for his own writing projects and from conferences he had attended and addressed around the world.

He explained that it is therefore an eclectic collection of books, papers, reports, directories and articles spanning the 1970s – 2000s. The scope is:

  • cultural policies and structures to administer them, and comparative international studies;
  • economics and financing the arts, including comparisons across different countries;
  • performing arts, theatre and visual arts, cultural heritage, audio visual and the creative industries;
  • cultural cooperation and diplomacy, especially in Europe;
  • cultural relations
  • Council of Europe material
  • UNESCO and the EU

It is organised in order of international comparative literature, then Europe, and then by country. There are box files on over 40 countries from Europe, Asia, North America and Australasia. The collection’s strengths are:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Netherlands
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • UK
  • USA

Rod Fisher said that some countries are grouped together, such as the Balkan states. There is a focus on the 1980s and 1990s. The limitations of the collection are that it is not arranged by author or date, it is not catalogued (so not searchable on the library catalogue) and there is no index, so it is hard to search for a particular item – you need to go through all of the material to know what is there, although it is filtered by country, so it can be narrowed down in that way; there is little material on Latin America and Africa, except for South Africa, as Rod Fisher was not researching those continents; some of the box files are in poor condition and are in the process of being replaced, they are also still being sorted.

Rod then talked about a selection of publications from the collection that he had picked out for us to look at. This gave us a sense of the spread of the collection, and the sorts of research materials available:

  • Three Council of Europe publications – one about Latvia’s cultural policies, a hefty volume on Heritage in Europe, complete with illustrations, and a comprehensive report on how Austria organises its cultural policy. The collection contains all Council of Europe published hardback reports on cultural policy in different countries, which generally consist of a national report and an independent experts’ report. (http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/heritage/Resources/heritage_en.asp)
  • A 1998 book he picked up in Eastern Europe, on Culture and Perestroika, about changes in the Soviet Union at the time of Gorbachev, including an interview with Marc Chagall and sections on Mikhail Bulgakov and Andrei Tarkovsky and lots more.
  • More Culture, More Europe, a publication from a conference Rod Fisher spoke at, in 2003 when Poland were preparing to join the EU.
  • A publication by CIRCLE, the organisation for cultural research and information centre that Fisher chaired, for a conference in Helsinki on human rights and cultural policies in 1993.
  • A Polish UNESCO publication about cultural rights and wrongs (http://portal.unesco.org/culture/en/ev.php-URL_ID=36999&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html)
  • Papers from a conference about the healing role of the arts – a European Perspective.
  • The Performing Arts and the Public Purse: an Economic Analysis, 1987, from the Republic of Ireland, Arts Council Ireland
  • A book on supporting artists in the Nordic countries – the Social Welfare approach to arts support and funding
  • A publication about the future of arts and culture in the Balkans by the European Culture Foundation – an organisation that Rod Fisher and ICCE lecturer Carla Figueira have both been involved with
  • A report by the Arts Council of Great Britain on how composers are treated in the funding system, from the late 1970’s
  • Television at the Crossroads, by George Wedell and Bryan Luckham is one of the collections AV reports (http://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9780333716465)
  • A publication about the Opera Industry in Italy and the role of the impresario
  • A national survey of festivals in Hungary
  • A report on the visual arts in the Philippines and state support for them

After this illuminating and extremely interesting introduction to some of the materials in the collection, I am more aware of how much of the collection is of historical interest particularly, and useful for historical and global comparative research around the arts. It contains rare material, including organisational reports that are not to be found on the internet. Although currently not easy to search, it is well worth delving into the country files to excavate some primary source treasures that may add depth and illumination to a wide range of Cultural Policy, Curating and Arts studies – and far beyond, this collection could be of value to much of Goldsmiths’ interdisciplinary research.

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