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A Pool of Archives

Last Thursday, I had a Zoom meeting with Nil’s gallerists based in Istanbul. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the types of archives they would be willing to share with me for integration into the final database. I was particularly struck by one of their expressions: the idea of creating a “pool of archives“ Yes, that’s precisely it, a pool of archives. A giant, multifaceted, and open pool comprising Nil’s artworks, photographs of her at exhibitions, written notes, work details, biographical photos, and more. 


In this blog post, I’d like to offer you a sneak peek behind the scenes of the project – or at least into my day-to-day. What data do I handle? What software am I using?


Image 1 :A quick view into Nil’s 1 of 6 hard drives.


During the last two working sessions with Nil, our focus has been on organizing the

archives, prioritizing which ones are most crucial to preserve. Fun fact : sorting through and locating Nil’s archives on her computer has turned out to be quite the Turkish language crash course for me! I’d estimate that over 70% of her files are labeled in Turkish, so I find myself frequently asking her, “what does kitap mean? and yazı and bursa? “Who knows, perhaps I’ll be conversational in Turkish by the end of this project!


We utilize the “Team Viewer“ software, which allows me to have a real-time view of Nil’s screen on my own and even take control of her computer when necessary. This tool is invaluable for renaming files, reorganizing them, and most importantly, monitoring the progress of data transfer.


Image 2: A quick view into my SSD Samsung. Nil and I use a color-coding system to identify files with sensitive data, those to be sorted or completed.


Two weeks ago, we began by gathering files (.tiff, .jpeg, and .mov files) associated with the works featured in “Nil Yalter”, a retrospective book published in 2013. This compilation encompasses Nil’s seminal pieces: Topak Ev (1973), Headless Woman (1974), Algerian Marriage in France (1977), Shaman (1979), Rahime (1979), Calligraphy (1992), La Chora (1993), and many more. For each file collected and transfered into to my external SSD (Samsung 2TB), I then meticulously record the following information in an Excel spreadsheet (because nothing beats a good old Excel spreadsheet!):


  • The title of the work

  • Alternate titles

  • Original file name in Nil’s computer/hard drive

  • Image type (detail, documentary image, biographical photograph, screen capture, work in context with or without Nil 

  • File location (folder)

  • File location (SSD)

  • Year of creation

  • File type (.jpg, .tif, .mov, etc.)

  • File size (in MB)

  • Medium of the work

  • Dimensions or duration

  • Description or additional notes

  • Exhibitions where the work has been showcased

  • Photo credits

  • Owners (institution) or current location of the work



Image 3 : Nil’s retrospective book published in 2013



Image 4 : Excel spreadsheet inventory


It’s a time-consuming process, but it will all be worthwhile once we’re ready to transfer them into the database.

Lastly, during our latest session on Sunday, we delved into the films preserved by BnF (National Library of France). These are hours of uncompressed films edited by the library. We’re still deliberating on how best to present these films in the database, most likely as screenshots. 


Our goal is to complete the inventory of our digital archives before the beginning of March! Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.

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