The Co-Archiving Toolbox

Introduction: The Co-Archiving Toolbox

The Co-archiving Toolbox concept is developed by the research project Co-archiving, which aims to explore and prototype collaborative (co-) archiving practices, that invite underrepresented voices to contribute to our common archives. The target group for the Co-archiving Toolbox is not only the unheard, but also archivists and museum professionals who are interested in assuming a co-archiving facilitation approach by engaging the subjects (the documented) in the shaping of archives. The underlying assumption is that inviting more people to contribute to the public archives would result in a more diverse and representative record of human existence.

The project is part of Living Archives, which is an interdisciplinary research project at School of Arts and Communication (K3), Malmö University, funded by the Swedish Research Council.

The toolbox was developed in collaboration with the Refugee Documentation Project run by the Regional Museum in Kristianstad, Malmö Museums, Kulturen Museum and the Department of Cultural Sciences, Lund University, aimed at documenting the emergent refugee situation in Sweden.

With this instructable you can create from scratch your own co-archiving toolbox, select and adapt the practices that it will hold and plan your own co-archiving project using the toolbox.

For more information about the Co-archiving Documentation Project, contact:

  • Elisabet M. Nilsson,
    Sofie Marie Ottsen Hansen,
    School of Arts and Communication (K3), Malmö University

For more information about this build and the toolbox design:

  • Max Paulsson Hall,

Step 1: Tools and Materials

Tools needed:

  • Laser cutter
  • Soft hammer
  • Sandpaper
  • Bowl of water (for wood bending)
  • Sponge (for wood bending)
  • Random box or books (for assembly)

Materials needed:

You can choose to make the whole toolbox in the same material or use different materials for the inside and outside. You can also choose to make the compartment floor in clear plastic so that you can see the archived documents.

Option 1

  • One sheet of 4mm MDF (2440x1220 mm)

Option 2

  • Inside: 3/5 sheet of 4 mm MDF with veneer (1460x1220 mm)
  • Outside: 2/5 sheet of 4 mm MDF with veneer (980x1220 mm)

Extra option

  • Compartment floor: 4 mm of clear plastic (600x450 mm)

Step 2: Drawings and Adjustments

I have uploaded 3D-CAD, 2D-CAD and Illustrator files of this project so that you can make any type of changes you want if you have the knowledge.

For those of you that just want to cut out the toolbox as is you can follow the steps bellow to make the necessary adjustments to the illustrator files.

Step 3: Determining the Kerf

Find out what the laser cutters kerf is. The kerf is the width of cut that your laser cutter makes in the specific material you are using (in this case 4mm MDF).

There is a great instructable of how to do this which you can find here.

When I followed this instructable I made a metric version of the files with instructions inside (see below).

Step 4: Adjust the for the Kerf (or Not)

If you are lucky and your kerf happens to be 0,2 mm then you can use the same files as I used to cut the toolbox. This file is already adjusted for a 0,2 mm kerf.

If your kerf is something other than 0,2 mm then you need to adjust for this by making offsets in illustrator. I have prepared a file for this with instructions of how to do it inside.

Step 5: Laser Cut the Toolbox

Inside the illustrator file there is 11 different artboards. 10 artboards are 600x450 mm (the range of the laser cutter I used) and one is 2440x1220 mm (the size of an uncut MDF sheet).

Simply send one or more artboards to your laser cutter depending on your cutting range. If your laser cutter has a completely different dimension you can rearrange the parts on the bigger artboard so that you can cut them out properly.

For those of you that want different types of MDF for your toolbox should cut artboard 1-6 (inside) in one material and artboard 7-10 (outside) in the other material. The compartment floor can be found on artboard 1 for those of you that want it to be clear plastic.

The engraving lines are blue and should be cut first, the hinge patterns are red and should be cut second. All the other lines are black and should be cut last.

Step 6: Assemble the Toolbox

Once all the parts have been cut out it’s time for assembly. For this I have made a video tutorial for you to follow. To keep track of all the parts I mention in the video I have made a assembly document which I recommend you use along with the video. In this document you can see exactly what part I am referring to in the video.

Step 7: Select, Edit and Add What Practices Should Be Included in Your Toolbox.

The toolbox can be changed and adapted to any setting. Using the toolbox is a highly situated practice, an emphasis thus ought to be put on the importance of adjusting and adopting the toolbox to the situation and the subjects of the archive.

Print all labels, instructions and materials and attach and place them in the toolbox. Gather any other materials needed for the different practices (camera, recorder, pens, paper, envelopes etc) and place in the toolbox.

Step 8: Prepare Field Deployment

Set the aim of the project, decide on a location for deployment of the toolbox and collect information of participants. Use the co-archivist handbook for structuring your engagement with the field.



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    Such an interesting and well-documented project! Thank you for sharing.