Green Design Icon William McDonough Becomes A ‘Living Archive’

What would it be like to climb inside the mind of the most intelligent or creative icons of our day? To have a more direct understanding of their thoughts, feelings, and processes? Granting that desire, at least in part, is the aim of a new digital archiving project from Stanford University.

William McDonough, father of Cradle to Cradle designsustainability advisor to business and government leaders, and renowned green architect, has been chosen by Stanford University to be the institution’s first living archive. The project heralds the era of “deep archiving“, a trend that will allow future generations to experience life in the shoes of a thought-leader, from daily meetings, to brainstorms, to tweets.

William McDonough

Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA

McDonough will now be filming all of his meetings and recording all of his telephone conversations (with the help of a full-time archivist, of course), reports Arch Daily.

The extensive historical collections of McDonough cover more than 40 years of the designer’s professional career and the archives will continuously grow in tandem with the generation of McDonough’s work. Creating this new type of archive will be no easy task. One challenge will be to perpetually manage new material and keep up with a living donor’s many activities, appearances, projects, writings … and even his Tweets.

Roberto Trujillo, head of the Stanford University Libraries’ Special Collections, sees the potential in digital archiving to include real-time and more universal access that could increase collaboration and exposure to one of the foremost green thinkers of the decade.  “We see the possibility to capture not just the writings and artifacts but the activities and conversations of a designer and thought leader—and the many influential individuals he works with—as they happen. It’s a real-time archive.”

The libraries will use the digital components to create a set of open-source archival technologies that will allow creators, archivists and selected contributors to actively participate. McDonough said he is “especially excited about [Standford’s] interest in new ways of archiving and looking forward to working with their team. We are doing something new here. It’s not just pulling the past into the present. We are pulling the present into the future.”

McDonough will still own the intellectual property rights of his content, but Stanford will keep the actual recordings and will make the information immediately available to the public through the Internet.

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog