Episode 590 – Jim Moske

Virtual Memories Show 590:
Jim Moske

“One of the major themes in the book is the dichotomy in the artistic field between fame – leaving a lasting mark on the culture — and oblivion.”

With his amazing new book, DEATHS OF ARTISTS (Blast Books), archivist Jim Moske explores art, mortality, media, fame and our secret lives. We talk about his chance discovery in the Met Museum’s archives of century-old scrapbooks filled with artists’ obituaries, his attraction to the obits’ brutal tabloid poetry, and how he fell down the rabbit-hole of figuring out the scandalous, redemptive life of their compiler, Arthur D’Hervilly. We get into what these obits — and D’Hervilly’s life — can teach us about art and artistic reputation, the challenges of working with 100+-year-old newsprint, the aesthetic pleasure of historical records, and why Jim considered doing this project as a ‘zine (just like last week’s guest!). We also discuss how he got started as an archivist, his favorite phases of the Met’s history, how artists have responded to his book, his archive of illegible historical documents (!), the impact of digitization and electronics on the archivist field, what we lose when materiality goes away, the oblique influence of Bolaño’s 2666 on Deaths of Artists, and how D’Hervilly’s art-obit collection became a chronicle of the democratization of art. Give it a listen! And go read Deaths of Artists!

“I’m often asked about what’s the coolest thing I’ve ever found in an archive I’ve worked in, and I never really had a good answer to that, until now.”

“I love it when I find something that’s historical value has been destroyed and is now just a visual piece.”

“One of my dreams is that one of Arthur’s descendants will come up with a cache of documentation that will fill this story out.”

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Jim Moske is an archivist and writer based in New York City. He served as Managing Archivist of The Metropolitan Museum of Art from 2008 to 2023 and previously was Archivist of the New York Public Library. Deaths of Artists is his first book.

Follow Jim on Instagram.

Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Jim’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Triptych photo of Jim by Sara Heinonen; double-selfie pic by me. It’s on my instagram.

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