The Living Art Museum maintains three main archives: The Living Art Museum Archive, The Archive of Artist-Run Initiatives, and The Performance Archive. The archive began as a creative collaboration with the Reykjavik City Archive, the Iceland Academy of the Arts, and the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service.
The aim of the archives is to maintain and preserve the underlying parallel history of the local art scene; to preserve documents corresponding to the history of the museum itself, artist initiatives, and performance; and to make the archive accessible to future research and preservation.
The Living Art Museum Archive is a diverse collection of papers and documents connected to the museum’s exhibition history. It consists of catalogues, audio and video files, letters, photographs, films, meeting notes, etc. These documents contain information about the artists, exhibitions, and events occurring in relation to the museum. As a part of its anniversary program in 2008, Nýló sprouted two parallel initiatives for organizing and archiving documents from the history of artist-run initiatives and performance art in Iceland. This effort is important in that it relates the history of The Living Art Museum as well as the local history of contemporary art in Iceland to a broad variety of ideas, theories, and perspectives.
The main archive corresponding to The Living Art Museum´s history is preserved at the Reykjavík City Archives.
The Archive of Artist-Run Initiatives consists of documentation of independent, artist-run initiatives in Iceland and Icelandic-run initiatives abroad. A variety of artist-run spaces have been operated in Iceland in the last 50 years, in mobile and static forms. Their common ground has been their role as platforms for progressive, experimental art, exhibitions of local and international artists, and interaction between the arts community and the community as a whole.
The reason why artists decide to create their own platform is perhaps rooted in their need for collaborative creative processes, many seeing such initiatives as part of their own artistic practice. Additionally the historical lack of institutional interest in works of an experimental nature has called for self-organized structures.
As an artist-run institution, the Living Art Museum has an ambition to preserve the history of local artist-run initiatives and continues to collect documents and data from past and present initiatives.
The Performance Archive was initiated in early 2008, when Nýló began archiving performance documentation and material relating to artist performances. Previously, the museum collection had included documentation of 20 performance works dating from 1978-1981.
Gradually, various forms of documentation pertaining to performances have been added to the archive. The collection takes place through a dialogue with the artist in question, with the aim of examining his/her work and career. Many local artists work with performance as part of their oeuvre, and for a few it is their main medium. In 2010 Nýló collaborated with the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service (RÚV) to collect artists’ own oral histories of selected performances.
The aim of the archive is to preserve documentation of performance and performance-related works, and to establish The Living Art Museum as the central museum for performance in Iceland, as it has throughout its history been one of the main local venues for such work.