Wednesday, September 20, 2017

AFU - A Cultural World Heritage

During this weeks visit to AFU I walked between our many premises, perusing the different libraries and archives. It is an impressive sight to behold this gigantic collection of material from all over the world, in many different languages. After more than 45+ years of study and investigation I can still find books and magazines in the AFU library that I have never seen or heard of. This is a treasure trove of information for all types of researchers and scholars both academic and private. AFU is the custodian of the worlds largest UFO, Fortean, paranormal archive and library. More and more I have come to regard AFU as a true and unique cultural World Heritage.

One of our three libraries

To give a few insights into the work and problems of AFU here are some quotes from our extensive Annual Report 2016, 13 pages in all, compiled by Anders Liljegren.

”A sustainable future for AFU
Creating a sustainable future has, more and more, become the focus for the AFU foundation’s board. The big question remains – how are we to do it? This difficult task is mixed with the frustrating and time-consuming daily routines of trying to find new and creative space-saving solutions for storing an ever-growing collection within the boundaries of slightly more than 500 square meters. Rearranging collections, and performing transports between our thirteen different facilities, has become an almost daily routine. In recent years, we’ve also seen a growing problem of hiring new spaces in the close-by area. And, to top the list of problems, we cannot possibly fit increased costs into our already underfinanced budget.

Part of the Hilary Evans Library

1st Problem: Financing
Everyone who has visited us, and had a tour through our facilities, is overwhelmed by the
quality, quantity and perseverance with which we are working since 40+ years. All this measured against a meagre access to resources. From this fact AFU should – by now – have hundreds of regular financial supporters, worldwide. Visitors here learn that preservation of ufo and phenomena-related memories is not an obvious task for the tax-driven public sector. We must rely heavily on private initiatives. Despite our efforts, we only have about some forty regular monetary sponsors.

One may wonder why there is nearly no support from the international scene, except for a great willingness to donate collections for preservation. For a foundation like AFU to survive and flourish we need much more hands-on support by direct monetary donations, wills and bequests for the future. What will happen to so many important collections in future years is everyone’s responsibility. There is no natural law that any group should tour the landscapes of Sweden, the UK, Europe, and even the United States, hunting down “odd phenomena collections” that are in danger of being dispelled, being sent to waste-disposal dumps, or burnt in ovens. Often, such collections are the results of life-long personal commitments and deep levels of interest in phenomena.

Despite shortage of resources AFU has been able – so far – to sort out incoming collections of printed books, magazines, newsletters and magnetic tape collections (audios, videos). To sort and catalogue this “bulk” of most collections has been our priority.

Main office

2nd Problem: Logistics
The problem of our meagre finances spill over to the physical environment in which we must work daily, creating more problems than any other “normal” archive or institution would ever have had to fight with. Basement facilities are cheap, as compared to ground-level areas. That’s why we are in basements for the most part. On a positive side being in many different basements might be a good spread of potential risks but when measured against “effectiveness” the dispersed facilities are a small disaster. And basements do have a very high risk for flooding by external sources.

Managing the archives requires large sets of many different keys and a durable sack carriage to carry sometimes heavy loads. We depend upon good weather suited for transports, not rain, or heaps of Swedish snow. Storing in 13 different places, behind 13 different doors, is at the maximum of what a human brain can handle logistically (without, maybe, a dedicated computer system to serve memory). Carrying boxes up and down narrow basement stairs is not for the weak, and we are all turning older.

All these problems would be lessened or cease to exist if we were under one single roof. We can spot many alternatives locally for such premises but the cost is mind-boggling to us, often twice or three-times the present cost for facilities.

Hard work when the Hilary Evans archive arrived December 13, 2010

3rd Problem: Human Resources
For the past six years, we’ve had a nearly unrestricted access to work-force through a unique and much-scorned (in the Swedish political debate) government program to keep out-of-work people “going” while in-between-jobs. Besides providing free workforce for us (for instance at our six scanners), working with unemployment programs has provided very good finances for our foundation. We could develop and sustain with government subsidies.

Most of these incoming resources went into salaries for employees, our rents and to costs for
acquiring collections including shipping to Sweden. Job markets are now changing. Sweden suddenly appears to have one of the highest employment rates in Europe. Some statistics say we are heading for a top position in that league. This may not be so in the local area of Norrköping, where there are still quite many non-academic, unskilled members of the population. Local unemployment rate is still at roughly 12 % among the youth.

Keeping unskilled people going with jobs that may motivate them every day is not an easy task. We have seen that. Attendance from some of these people has not been impressive and you must have a good sense of balancing available tasks with selfproclaimed abilities, interests and (particularly) the personal energy (or often lack of same).

Putting qualified files, like the collections from Evans or Creighton, into such unknowing hands will end in disaster. AFU would need at least one full-time “academic” archivist to make good “researchable” files from what is now stored on shelves in random order often within the boxes they once arrived in, or slightly repacked.

Me trying to get an overview of the BSRA archive

Digitizing Projects
During 2016 we digitized an estimated 50.000 new clippings from the Fortean Times editorial files. The total number of digitized clippings in the this collection is now more than 300.000. We also digitized some 500 magazine issues in a project organized by London ufologist Isaac Koi. Isaac – a member of our International Advisory Board – attempts to get releases of copyrights from previous magazine editors so that their old magazines can be scanned and uploaded for public download. 

During 2016 Isaac Koi worked with AFU employees Leif Åstrand and Irene Remberger on this project and the result can be viewed at AFU Downloads.  During the year, we had an inflow of about 300 magnetic audio tapes which have mostly been digitized through our unemployment program. In total more than 5.000 tapes have been digitized through the years. Much of this cannot be put up for public internet download due to copyright and personal integrity.

Books and Magazines
At the end of 2016 we had about 29.500 catalogued books, distributed at three different facilities. Finding space on shelves for new incoming collections was and is a challenge. We now have 197 shelve sections on our floors, mostly of the IKEA “Billy” type. Total library capacity is 885 meters. To save on space, this year we took out the third archival copy of each title in the “P” library (parapsychology and occultism). We temporarily file these copies in boxes kept in a new rented storage close to one of our libraries. This is the 13th facility.

Anders Liljegren busy cataloguing our collections

A new magazine catalogue was produced and posted on our web on October 31. The new catalogue included the main part of the BSRA magazines that arrived here in June. Another quick job done. Our files of magazines, journals and newsletters now amount to 73.845 single issues.”

As anyone can understand from our annual report our greatest challenge during the coming years is financing. We are an international foundation and whether you live in Stockholm, Berlin, Hongkong, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Moscow, Teheran, Auckland or Tokyo we need your economic help to survive and continue develop as the largest and foremost archive and library in the world promoting, supporting and initiating research covering all aspects of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena.

But AFU is not only about thousands of books, magazines and documents but essentially an organized effort to understand the nature, origin and implications of the many types of intriguing phenomena, hitherto not generally recognized by mainstream science and society. In a couple of decades when we oldtimers have left this strange planet, or at least left our physical bodies, we hope the torch of research will be carried by a new generation of  heretic, non-conformist investigators and scholars who dare to cross the threshold into what Jacques Vallee has named Forbidden Science. And we hope that AFU will be the international center for this inquiry. It is your economic support that can make this dream come true.