McDonough's 'Living Archive' advances radical transparency

At our offices, there is a new refrain.

"I'm recording everything," says William McDonough -- designer, advisor, thought leader and author -- on any given day.

In an effort to chronicle the sustainability movement through McDonough's eyes, Stanford University Libraries has engaged in a unique experiment by creating the academic institution's first "Living Archive."

Digital and written materials of McDonough's past and present will be fed to the Stanford team to capture and share his thoughts and efforts in architecture and sustainable design in as comprehensive a manner as possible, as recently reported by The New York Times and New Scientist.

The extensive writings, drawings, photography, objects and other collections of McDonough already cover more than 40 prolific years in his professional career. The archives are intended to continuously grow in tandem with the continuing generation of his work.

Stanford is an international leader in creating standards and best practices for realizing the digital library. McDonough has a long-standing relationship with the university; he has served as a consulting professor in the civil and Environmental Engineering Department for nearly a decade. In 1999, Stanford acquired the Buckminster Fuller archives, one of the libraries' most in-demand collections. It is also one of the most extensive personal archives anywhere. The Fuller connection is personally meaningful for McDonough who, as a student at Dartmouth, heard one of Fuller's famously long lectures (more than three hours) in an encounter that left an indelible mark.

The Stanford project is a massive undertaking and full of challenges, not the least of which will be to perpetually manage new material and keep up with a living donor's many activities, appearances, projects, writings and even his tweets. Phone conversations and meetings are being recorded. Physical drawings are being digitized.

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