Floating Archives was a public art intervention on the lower Schuylkill River in Philadelphia by Jacob Rivkin. On two Saturday evenings in September 2018, hand-drawn animations based on archival materials were projected on a screen suspended between two canoes. As these floating silent images present traces of the past in vibrant color, they invite us to see still other rivers, as they were, as they are, and as they could be. Specific animations are projected as Floating Archives approached the place that each original image referenced, creating a spectral layering of landscape, history, and wonder. These drawings also provoke us, in times of rising waters and changing coastlines, to consider the labor, capital, and energy that have and will shape the river’s future course.

Floating Archives is supported through the Mellon Artist-in-Residence program at the the Penn Program in the Environmental Humanities, in collaboration with Bartram’s Garden and the Science History Institute.

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