Caravan Stories: Archive Argosy

The Archive of Creative Culture is a collection of books identified as being significant to the contributor’s creative practice. The books come from the personal libraries of revered artists and cultural figures including visual, literary and performance artists, designers, architects, curators, museum executives and cultural leaders. Each book has an Ex Libris - a handwritten note outlining the book’s role in their life. Many of the contributors came across this book at a pivotal moment and it changed their perspective in approaching their creative practice.

This archive uses the book as not only a source of knowledge and object of guidance but is a gateway to documenting the lives of the contributors through memories imbued on the book. The contributor’s use is reflected in the underlinings, notations and dog eared pages, offering a new insight into their life and history.

The Archive Argosy was created by Lacey Haslam, Director of Archive of Creative Culture and adjunct professor at Kennesaw State University, College of Art and Design. Lacey lives in Woodstock, Georgia, with her husband JC and cat, Nico (love that name!). The renovation of her 1973 Airstream Argosy to serve as a traveling museum for the Archive of Creative Culture began in December of 2015, and recently, Lacey did a TEDx talk on the project, which is yet to be released. We will be adding the link here as soon as possible. 

"I had high hopes that I could do it, singlehandedly, in six months," laughs Lacey. 

Fast forward to this past February, when Lacey finished up her Argosy (check out that two-tone, white and polished aluminum combo she's got going on - we love it!), and debuted her completed project at the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco. The Argosy was on display while the Archive team installed their collection inside the museum, although the Argosy itself is just as much a work of art and a sight to behold.

 Image courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco.

Image courtesy of the Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco.

In planning for her renovation, Lacey set an initial budget of $5,000, post the initial cost of the Argosy ($2500) and travel costs to pick it up several states over. A friend, Karen McKay, encouraged Lacey to fund the project through a $5000 Kiva Zip Loan – a crowdfunded, zero percent interest small business loan.

"For two months after a successful two week campaign," shares Lacey,  "I searched for the right vessel and began renovating right away."

"This project has been highly self-reflective for me. At times it has been a real challenge both mentally and physically. Mentally, I would go in circles trying to figure out the electrical problems when something wasn't working. Physically, I am 5’4” and those damn subfloors are heavy and hard to fit into place. My mallet became my best friend." 

Lacey admits to losing sleep, waking up in the middle of the night with her to-do list running through her mind (we can totally identify with this!). Mostly though, she would wake and contemplate the community her project might generate through connecting various subcultures, marveling at the way an object, this Airstream, could unite so many different kinds of people. There is so much truth to that statement, and having been part of the growing Airstream community for the past three and some years, I have seen so many different types of folks uniting over our shared love for these iconic aluminum trailers. 

Lacey recalls a moment where she stood in the Airstream after it was completely gutted: 

"I stood on the exposed frame, belly pan on the ground, knowing welding needed to happen, it was then that I fully understood why people quit at this point and sell it off as a shell." 

Yet Lacey forged on, not allowing fear of difficulty to take over. For certain parts of the project, due to deadlines, Lacey hired out certain services: she brought in a welder to repair the rusted-out frame underneath the old bathroom and an electrician to get the AC up and running for an event during the summer. The highlight of the space, however, is the work done by Eamonn O'Brien to build the custom countertops and cabinetry, which are an absolute work of art, and these same folks put Lacey in touch with a paint shop for the exterior white paint and a contact for new brakes, tail light housing, and axles. 

"Each of these things were monumental in the transformation," she says, "I also have incredible support from my friends and family and find myself reflecting on my gratitude for them each day." 

And support her they did. Lacey's community knew where to find her throughout her renovation project, coming over to chat with her and understanding when she wouldn't say much back as she worked. Some friends gave time and their hands for whatever Lacey needed that day.

"As an estimate, I was spending 20-30 hrs per week on renovations, not counting the hours searching for items, materials, researching how-to’s, sitting and dreaming. It has completely consumed my life for the better and I hope this feeling is embedded into the space." 

Lacey's Archive Argosy will likely continue to shift and grow as her work does, and aside from some minor repairs and some bookshelves left to be installed, she's happily in the decorating stage and planning for pop-up events, exhibitions, workshops, and talks. She is currently researching artisan-made goods to outfit the Argosy, building up inventory to sell. 

Lacey kept the interior minimal, allowing for the space to shift and progress as need be. The space will be used for multiple event types, including workshops, dinners, exhibitions, and discussions. The interior angles were based on a flag made by artist and vexillologist Cristina Victor. Lacey added a bio-ethanol fireplace and smoky plexiglass walls to divide the main space from the library collection. Underneath the custom countertops are drawers for the gallery collection and merchandise to be stored while in transit. 

When speaking with Lacey about this project, I asked her about her choice to renovate a vintage Airstream to expand the Archive of Creative Culture. Her response: 

"Moving from place to place is part of my history. As a child, my family moved all over the country so it is only natural that I was attracted to this iconic vessel not only for its function but also design. The front windows offer a lot of light in the space and double as a projection screen for displaying video and new media works (see image below of the Argosy at Wave Pool in Cincinnati where artist Marc Governanti created and projected a new work using the books in the Archive). The term Argosy means a merchant vessel or rich store with synonyms including mother load, treasure trove, and gold mine. This concept plays directly into the spirit of what I envisioned for the moving museum space–a traveling vessel working to acknowledge creative minds, create new connections and tap into undiscovered ideas. The Archive Argosy is also designed to offer a shop with artisan made goods. We are currently building our roster of artists." Lacey goes on to describe another key piece of literature that has made it's way into the space.

 Argosy at Wave Pool in Cincinnati. 

Argosy at Wave Pool in Cincinnati. 

"Incredibly, the Argosy came with a 4” 3 ringed binder put together by the previous owner who passed away. This binder contains the history of the caravan, from the original manual to repair documents to printouts from Airstream Forums, to the original advertisement for when they purchased it. I will be adding "after" images to the many "before" images now that it is finishing up. It is a key book/document that connects the Archive with the vessel."

Many thanks to Lacey for sharing her incredible Argosy transformation with us all, it really is a work of art. 

Learn more about Lacey and her Archive Argosy: