Stanford University Library – McDonough Living Archive

William McDonough and Stanford University Libraries create a new kind of “living archive”

William McDonough and Stanford University Libraries have teamed up to create a comprehensive, real-time approach to archiving the McDonough collections, which include paper and born-digital material. The libraries will use the digital components to create a set of open-source archival technologies that will allow creators, archivists and selected contributors to actively collaborate. Stanford University Librarian Michael Keller sees the acquisition as

“an extraordinary opportunity not only to advance and redefine what an archive can be, but also a chance to engage with William McDonough to explore and document such questions as how the sustainable movement happened, and to examine links between pioneering thinkers such as McDonough and Buckminster Fuller.”

Meryl Streep and Susan Sarandon hosted the November 2012 gala announcing that William McDonough would be the first “living archived” person by Stanford University.

Here’s an excerpt from the Stanford News, November 15:

…Now the man who has been called the leading environmental architect of our time will be donating his extensive archive and professional papers to Stanford University Libraries.

Roberto Trujillo, head of the libraries’ Special Collections, hailed McDonough’s partnership with Stanford as a new kind of “living archive”:

“We see the possibility to capture not just the writings and artifacts but the activities and conversations of a designer and thought leader – and the many influential individuals he works with – as they happen. It’s a real-time archive.”

The extensive McDonough historical collections cover more than 40 years of the designer’s professional career. But McDonough is very much active and alive, and constantly generating new material for the archive. Hence, one of the challenges the libraries face will be managing the process of continually harvesting material for the archive from a living donor, and creating technological (and human) protocols so that the process will not be invasive.

Stanford is an international leader in creating standards and best practices for realizing the digital library – one of the reasons McDonough was attracted to Stanford in the first place.

Speaking of the collaboration with the libraries, McDonough said he was

“especially excited about their interest in new ways of archiving and look forward to working with their team. We are doing something new here. It’s not just pulling the past into the present. We are pulling the present into the future.”

Read the full article at this link (

Read a related article in the Stanford Daily News (

Read the New York Times announcement here (