Unpacking Manuel's Tavern | About
A digital exploration of Atlanta's history
atlanta, unpacking manuel's, manuel's tavern
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About the Project

Some archives are unintentional.

Photographs amass in the hidden corners of a city like driftwood. This project will capture and identify an organic archive that has matured with Atlanta. A family whose personal history is intertwined with the history of the city started it. The walls at Manuel’s Tavern have slowly evolved into a record of an established political left; where a generation of cops, soldiers, and politicians—who believed in a more representative democracy—gathered to eat pork chops in a neighborhood occupied by immigrants, hippies, and punks. It is still an active memory place. Neighbors treat it like an extra living room, where they come to watch elections or play chess.

Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern is not about a building. It’s about surfaces—wood panels etched with the regular movement of tipsy crowds, clay bricks that can only tell the truth, walls covered in photographs, documents, paintings, maps, prints, flags, signage, and memorabilia. By photographically scanning these surfaces we are, in a sense, detaching the walls from the building and laying them flat. Altering the form of the material, from a room into a flat scroll, we can begin to see it as an archive. Viewed flat in high definition, we can zoom up close to a single picture frame on the wall and read the writing in its margins. We can think about the hands that hung it and the momentous circumstances that made hanging it the right thing to do.

History is always new.

It is an organic living thing. Every time it is retold it is rewritten for the ears of a new world. I suppose there is the ultimate question. How will the archive be rehung? Like all renovations, there will be a clean sweep. The archive at Manuel’s will no longer be the slow accumulation of the evidence of happenings. The re-installation will be curated. It’s meaning will change all at once. Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern uses art and the tools of the humanities to carefully ponder the archive and the qualities of the tavern; to help this process and reserve a place for constancy in Atlanta.
—Ruth Dusseault

Behind the Scenes

Check out this time-lapse video for a glimpse into the process:


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