Brian Michael Murphy

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Comparative Studies
Graduate Student

Brian Michael Murphy's dissertation “Frozen Memories: Race, Photography, and Digital Preservation in American Culture,” focuses on the Corbis Film Preservation Facility (CFPF) in Boyers, Pennsylvania. At the CFPF, Bill Gates stores his collection of over ten million photographic negatives and other images in securitized, sub-zero refrigeration vaults, at the bottom of a former limestone mine.

The publicity for the CFPF states that Gates is preserving these images "forever," and his technical consultants claim that the freezer vaults will preserve these images for over 10,000 years. Murphy seeks to uncover the cultural assumptions that guide such a preservation project and trace the conditions of possibility for its emergence. “Frozen Memories” examines a series of developments in American culture, from the first time capsules aimed at permanently preserving photographs in the 1930s, to the federal government’s more recent construction of a series of underground bunkers that would shelter the President, the Cabinet, and Congress, in the case of a nuclear attack. The project situates the CFPF in a broader context of institutions that emerge in post-nuclear, post-digital America,engaging with questions of American political and cultural life around issues of security, surveillance, and preservation.

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