Nuala Creed

Ceramic Archivists

An on-going commission for the Internet Archive
San Francisco, California

About the Project

Some Ceramic Archivists posed with their human counterparts. Photo: Michael Grecco Productions, Inc. 2012. Featured in The Human Face of Big Data by Smolin and Erwitt (pages 24-25 ).


About the Internet Archive

Founded in 1996, the Internet Archive is a nonprofit library offering free public access to a vast — and growing — collection of digital cultural artifacts. Its headquarters are a former Christian Science church in San Francisco while primary access to the Archive is through its website.

Now with over 450 library and other partners worldwide, the Archive is a leading advocate of a free and open Internet.



Free tours every Friday 1pm
Grand Room open for viewing Ceramic Archivists Fridays 1-2 pm
300 Funston Ave., San Francisco, CA
Call (415) 561-6767 with inquiries.

About the Ceramic Archivists

The idea of the old and the new, trying to make sure that we tie transitions we’re in the middle of back to traditions that we don’t want to lose. There are real things that we want to bring forward into this digital world. Recognition and interaction with the other people in our world is one of them.
— Brewster Kahle on the idea behind the Ceramic Archivists project

In about 2008, the founder and director of the Internet Archive, Brewster Kahle, traveled to China. There, he saw the famed Terra-cotta Warriors at the tomb of the first Emperor of China and it gave him an idea.

Returning to San Francisco, he commissioned ceramic sculptor Nuala Creed to create a sculpture of every staff member who has dedicated at least three years of service to the Archive.

To date, Nuala has made over 140 sculptures of Archive staff. The sculptures are on display in the Great Room of the Internet Archive, in San Francisco, California, and more are on the way.


The Terracotta Army in Xi'an, Lintong District, Shaanxi, China, late third century BCE (detail).

Collection at the Archive

Aaron Swartz

One of the most challenging sculptures I have made was Aaron Swartz. Aaron was a computer programmer, writer, political organizer, Internet activist, and archivist. His work focused on civic awareness and activism and he was a proponent of free public access to the web. Sadly he took his own life in 2013 after a harrowing situation in which the U.S. government pursued him for downloading data from MIT.

His statue has become a shrine for people who know about him and visit The Archive.

When Aaron Swartz died and people who had known him or knew of him lost the ability to communicate with him, Aaron’s statue at the Archive became a way for people to honor him, getting a photo with him or just photographing it for the memory.
— Jason Scott, Internet Archivist

Archivists & Internet Luminaries

Among the people represented are Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive; Ted Nelson, pioneer of information technology who coined the terms hypertext, hypermedia, and hyperlink; and two luminaries who have passed: Aaron Swartz, Internet activist, and John Perry Barlow, founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Also included are custodians, book scanners, programmers, and other everyday luminaries in the life of the Internet Archive.


From Clay to the Cloud

The odd objects in their hands, their personally fashioned clothing, and their quirky expressions reinforced the idea that the Internet Archive was the shared, creative effort of a huge number of individuals. The technical was becoming human to me.
— Carolyn Peter, Curator, The Internet Archive and Our Digital Legacy

The Internet Archive and Our Digital Legacy

An exhibtion at the Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University
Los Angeles, CA
January 23 – March 20, 2016

Artist’s Statement


Nuala Creed in her studio. Still from The Internet Archivists (2016).

I love the poetics of this project. Clay has helped to inform and archive human history for thousands of years. As I archive these Internet archivists in clay, I am sculpting the workers who endeavor to archive the knowledge of our time for future generations. 

The Ceramic Archivists is a large body of work that has been created on an intimate scale over time. Each piece is unique, and is hand-sculpted using coiling, pinching and slab techniques commonly used in ceramics. To personalize the sculptures I usually have the figures holding an object that reflects their hobbies or interests. 

Ceramic Archivists are seen holding a variety of objects - these include a computer, cell phone, a model airplane, ice skates, a mandolin, and a 3D art book. Figures are seen knitting, sewing, holding cooked foods, coffee cups, paint brushes and palettes, skulls, and more. As I make these portraits, I feel as though I am getting to know the people on an intimate level. They become friends. I spend a few weeks working on each sculpture closely looking at their faces and body gestures. 

Included in this collection are luminaries of the high tech world such as Aaron Swartz, Brewster Kahle, John Perry Barlow, and Ted Nelson, among others. Each piece is like a snapshot of the person, and indeed this body of work is like a snapshot of life in San Francisco today. 
— Nuala Creed



The Human Face of Big Data: Time Lapse Video

Michael Grecco
January 29, 2013

A time-lapse video showing the making of the photograph featured in the book The Human Face of Big Data.


The Internet Archivists

Chris Jones, Carolyn Peter, Scott Oller
Janurary 23, 2016

Video created for the art exhibition Cloud to Clay at the Laband Art Gallery, Loyola Marymount University, 2016.

The Internet Archivists features interviews about the project with Internet Archive staff.


Celebrating 100 Ceramic Archivists

Internet Archive
May 30, 2014

Video documenting an event celebrating the completion of the 100th Ceramic Archivist.


Nuala Creed 2015 IA Telethon Live Stream

Internet Archive Presents

December 22, 2015

An interview by Jason Scott with Nuala about the commission at the Internet Archive during a fundraising telethon.


From Clay To The Cloud: Presentation

Internet Archive Presents
February 10, 2016

Talk by Nuala Creed and Brewster Kahle in conjunction with the opening of the exhibit From Clay To The Cloud at Loyola Marymount College's Laband Gallery.


Internet Archive Archivists

Archive Productions
October 17, 2016

A short interview with Nuala Creed about the Ceramic Archivists.


Articles & Reviews

Harnessing the medium of clay, with its millennia of human history, to the era of post-print high-technology, Nuala Creed has imbued these portraits of 100 contemporary workers with individuality and created a telling snapshot of our times, along with an excellent view of the dedicated skill of the artist. The Ceramic Archivists stand ready to tell their stories to future generations.
— Susannah Israel, Ceramics: Art and Perception

On the Project

Tom Foremski. “CultureWatch: Internet Archive Celebrates Nuala Creed's 100 Ceramic 'Archivists'.“ Silicon Valley Watcher, June 10, 2014.

Chris Higgins. “Into the Labyrinth“ The Magazine, #34, January 16, 2014.

Susannah Israel. “Nuala Creed: Ceramic Archivist” (PDF). Ceramics: Art and Perception, #92, Mansfield Ceramics Pty Ltd, 2013, pp. 76-77.

Carolyn Peter. “Archiving the Archivists: A Ceramic Commission by Nuala Creed“ (PDF). Ceramics Ireland.

Claire Richard. "Steve Jobs, Wikipedia, Snowden: des statues en hommage a Internet." L'Obs avec Rue89, November 5, 2014.

Nan Smith. 500 Figures in Clay, volume 2, Lark Books, February 04, 2014, p. 414.

Venkat Srinivasan. "The Internet Archive — Bricks and Mortar Version." Scientific American, Guest Blog, April 13, 2016.

Wikimedia. Images of Archivists featured in Wikimedia.

This exhibition is poignant, fabulously nerdy, and thought-provoking....
— Annelisa Stephan, "Clay Sculptures of Archivists Show the Human Face of Big Data"

On the Exhibition From Clay to the Cloud

Chuck Jones. “From Clay to the Cloud." The Camera Forum, January 26, 2016.

Carolyn Peter. “Reflections on From Clay to the Cloud: The Internet Archive and Our Digital Legacy, a.k.a. The Internet Archive – The Exhibition!Internet Archive Blogs, April 29, 2016.

Annelisa Stephan. “Clay Sculptures of Archivists Show the Human Face of Big Data.“ The Iris: Behind the Scenes at the Getty, March 8, 2016.

Katherine Wallace. “EXHIBITION OPENING: From Clay to the Cloud: The Internet Archive and Our Digital Legacy.Internet Archive Blogs, January 23, 2016.

 A Growing Archive

What I really love is that this collection is art in context — it is not made for a museum or fine art gallery but rather for the employees and visitors to the Internet Archive. It is a tribute to the labor and human ingenuity in the making of our high tech world.