‘Archive 81’ follows archivist Dan Turner, who is tasked with restoring a collection of videotapes salvaged from the wreckage of a building. The more he watches the tapes, the further Dan is pulled into a dark abyss of supernatural events. What begins as a relatively straightforward task soon turns into an exploration of the protagonist’s journey into madness.
The show creates a surreal world that puts audiences in Dan’s shoes, making for an entertainingly unsettling watch (if that is your cup of tea). In case you were wondering where ‘Archive 81’ gets its name from and what the title’s significance actually is, we’re here to clear things up! SPOILERS AHEAD.
What is the Meaning of the Archive 81 Title?
On the surface, it is relatively simple to decipher where parts of the ‘Archive 81’ title come from. The Netflix series opens with Dan Turner, an archivist, being assigned a collection of tapes, or “the archive,” that he is tasked with restoring. Left alone in the archive and watching recordings of supernatural occurrences on the tapes results in Dan’s increasing paranoia and eventual involvement in dark magic. Thus, it is the ominous archive that essentially sparks off the narrative. It is worth noting that the number “81” and its significance remain conspicuously missing on the show.
Of course, we can infer that since the titular archive is numbered, there are others like it that exist. This is further supported when it is revealed that another man (who also eventually goes insane) worked on restoring a separate, equally haunted collection of opera recordings at the remote research facility that Dan now inhabits. Thus, the number “81” potentially expands the world of ‘Archive 81’ by hinting that many other such ominous collections of recordings exist.
A clue about the title’s significance can also be gleaned by looking at the podcast of the same name on which the show is based. The ‘Archive 81’ podcast was created by Marc Sollinger and Daniel Powell, who are also co-producers on the Netflix series. Powell, who has worked at a sound effects library, recalled spending copious amounts of time listening to strange sounds as part of his job. This, in fact, partly inspired the podcast as well, which centers around an archivist listening to audio tapes (as opposed to videotapes on the show).
In the podcast, the archive that the protagonist (also named Dan) is tasked with cleaning and cataloging is the one numbered “81.” Once again, the significance of the number is not explored, but at least it makes an appearance in the narrative. Thus, It seems like the screen adaptation takes on the podcast’s title but doesn’t attempt to justify the presence of 81 in the title. Interestingly, by the end of the show (and podcast), the number seemingly takes on an ominous significance purely because the archive holding the haunted recordings is numbered 81.
Read More: Where is Archive 81 Filmed?