Archives in the World: Black Lives Matter
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Archives are not Neutral. Full stop.
That's your first lesson. Archives are part of institutions. Whether they be government, university, museums, or corporations they are still part of a greater system that has, in all likelihood, participated in, propagated, or profited from systemic racism. Archiving as a practice is heavily rooted in imperialism and colonialism, so it's important that we acknowledge our origins and past practices if we want to make any forward movement.
You don't get to pretend that we're silent observers because we never have been and we never will be. To claim neutrality is a choice NOT to act and I'm sorry, kids, but you don't get to have that luxury anymore - not that you should've had it in the first place.
And I realize these are stressful times and it's hard to know what to do or how to help, but the best first step forward is educating yourself on why this moment, and all of the moments preceding it, matter within the context of a system built to suppress, exploit, degrade, and eradicate the black community. Furthermore, how archives and archivists handle documenting the current Black Lives Matter peaceful protests, police brutality, white supremacist instigators, and responses from the media is of the utmost importance. What our profession does has, can, and will be used against the people most in need of protection and it's no longer a matter of pointing to the collecting policy as an excuse.
What we do has consequences.
So, in an effort to contribute something to the world, here are links and reading recommendations to at least get you started. It's not a comprehensive list, but it will continue to grow as more literature and links are created. Feel free to reach out if you have a book or links to share.
Black Lives Matter:
The Black Curriculum - UK Organization:
Ways To Help:
Association of Research Libraries & Society of American Archivists Mosaic Program
National Lawyers Guild - Mass Defense Fund
Split a donation between 70+ community bail funds, mutual aid funds, and racial justice organizers
Petitions to Sign:
Digital Blackness in the Archives: Collecting for Culture
Jarrett M. Drake's Medium Archive
Michelle Caswell's Research Archive
Identifying & Dismantling White Supremacy in Archives: An Incomplete List of White Privileges in Archives and Action Items for Dismantling Them - PDF/Poster Design by Gracen Brilmyer
Sustainable Futures - Community Archives
Call to Action: Archiving State-Sanctioned Violence Against Black People
No one owes their trauma to archivists, or, the commodification of contemporaneous collecting Eira Tansey
The Strange Career of Jim Crow Archives: Race, Space, and History in the Mid-Twentieth-Century American South
Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative
Mario H. Ramirez
Truth and Reconciliation: Archivists as Reparations Activists
The Heart of the Matter: The Developmental History of African American Archives
Archives and History Books:
Caldera, Mary A. and Kathryn M. Neal, eds. Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion
Zanish-Belcher, Tanya and Anke Voss, eds. Perspectives on Women's Archives
Jimerson, Randall C. Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice
Foner, Eric. Who Owns History?: Rethinking the Past in a Changing World
Doss, Erika. Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America
Hammer, Joshua. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World's Most Precious Manuscripts
Redman, Samuel J. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums
Fuentes, Marisa J. Dispossessed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive
Reid-Pharr, Robert F. Archives of Flesh: African America, Spain, and Post-Humanist Critique
Chaudhuri, Nupur, Sherry J. Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry, eds. Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources