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ShipLibrary Blog

American Archives Month: Community Archives

by Christy Fic on 2020-10-29T09:00:00-04:00 | Comments

I can't believe it's the end of American Archives Month. What a journey we have taken together! Before I leave the Library Blog and disappear back into the Archives, let me share one more very important point.

You don't need any special training to archive things. Most employers of professional archivists want you to have some training. But if there is an important event or movement happening in your community that you would like to document, YOU can do that! According to the all-knowing Wikipedia:

Community Archives are archives created or accumulated, described, and/or preserved by individuals and community groups who desire to document their cultural heritage based on shared experiences, interests, and/or identities, sometimes without the traditional intervention of formally trained archivists, historians, and librarians. 

Examples of community archives:

  • The Black Matriarch Archive, started by Alkebuluan Merriweather, a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is digital platform dedicated to celebrating the black women who raised and uplifted their families. Merriweather encourages everyone to engage with this archive as "a symbol of love and resilience."
  • UNC's Community-Driven Archives is an initiative by the Special Collections Dept to partner with local groups to preserve their history. They have worked with the Appalachian Student Health Coalition, Historic Black Towns & Settlements Alliance, and the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project.
  • The Lesbian Herstory Archives is home to the world's largest collection of materials by and about lesbians and their communities.
  • The Mass. Memories Road Show is a statewide, event-based participatory archiving project that documents people, places, and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories.

Mass Memories Road Show

Photos from the Mass Memories Road Show, which includes over 11,000 photographs, stories, and videos from throughout Massachusetts.

Don't wait for the archivists to get their act in gear. Your story matters. You can control how your story is preserved for future generations. Here are some resources to get you started:

  • Documenting the Now is a tool and a community developed around supporting the ethical collection, use, and preservation of social media content. So many records we create and react to every day only live on Twitter or Facebook or whatever social media site. DocNow empowers individuals and communities to document rapid social change.
  • WITNESS trains activists to archive and preserve their video so that human rights abuses cannot be denied or forgotten.
  • The Community Archiving Workshop Handbook is a step-by-step guide for organizing a Community Archiving Workshop. The goal of these workshops is to help an organization jump-start the preservation of an audiovisual collection—film, video, or audio. 
  • The Society of American Archivists' Information for Community Archives page provides guidance on what to collect and save.
  • Project STAND is an online clearinghouse that brings together the work done by student activists across the US. These student records highlight the concerns of historically marginalized communities (African American, Chicano/a, LGBTQ+, religious minorities, etc.)

Witness logo

THIS, my friends, is the importance of archives. THIS is the work that needs to be done. Preserving our history today so that it will not be forgotten tomorrow. Don't let your story be swept under the rug. You deserve to be heard. You deserve to be acknowledged. Through community archiving you can ensure that today's fights are not in vain. Make future generations remember what you experienced so that they might build a more just society.

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