AzAA Blog Post March 2021

March 2021

Welcome to the Arizona Archives Alliance (AzAA) blog! If you would like to be featured on the AzAA blog regarding the archival work you or your institution is doing please contact us at azarchivesalliance@gmail.com

This month we feature a write up regarding the Community-Driven Archives (CDA) Initiative at Arizona State University Library from Jessica Salow, Specialist with the CDA Initiative at ASU Library and a Director at Large on the AzAA Board. We thank Jessica for providing information regarding this exciting initiative at ASU Library and what it means for marginalized communities here in Arizona.

In 2017, the Arizona State University Library was awarded a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the project titled “Engaged, Educating, and Empowering: Developing Community-Driven Archival Collections.” This three-year project was designed to build and expand community-driven collections in an effort to preserve and improve the archival collections of marginalized communities within Arizona. This initiative is one of many important steps that are currently being undertaken to address gaps discovered in the historical record within Arizona archives when it comes to marginalized communities. 

The initial conversation that started the working group on the path that uncovered these gaps in archival holdings in Arizona began in 2009 when archivists who attended that annual Arizona Archives Summit began to address serious concerns regarding a number of issues facing Arizona archives. Those issues were unprocessed backlogs, underrepresented communities/topics, and collection development. Specifically, the issue of underrepresented communities/topics was of great concern to the roundtable of archivists: “Of particular concern was the realization that several marginalized communities were not being properly supported in the historic record amongst the State’s archival repositories.” In 2012 the Arizona Archives Matrix project revealed startling data collected from a two-year-long process of data research conducted by archivists from around the state. The analysis reviewed 5,400 unique collection descriptions and provided results that led to preliminary discussions by the attendees of the 2012 Summit regarding the future development of separate, culturally responsive tools that would assist this project going forward that would benefit Native American archives across Arizona.

When you break down the results and apply demographic details regarding the  populations with the state of Arizona, you find archival records lacking in many areas. Currently, the LatinX, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and the LGBTQIA+ communities make up around 50 percent of Arizona’s population but only account for 0-2 percent of known archival collections in the state for each of these populations. With the knowledge that a mere 0-2 percent of archival material in Arizona represented the LatinX, Black, Asian/Pacific Islander and the LGBTQIA+ communities, an urgent call was put forth by archivists from around the state to address this critical issue facing archives within Arizona.

The goals and objectives of the CDA Initiative include building community partnerships, advocating for equal ownership of archives and shared stewardship responsibilities and providing free access to archival supplies and library resources that will help communities preserve their stories for future generations. The ways we are measuring success for the initiative are by the relationships we build with people and communities, the safe spaces we create for community members who attend our workshops to process historical trauma by centering their lived experiences and knowledge, by creating intergenerational and intersectional spaces to promote lifelong learning, and by working with communities to redefine the traditional definition and function of an archive. Prior to COVID-19 we held two distinctive in-person workshops with communities. The first of these workshops was an Archives & Preservation Workshop, in which we spoke to community members about archival praxis and the work we as trained archivists do on a daily basis. This included brief sessions on how to appraise a collection, on arranging and describing items within collections that communities could do for their own home collections. The second workshop was a Scanning and Oral History Days Workshop, which was a 4-hour event in which we partnered with a local organization like Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, where community members could learn how to scan their archival material or conduct an oral history interview. These events were always a highlight to this work because it got us out in the community talking to people about their collections and the memories associated with it. 

Since COVID we have transitioned many of our in person events to the virtual space and have been able to connect on a different level with community members. Recently we have done several events including events run by our amazing student archivists who are the backbone of our team. These events include a Show & Share: Black Love event held on February 18, 2021, an Archives and Pop Culture: What Makes an Archivist event led by our student archivist Myra Khan held on February 22, 2021, and many more we have planned for the month of March. If you would like to learn more about our events please check out the CDA Facebook or Instagram page to learn more about our events.Most importantly the purpose of this initiative is to create community archivists who want to start up or continue the work we are doing at ASU Library in order to address the long standing issue of the lack of representation of marginalized communities in Arizona archives. If you would like to learn more about the work CDA is doing please contact us at community.archives@asu.edu or follow our news and blog to hear from myself and our student archivists. 

Published by Arizona Archives Alliance

The Arizona Archives Alliance is a nonprofit organization that advocates for Arizona's historical archives and their users, provides training to archivists and archive volunteers, and promotes the use of Arizona’s historical archives.

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