Decolonizing the Archives

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, AzAA sponsored a day-long symposium, held at the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson, titled Decolonizing the Archives. The aim of this event was to unpack several issues related to “diversity and inclusion” in the field of archives. The event was successful in fostering an intersectional and respectful conversation, with special attention focused on dismantling racism in the archives field.

Decolonizing the Archives


Lae’l Hughes-Watkins is Assistant Professor and University Archivist at Kent State University, where her work includes preserving records of various formats, providing access to materials, working directly with the University records management program, providing reference and instruction, and development of collections, particularly those related to Kent State’s May 4 Collection that documents the 1970 campus shootings. Lae’l will discuss the difficulty of archiving culturally sensitive materials; specifically, the challenges of community building while working at a historically white institution. At Kent State, she has been a strong advocate for diversifying the archival holdings but faces challenges communicating the level of engagement required to work with underrepresented communities – in her case, donors of color.

Michelle Caswell is Assistant Professor of Archival Studies at the University of California Los Angeles Department of Information Studies. She also serves as affiliated faculty with the Department of Asian American Studies and the Center for Southeast Asian Research. Her research includes archives, memory, public history, and social justice. She is the author of the award-winning Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (2014, University of Wisconsin Press). In 2016, she was awarded a $325,000 three-year Early Career Research Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to study users of community-based archives in Southern California.

Local Panel:

  • Nancy Godoy-Powell, Curator / Librarian / Archivist at Chicano/a Research Collection, Arizona State University Libraries. Nancy will talk about her work 0collecting the records of queer, undocumented youth.
  • Jamie A. Lee, Assistant Professor of Digital Culture, Information, and Society, School of Information at University of Arizona, attends to critical archival theory and methodologies, multimodal media-making contexts, storytelling, and ongoing analyses of the ways archives and bodies are mutually constitutive. As an award-winning social justice filmmaker, she founded Arizona’s first LGBTQI archives, which is now the Arizona Queer Archives through the Institute for LGBT Studies. She directs the Digital Storytelling & Oral History Lab (DS|OH Lab) to inquire into the embodied elements of storytelling and is also Co-PI on the Climate Alliance Mapping Project, CAMP, a collaborative counter-mapping project to display scientific climate data alongside geo-referenced digital stories from communities throughout the Americas experiencing disequal effects of energy production.
  • Amanda Meeks. Arts and Humanities Librarian, Northern Arizona University. Amanda will talk about creating safe and brave spaces within the information field.


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