May 27, 2022

Community-Driven Archives Project at Wilson Special Collections Library (UNC-CH) Receives $877,000 Mellon Grant

From the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received an $877,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will allow the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the Wilson Special Collections Library to further develop its transformative model for “community-driven archives.” In addition to several community archiving projects, the SHC will also develop and share training and educational materials in this emerging area of practice.

Activities for the three-year grant, “Building a Model for All Users: Transforming Archive Collections through Community-Driven Archives,” will begin immediately.

Community-driven archives are created through partnerships between a community that wishes to document and preserve its own history and an archival repository. In many cases, these are stories of marginalized communities that past generations of historians and archivists did not consider significant enough to record or preserve.

“These projects let us reach communities where people tell us, ‘I didn’t think anyone cared about our history,’” said SHC Director Bryan Giemza.

Giemza thinks having the community direct archiving activities with support from an archivist can foster trust and understanding. At the same time, establishing a more complete historical record benefits everyone who seeks to understand the past and the present.

“It’s a very democratic process that places the owners of the story at the center of documentary efforts. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for supporting work that leads to dialogue, truth and even reconciliation, by creating opportunities for Americans to learn from and about one another,” said Giemza.

As part of the grant, the SHC will hire a full-time Community Archivist and advance or complete four community archiving projects currently underway:

The SHC will develop a web-based resource to connect researchers with potential community archives projects. Additionally, the SHC will use the grant to share the information about its processes so other archives and communities can replicate them. This includes innovations such as the “Archivist in a Backpack,” which contains starter materials and instructions, protective document sleeves, a microphone and activity suggestions. It will also hold a publishing workshop so participants can reflect on and create a record of their own experiences.

Direct to Southern History Collection Web Site

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.