May 18, 2022

Community-Driven Archiving: UNC at Chapel Hill Libraries Debut “Archivist in a Backpack”

From UNC Libraries at Chapel Hill:

2018-04-05_18-51-31When Josephine McRobbie, an archivist at the University Libraries, prepared for a recent trip to San Antonio, she did not stock up on typical travel supplies. Instead, she commandeered a large room in Wilson Library, covering the conference tables with audio recorders, notebooks, portable scanners and 30 backpacks and roll-aboard suitcases.

McRobbie is the community archivist in the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the Wilson Special Collections Library. On packing day, she and several colleagues were preparing to debut their prototype project, dubbed “Archivist in a Backpack.”

The project is one element of a three-year, $877,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Through the grant, SHC archivists promote community-driven archiving. By partnering with individuals and communities, the SHC aims to support grassroots efforts to record and preserve local history. The archivists provide training, technical know-how and, now, supplies and equipment that will make the job easier.

The bags and backpacks contain items to assist a community-based historian conduct and record oral history interviews and begin assembling photographs, letters, documents and meaningful artifacts.

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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.