From UNC Libraries:
Communities working to preserve their own histories—and the libraries and archives seeking to support them—have new tools in the form of a free web resource from the University Libraries at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Charting New Courses in Community-Driven Archives represents the learnings and products of a four-year $877,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. A gift of $50,000 from the Kenan Charitable Trust also supported the work.
Community-driven archives “are an acknowledgement that knowledge exists in lots of different places and forms,” said Chaitra Powell, African American collections and outreach archivist and the project director for the grant. “As archivists, we need to be more inclusive in how we build collections” and in who decides what to preserve, where and how, she said.
“Community-driven archives shifts the focus from acquiring materials to using our archival expertise in service of local objectives and goals,” said María R. Estorino, associate University librarian for special collections and director of the Wilson Special Collections Library. “It represents both a collaborative and participatory approach to preservation and a deep commitment to our public mission.”
The new site brings together dozens of guides, tip sheets and instructional videos that the project team created over the course of the grant. UNC-Chapel Hill and community archivists also contributed reflections through blog posts and profiles.
One part of the site details the program’s signature Archivist in a Backpack program, which delivered starter kits of archival supplies to first time history-keepers. “The backpack was really popular,” said Powell. “I like it as a symbol because it lets people know that this work is achievable. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated.”
As part of the grant, the SHC’s community-driven archives team conducted in-depth work with four pilot partners:
- The Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project documents intergenerational migrations into and out of Kentucky coal country during the 20th
- The Appalachian Student Health Coalition describes a collaboration between underserved communities and college students to improve access to health care in the 1960s through the 1980s.
- The San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum preserves and shares the cultural heritage of the Texas city’s African American populations.
- The Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance worked to preserve and protect the history of the group’s five founding communities: Grambling, Louisiana; Mound Bayou, Mississippi; Hobson City, Alabama; Tuskegee, Alabama; and Eatonville, Florida.
The team also consulted with other groups and mentored 10 individuals through a 15-month program called Archival Seedlings.
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