DPLAfest 2016 has ended
Taking place in the heart of Washington, DC, DPLAfest 2016 (April 14-15) will bring together hundreds from DPLA’s large and growing community for interactive workshops, hackathons and other collaborative activities, engaging discussions with community leaders and practitioners, fun events, and more. DPLAfest 2016 will appeal to anyone interested in libraries, technology, ebooks, education, creative reuse of cultural materials, law, open access, and genealogy/family research.

Area institutions serving as co-hosts include the National Archives and Records Administration, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution.

To view photographs, recordings, and social media from DPLAfest 2016, visit https://dp.la/info/get-involved/dplafest/april-2016/media/.
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Friday, April 15 • 9:30am - 10:15am
The People’s Archives: Communities and Documentation Strategy

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Some of the most valuable collections documenting the lives of marginalized people in the United States reside in spaces outside traditional academic and government institutions. They exist throughout the country as independently curated, highly valuable sites for remembering, and owned by the communities they document. Recent research in archival studies notes growth in community-based archives. These archives are independent, grassroots alternatives to mainstream repositories through which communities make collective decisions about what is of enduring value to them, shape collective memory of their own pasts, and control the means through which stories about their past are constructed. Such organizations are often created in response to minoritized communities being shut out of dominant historical narratives created by mainstream memory institutions.

This session will examine the impact of community-based archives from two different perspectives.

1. Building a Model for National Collaboration: A People’s Archive of Police Violence in Cleveland

In 2015, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) annual conference was held in Cleveland, a city reeling from several high-profile incidents of police violence against African-American residents. A group of archivists attending SAA responded to this by developing an unofficial conference service project to document incidents of police violence in Cleveland’s neighborhoods. The archivists partnered with a group of local activists to build a website for the digital archive (archivingpoliceviolence.org), collect oral histories in Cleveland neighborhoods, and create a model for ongoing support of the project, consisting of a national advisory board composed of professional archivists, and a local community archivist group composed of Cleveland activists and residents.

This presentation will come from the perspective of the community archivists, who will discuss their experiences in developing the archive in partnership with SAA members, the impact of the archive on the community, and future directions for the project.

2. Assessing the Impact of Community Archives

Since the late 1970s, feminist media scholars have used the term “symbolic annihilation” to denote how strong women characters are absent, grossly under-represented, maligned, or trivialized by mainstream television programming, news outlets, and magazine coverage. In the wake of this absence, minoritized communities fail to see themselves or their place in the world. In archival studies, the concept of symbolic annihilation has recently has been used to describe the affective impact on the South Asian American community of being excluded, silenced or misrepresented in mainstream archival collections and the ways in which an independent community archive, the South Asian American Digital Archive (http://www.saada.org) has had an ontological, epistemological, and social impact on the community it serves. The proposed presentation builds on and expands this research by examining the affective impact of both exclusion and representation in archives on members of communities that have coalesced around and been marginalized because of ethnic, racial, gender, sexual, and/or political identities. Based on more than a dozen in-depth qualitative interviews with practitioners at several independent community archives in Southern California—including those representing LGBTQ communities and people of color—this presentation will address how symbolic annihilation operates and the affect it produces among archives users. I argue that independent, identity-based community archives can counter the symbolic annihilation of mainstream collections by providing avenues for minoritized communities to meaningfully represent themselves. I propose the term representational belonging to describe the ways in which such organizations enable people to have the power and authority to establish and enact their presence in ways that are complex, meaningful, substantive, and positive.


Michelle Caswell

Assistant Professor of Archival Studies, UCLA
Co-Founder, South Asian American Digital Archive

Bishop Chui

Community Archivist, People’s Archive of Police Violence

Melissa Hubbard

Head of Special Collections & Archives, Case Western Reserve University

Bergis Jules

University and Political Papers Archivist, University of California-Riverside

Carol Steiner

Community Archivist, People’s Archive of Police Violence

Keith Wilson

Community Archivist, People’s Archive of Police Violence

Friday April 15, 2016 9:30am - 10:15am EDT
Smithsonian (S. Dillon Ripley Center): Room 3035 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC