I&A Research Teams are groups of dedicated volunteers who monitor breaking news and delve into ongoing topics affecting archives and the archival profession. Under the leadership of the I&A Steering Committee, the Research Teams compile their findings into Research Posts for the I&A blog. Each Research Post offers a summary and coverage of an issue. This Research Post comes from On-Call Research Team #1, which is mobilized to investigate issues as they arise.
Please be aware that the sources cited have not been vetted and do not indicate an official stance of SAA or the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable.
In January 2016 protesters sparked a conversation about the ongoing exclusion of people of color from nomination for Academy Awards with the Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Although specifically focused on a single awards ceremony, the message it represented has far broader implications for how society grapples with institutional and structural racism. For archivists, the issues of cultural hegemony and representation #OscarsSoWhite addressed are ongoing concerns as we deal with our own legacy of a white, patriarchal system.
In response, archivist Jarrett Drake expanded the dialog through his own adaptation of the hashtag, #ArchivesSoWhite. Drake calls the archival profession to task for continuing to prioritize narratives of white supremacy and restricting opportunities for people of color in the profession. The ensuing Twitter conversation brought several other voices into the discussion, but also emphasized that these issues need to be addressed at a far deeper level as we strive for critical self-examination and real change.
Members of the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable On-Call Research #1 team reached out to Jarrett, as well as several other archivists involved in the dialog to gain additional perspective on their use of the hashtag #ArchivesSoWhite and potential next steps for the profession. Jarrett Drake, Sam Winn, and Ariel Schudson all graciously agreed to be interviewed for this blog.
The full text of those interviews will follow, but there are several key takeaways reiterated by each archivist worth noting here. The problems of a lack of diversity and the shaping of history based upon the records of the wealthy and powerful have been discussed among archivists for years. We can build upon the momentum of #ArchivesSoWhite to move beyond talk to action. From the collections our repositories acquire to the outreach we conduct, exhibits we mount, and classes we teach, a fundamental shift in how archivists conceptualize their mandate is coming. In addition, we need to reevaluate how we train, hire, support, and retain diverse staff who truly represent the materials for which they care.
Above all, this is not a solitary effort. Both Jarrett and Sam emphasize the twin goals of education and collaboration. We have compiled a brief bibliography with articles and books that provide context and background, allowing us to approach these problems as informed practitioners. Scholars, activists, researchers, and the public all have a stake in this conversation. We will use mechanisms that allow us to seek out and listen to the concerns of our colleagues across disciplines.
Acknowledgement of the lack of diversity in the profession, the realization that personal biases affect our work, and widespread recognition of the gaps in the historical record are not new developments. The question now is how we can take advantage of this particular moment of reflection and cultural consciousness.
Referenced in the #ArchivesSoWhite Dialogue
Zimrig, Carl. Clean and White: A History of Environmental Racism in the United States. New York: NYU Press, 2016.
Recommended by Interviewees
Berrey, Ellen. “Diversity is for what people: The big lie behind a well-intended word,” Salon, October 26, 2015.
Ettarh, Fobazi. “Black or Queer? Life at the Intersection” Hack Library School, November 19, 2013.
Haris, Verene. “The Archival Sliver: Power, Memory, and Archives in South Africa,” Archival Science 2 (2002): 63.
Harling, Adrienne, “What to Do about Privilege,” Archival Outlook (November/December 2012): 13.
Hathcock, April. Diversity and Inclusion writings on At the Intersection: Blog about the intersection of libraries, law, feminism, and diversity.
Hathcock, April. “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS”, In the Library With the Lead Pipe, October 7, 2015.
McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Independent School (Winter 1990).
Ramierz, Mario. “Being Assumed Not to Be: A Critique of Whiteness as an Archival Imperative,” American Archivist 78 no. 2 (2015): 339.
Swanson, Juleah, Ione Damasco, Isabel Gonzalez-Smith, Dracine Hodges, Todd Honma, and Azusa Tanaka. “Why Diversity Matters: A Roundtable Discussion on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Librarianship,” In the Library With the Lead Pipe, July 29, 2015.
Trouillot, Michel-Rolph Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
Vinopal, Jennifer. “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action”, In the Library With the Lead Pipe, January 13, 2016.
Dewey, Barbara I., and Loretta Parham. Achieving diversity : a how-to-do-it manual for librarians. New York : Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2006.
Hastings, Samantha Kelly. “If Diversity Is a Natural State, Why Don’t Our Libraries Mirror the Populations They Serve?.” Library Quarterly 85, no. 2 (April 2015): 133.
Maxey-Harris, Charlene, and Toni Anaya. Diversity plans and programs. Washington, DC : Association of Research Libraries, 2010.
Neely, Teresa Y., and Kuang-Hwei Lee-Smeltzer. Diversity now : people, collections, and services in academic libraries : selected papers from the Big 12 Plus Libraries Consortium Diversity Conference. New York : Haworth Information Press, 2002.
Ryan, Marianne, and Sarah Leadley. “Reflections on Diversity and Organizational Development.” Reference & User Services Quarterly 54, no. 4 (Summer 2015): 6-10.
Wheeler, Ronald. “We All Do It: Unconscious Behavior, Bias, and Diversity.” Law Library Journal 107, no. 2 (Spring 2015): 325-331.
The I&A Steering Committee would like to thank Heather Oswald for writing this post, and Stephanie Bennett and Christine Anne George for coordinating interviews.
I&A On-Call Research Team #1 is:
Christine Anne George, Leader
If you are aware of an issue that might benefit from a Research Post, please get in touch with us: archivesissues@.