Leaders of AACR, LACCHA, LAGAR on Orlando & Archivists’ Role in Creating a More Diverse Society

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Below is a post from leaders of the Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable, the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable, and the Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable.  If you have an issue you would like to write about for this blog series or a previous post that you would like to respond to, please email archivesissues@gmail.com.

49 individuals were killed and 53 injured at the gay nightclub, The Pulse. The majority of those killed or injured were Latinx and members or allies of the Orlando LGBTQIA community.  It was an act of violence so painful that our hearts ache from the pain of it, and our minds are reeling from the fear of it.  The act now joins the countless others etched in our individual and communal memories.

In addition to processing our emotional response on an individual, local community, and organizational level, we are now asked to respond on behalf of SAA AACR, LACCHA, and LAGAR membership. How can a few speak for so many intersections of cultural and personal understanding? It’s not possible—but we can respond from our professional experience as archivists.

As archivists, we  know that recording and preserving the contexts surrounding acts of violence and oppression can provide those who come after us examples of the intersections of communities and relationships. Thus, the histories, hardships and accomplishments of the marginalized and underrepresented must be understood and reflected in the archives. Additionally, archives must document the ability of these groups to resist the systematic cultural erasure that occurs on a global level.

We ask that you, fellow archivists, take a moment to be aware of how your personal biases and privilege might be reflected in what and how you collect, to accept that, and work to change the ones that hinder the progress and inclusion of others. To quote the May 2011 SAA Core Values of Archivists, “Archivists embrace the importance of identifying, preserving, and working with communities to actively document those whose voices have been overlooked or marginalized.” But you cannot document those who are overlooked and marginalized if you cannot see us, or cannot confront your own biases.

As archivists, we cannot accept invisibility. As a profession, we cannot continue to accept historical erasure and whitewashing through binary historical practices.

Aaisha Haykal, Senior Chair, Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable
Harrison Inefuku, Vice Chair, Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable

George Apodaca, Co-Chair, Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable
Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, Co-Chair, Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable

Lisa Calahan, Co-Chair, Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable
Daniel DiLandro, Co-Chair, Lesbian and Gay Archives Roundtable

The Invisibility of Women Archivists: Statistics, Diversity and Privilege

Archivists on the Issues is a forum for archivists to discuss the issues we are facing today. Below is a post from Ariel Schudson touching on issues of gender and privilege in the archival profession. If you have an issue you would like to write about for this blog series or a previous post that you would like to respond to, please email archivesissues@gmail.com.

Authorial Disclaimer: The words and opinions articulated here are my own. They do not express the views of anyone/organization/company that I am involved with, although they may be parallel at certain points.

Now- let’s discuss archivist issues!

Full disclosure: I am a white, cis-woman moving image archivist. I wish I could say that I am aware of my privilege at all times but if I said that, it would be ridiculous. That is the truth. However, being aware and conscious of my privilege is the best opportunity that I have of providing current colleagues, friends and unmet archival professionals of color a safe and comfortable space to flourish in this community that I love so much.

It is, of course, a complex privileged status, as I am a woman and that in and of itself has a variety of not-so-privileged associations such as lower wages, sexual harassment concerns and a smorgasbord of negative gender-related realities. What I do know is that if these situations are bad for me, they are worse for women of color. For example, the most highly discussed topic for women in the workplace is pay-grade. While I may get paid less than any man, a woman of color would be getting paid even less according to available statistics.

What is striking (though not surprising) is that there are no easily accessible statistics for the pay of women archivists, and none at all for women archivists of color! There is very little statistical data on women within the information science, preservation or curatorial fields. Yet, we exist. Enforce and growing. When I recently participated in the Woman Archivist Roundtable’s livetweet about salary negotiations (hashtag #SAAWAR on twitter), this same issue was raised and the American Association of University Women linked their Spring 2016 edition of “The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap.” This is probably the most helpful publication I have found in establishing some idea of what women (and more importantly, women of color) are being paid but it still never mentions career choices that come close to our world. And we are a highly specialized group.

As information-based professionals, we crave decent analytics to back up our work, apply for grants or to simply help our archival sensibilities be more at peace. While many of us primarily process and restore physical elements, metadata creation and descriptive cataloging are critical aspects of our workflow. So what does it mean when the metadata about our own field and our own descriptive sets are not being ingested in larger reports? Are we made invisible, having to forever gauge our work by “similar careers and statistical evidence”? While I don’t believe that we are special “better than you” snowflakes, the exclusion of our field leaves us with no analytics to work with and continues the assumption that archivists are less important. The lack of information about women of color…well, see previous sentence.

Ariel Schudson is an independent moving image archivist and preservationist who has been involved in the cinema community for over 15 years. She is a long-time member of AMIA (Association of Moving Image archivists) and the Chair of the AMIA Access Committee.