Builders of Bridges: Part III – Archives of Marginalized & Under-Represented Groups

Hey, this is Vino again with the last part of my blog series based on the 2016 ACA conference.  My favourite session was looking at the “Archives of Marginalized & Under-Represented Groups” and discovering the different ways to help access these archives.

Since starting my work life in the archives, I’ve been interested in getting more exposure on underrepresented peoples and topics. Working in St. Albert, originally a Metis and Francophone community, I have recently become more aware of Aboriginal history as we research local residential schools, and the history of minorities’ who have moved here to make this their home too.

This panel session I attended had presentations on three different archival collections related to marginalized people and how each archives is working to share the information they have in their collections.

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One presentation looked at the use of social media tools for outreach on the history of the United States women’s labour movement, with presenters from the Walter Reuther Library, Wayne University in Detroit.

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Another presentation talked about the project to capture the memories of residents and workers at the Strathmartine Hospital, believed to be Scotland’s first and oldest institution for people with learning disabilities http://www.strathmartinestories.co.uk/

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Both presentations were excellent and I learned new things about how archives are being used and about general history that was both heartbreaking and fascinating.

 

 

20160603_144725The presentation that hit close to home for me was given by James Gerencser from Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. He talked about the creation of the Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, including a website for sharing records pertaining to the first off-reserve residential school in the United States. They initially found that they did not have many records related to the residential school that was located in their town. So they went out to locate relevant records in repositories across the United States, which eventually led to the digitization of these records and creation of the resource center. They wanted to be information providers and so had to take a risk to share controversial materials because it was too important to ignore.

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With the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada, we have created a similar resource centre in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (nctr.ca), where records about our residential schools are being digitized and shared. The key point to take away from this whole session is that we need to share these records of the marginalized because it is “too important to ignore”.

 

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This year’s conference addressed a need for archivists to lead the way in embracing innovation. Van Garderen quoted Hugh Taylor, who was the founding Provincial Archivist of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and this quote was a perfect reflection of the conference and the role of archivists both historically and going forward: “We are builders of bridges, not castles….” As we embrace innovation, we can choose to build the links required to continue to share and provide access to the wealth of knowledge in the archives.