Archives and Preservation Workshop hopes to increase diversity in archival collections

The University has kept a Chicano/a Research Collection for almost a half-century

For a group of ASU archivists and librarians, official archives are lacking in one key category: diversity. To address this, the University is hosting a series of archive and preservation workshops on campus and at public libraries to help the public archive their own family histories and increase the representation of minorities in archival records.  

Upcoming workshops include a scanning and oral history day at Alston House on April 27. 

The free workshops are funded by a $450,000 Mellon Grant awarded to ASU last year for a three-year project to improve archival representation of marginalized communities.

Participants are given archival kits which contain acid free folders, Mylar resin and some white cotton gloves to protect photos from damage caused by oils and other deteriorating agents. 

"The whole reason why we're doing the workshop is to engage and empower the community," said Nancy Godoy, the archivist of ASU's Chicano/a Research Collection. "We want them to see the worth in preserving their own material because there is a historical value in what the primary resources that they have — so that would be like photographs, documents, and artifacts.

The Hayden Library has housed the Chicano/a Research Collection for 48 years, though it has been moved to the music library during Hayden renovations.

The collection of manuscripts, photographs, books, newspapers and other documents focuses on acquiring sources that benefit ASU research and contribute to public knowledge, according to the collection's site. 

To Godoy, those objects help tell a story of Arizona that according to her "has been almost erased."

"It might be a result of racism with people within our field, archivists being passive and not necessarily focusing on communities outside their own community," Godoy said. 

Alana Varner, a University collections specialist, said most of the archival collections in the state where initiated by people of Caucasian backgrounds, which contributes to the "pretty huge disparity" in racial representation in archives. 

ASU was awarded a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a three-year project to preserve and improve Arizona's archives and give voice to historically marginalized communities.

For ASU archivist Reed Nava, being a part of this workshop is exciting. 

"I think it's important to me both professionally and personally," Nava said.

In addition to the workshops Varner said the project is looking for student input on how best to shape the collections. 

"We're hoping that students at ASU will want to be a part of this project where they can tell us what they value, what they want to see these collections look like and what they want to see community outreach look like," Varner said. "We want it to be something that everyone feels they have a say in and not just people from our field."

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