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Planting the seeds for community archives

In 2017, the ASU Library was awarded a $450,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to apply a three-year grant project toward building and expanding community-driven collections in an effort to preserve, improve and include underrepresented voices in Arizona’s historical archives.  

The work is now being recognized nationally.

Most recently, the library’s community-driven archives team, led by ASU Archivist Nancy Godoy, was honored by the Arizona Library Association with a service award and by the Popular Culture Association as the “2019 First Runner Up for Best Electronic Research Site.”

Godoy and her team, archivists Alana Varner and Jessica Salow, say that highlighting marginalized history is a way of ensuring representation, and by teaching communities how to document their own history they are planting seeds for further growth.

“This work is not new – people have been talking about community archives for 20 years or so – but as far as the work of teaching communities how to do this work and continue it on their own, that’s fairly recent,” says Godoy, who has worked tirelessly to grow the Chicano Research Collection at Arizona State University as well as the Bj Bud Memorial Archives, which is the largest archive in Arizona documenting LGBT history.

According to a 2012 report by the Arizona Archives Matrix Project, LGBT, Asian-American, African-American and Latino communities, which make up 30 percent of Arizona’s population, are represented in less than 2 percent of known archival collections.

The community-driven archives team co-hosts free regular events in public libraries and bilingual bookstores, and is actively looking for more community partners. The events are unique in that they provide attendees with archival supplies and free archive starter kits containing bilingual preservation information. Some of the events focus on teaching attendees how to scan photos and conduct an oral history interview, and provide free scans of their material on a USB drive.

"A lot of our work is about visibility and accessibility, and there is also a real focus on community building," said Godoy. "We’re creating intergenerational and intersectional safe spaces where individuals, driven by justice and a deep love for themselves and their communities, could use archival knowledge to preserve their history and dismantle the power structure that has dehumanized them.”

Godoy and her team will be honored Friday, Nov. 8, in Tucson, by the Arizona Library Association.