Archives Are for Everyone

When some people think of archives, they imagine documents and artifacts that are rarefied, specialized, and only available through tightly monitored access. While preservation does require that archives are arranged systematically and treated with care, archival materials are not meant to be vaunted and intangible.  They are historical primary sources, but communities and individuals make up history, and as such, are deeply connected to what they choose to document and keep. Archives are for everyone.

Langsdale Special Collections’ own Angela Rodgers-Koukoui–with assistance from Smithsonian Audiovisual Archivist and Baltimorean Megan McSheais sharing the secrets of archival preservation in Special Collections’ Community Archives workshop (#bemorearchives) that will take place for 3 Saturdays in October, part of Baltimore’s #FreeFall program. We had some questions for Angela and Megan about what people can expect, and what the workshop is all about.

First off, what are community archives?

Angela: Well, everyone has their own interpretation….for instance, preservation of community life, and what goes on in the neighborhoods that people reside in. It generally involves preservation of artifacts in a neighborhood or local community, or community involvement. Community archives breaks away from the traditional archival process, and the traditional archival process doesn’t necessarily take the community into consideration. 

Megan: They are when the memory of the community lives on. We want to share our skills and knowledge so that communities can take care of their collections for future generations. 

Angela, can you give us some background information about your experiences working with the community?

Angela: For the last 10 years i’ve run an arts outreach program, Xpressive4ever Dance Inc., which focuses on dance and music, and provides instruction to young people.   Connecting with their creativity helps to offset some of the challenges they face in everyday life.

How about a quick rundown of your experiences in archives?

Angela: I’m an archival technician here in Langsdale Library. I came to Special Collections as patron initially, looking for artifacts, and then became a volunteer, and enrolled in undergraduate classes here at UB. Eventually I became a student worker, and now i’m full time staff.

What can folks expect to learn at the workshop?

Angela: People can learn the importance of preservation and also learn certain processes they need in order to keep their photos and documentation for posterity. They will learn that archiving is an actual process. Also, we hope that this workshop will help Special Collections learn how we can better serve the community.

Megan: I’m going to talk about the archival process, and not just preservation specifically.

Why are community archives important?

Angela: The media nowadays is notorious for using secondary sources, and the result has lead to what is commonly called “fake news”. But primary sources in archives don’t lie.  

How does this relate to Special Collections’ mission?

Angela: Everything about it relates to Special Collections’ purpose. This is an outreach mission, and we’re imparting some of our experience to empower other people.
I’m hoping for a great outcome, and to meet people from Baltimore at large as well as the UB community!  One important part of this is that EVERY community needs to be represented in history, and the only way we can identify it is by having more complete archives.

Langsdale Special Collections’ Community Archives Workshop (#bemorearchives) will be held on October 7th, 14th, and 28 from noon to 2 p.m. in Langsdale Library, 1415 Maryland Avenue.  For more information, call (410) 837-4268. 

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