Charting New Courses in Community-Driven Archives


Who We Are

About Us

The Community-Driven Archives project at the University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, partnered with historically underrepresented history keepers in telling, sharing, and preserving their stories. Local history keepers steward stories and historical materials to make them available to current and future generations.

This four-year project, from March 2017 through March 2021, was based in the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library.

Through the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, our Community-Driven Archives Team (CDAT) built and sustained meaningful partnerships with history keepers throughout the American South.

Our Approach

The CDA team has supported our collaborators in making decisions about their historical materials that will best support their community’s needs and goals.”

We are responding to calls for change. Due to the legacy of racism and other forms of oppression, institutional archives are missing the stories and materials of historically marginalized communities.

Increasingly, community groups and changemakers are calling on archival institutions like the Wilson Special Collections Library and our funders to respond directly to damage done through archival gaps and silences.

Through the University Libraries’ Community-Driven Archives (CDA) project, we are rethinking archives, from top-down collecting to the custodial model of housing communities’ materials at our institution.

Our approach to collaboration aims to find the right home for historical records, regardless of whether they come under the care of Carolina libraries. It supports communities across the American South in preserving, protecting, and sharing their histories. 

We acknowledge that there is no one way to do this work and that, at its heart, community-based collaboration is relational and fluid.

Archivist in a Backpack

The signature program of our Community-Driven Archives project was Archivist in a Backpack. The idea behind Archivist in a Backpack was simple: documenting personal, family, local, and community histories requires tools.

Our community partners across the American South received a backpack filled with tools to support their archival projects. Our team provided the starter kit along with hands-on support and training. 

Learn more about the Archivist in a Backpack program.