Archivist in a Backpack

About the Program

Three African American women stand smiling while carrying and holding pink Archivist in a Backpack kits
CDA Project Director Chaitra Powell shares our Archivist in a Backpack kits with UNC visiting artists with the flutist group Flutronix. Courtesy CDAT

Why all the hoopla? Backpacks aren’t exactly cutting edge. I think it is the awe that digging into a family or community’s past almost always elicits. But there are other components to the backpacks…Social justice, commemoration, and community healing often feel like implicit threads of the conversations.”

—Claire Du Laney, former Outreach Coordinator, Community-Driven Archives Team



Lenfest Institute

The signature program of our Community-Driven Archives (CDA) 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 received a backpack filled with tools to support their archival projects. Our team provided the starter kit along with hands-on support and training. 

Our backpacks traveled the world: from a First Nation in Canada to Germany to Mexico, as well as across the American South.

Backpacks came in two types:

A roller-bag suitcase filled with tools and equipment used in caring for and digitizing physical archival collections

A regular backpack filled with tools and equipment used in caring for archival collections and collecting oral histories

Build your own Archivist in a Backpack kit: Check out our supplies list.


Archivist in a Backpack kits shared with collaborators across the American South
Three Illustrated backpacks. One is open to reveal the contents of the Archivist in a Backpack kit. Underneath reads, "Tell your story. Create our history."
From an Archivist in a Backpack promotional flyer. Courtesy CDAT


Archivist in a Backpack article by Allison Meier on Hyperallergic, 2018

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