Collections and Resources, Gifts and Grants, Southern Historical Collection, Special Collections

Southern Historical Collection Receives $877,000 from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Photograph of cheerleaders from the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project community archive.

Photograph from the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project ( The Southern Historical Collection was a partner in building this community-driven archive.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received an $877,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which will allow the Southern Historical Collection (SHC) at the Wilson Special Collections Library to further develop its transformative model for “community-driven archives.” In addition to several community archiving projects, the SHC will also develop and share training and educational materials in this emerging area of practice.

Activities for the three-year grant, “Building a Model for All Users: Transforming Archive Collections through Community-Driven Archives,” will begin immediately.

Community-driven archives are created through partnerships between a community that wishes to document and preserve its own history and an archival repository. In many cases, these are stories of marginalized communities that past generations of historians and archivists did not consider significant enough to record or preserve.

“These projects let us reach communities where people tell us, ‘I didn’t think anyone cared about our history,’” said SHC Director Bryan Giemza.

Giemza thinks having the community direct archiving activities with support from an archivist can foster trust and understanding. At the same time, establishing a more complete historical record benefits everyone who seeks to understand the past and the present.

“It’s a very democratic process that places the owners of the story at the center of documentary efforts. We are grateful to the Mellon Foundation for supporting work that leads to dialogue, truth and even reconciliation, by creating opportunities for Americans to learn from and about one another,” said Giemza.

As part of the grant, the SHC will hire a full-time Community Archivist and advance or complete four community archiving projects currently underway:

The SHC will develop a web-based resource to connect researchers with potential community archives projects. Additionally, the SHC will use the grant to share the information about its processes so other archives and communities can replicate them. This includes innovations such as the “Archivist in a Backpack,” which contains starter materials and instructions, protective document sleeves, a microphone and activity suggestions. It will also hold a publishing workshop so participants can reflect on and create a record of their own experiences.

Originally published as a news release by UNC News Services on April 25, 2017


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