What’s with all the Backpacks?

If you’ve seen any publicity about the Community-Driven Archives grant, you’ve probably seen references to “the Backpacks.” One of the central initiatives for the CDA Team is transportable archiving kit that demystifies the technical jargon and supplies resources for communities. This has manifest as the “Archivist in a Backpack” and the slightly less catchy but equally important “Archivist in a Roller bag.” These are a simplified archive in an easily portable kit that we bring and mail to communities doing archival and cultural heritage projects. In April of this year, the online forum HyperAllergic published an article about our “Archivist in a Backpack” project. Since then, we have had an enormously positive response from people all over the world and I think the speed and reach of the backpacks has surprised us all. We’ve received numerous inquiries about the backpacks and our grant project in general. This might seem like a basic administrative detail, but when you consider that each inquiry has the potential to become a new resource and an introduction to dozens of new colleagues, it is no small feat in networking. While most of my conversations have been with people in the US, we’ve had interest all over the globe. From a member of a Canadian first Nation, to a library in New South Wales, an Archivist in the UK doing her own community work with immigrant Somalian communities and a theatre professional in Germany, something about the Backpack project has struck a chord. A version of the backpack has been used in Mexico with Yucatán Mayan students with materials being translated into Spanish and Yucatec Mayan. For more information about this project check out this National Geographic article!

 Sounds great, but why all the hoopla? Backpacks aren’t exactly cutting edge. I think it is the mix of the un-apologetically bright colors of the kits (though we do offer some more muted tones) and the awe that digging into a family or community’s past almost always elicits. But there are other components to the backpacks, not always mentioned in the emails. Social justice, commemoration, and community healing often feel like implicit threads of the conversations and the projects new colleagues talk about.

The backpacks look unimposing, but I think they represent something quite profound. The backpacks invite people to tell their histories so that the information can be put towards a larger purpose. The backpacks aren’t just about a walk down memory lane (as important as that is) but many of the people with whom I’m in contact have a mission that the archival resources are to be used in forwarding. Whether it’s about connecting generations in learning about the many iterations of civil rights, housing and preventing gentrification and displacement, or combating rampant minority stereotyping and erasure practices, the backpacks are an accessible way for communities to take control.  The initial emails show that many projects are just getting off the ground or are still in the early planning stages. It will be interesting to see what the results are for everyone, especially since we at CDA are right there with them. It’s a “figure-out-as-you-go”, one foot in front of the other kind of process, collaborating between institutions, communities, and newly-found colleagues. At least we can all have coordinating backpacks.

We post every week on different topics but if there is something you’d like to see, let us know either in the comments or email Claire our Community Outreach Coordinator: clairela@live.unc.edu.

Follow us on Twitter @SoHistColl_1930
#CommunityDrivenArchives #CDAT #SHC
#EKAAMP #HBTSA #ASHC #SAAACAM
#yourstory #ourhistory #community #AiaB

What is a Community Archive?

Community archives and other community-centric history, heritage, and memory projects work to empower communities to tell, protect, and share their history on their terms. In 2017, the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library of the University Libraries was generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a grant to “form meaningful, mutually supportive partnerships that provide communities with the tools and resources to safeguard and represent their own histories.”  We argue that “Community archive models and community-driven archival practice address the ‘symbolic annihilation’[to quote Michelle Caswell] of historically marginalized groups in the historical record, and aim to create sustainable and accessible memory projects that address these archival absences.”[1]

So what does it mean? A whole host of complex, complicated moving parts that if done right could transform the historical record! And it wouldn’t just be the grant funded community driven archives team (CDAT) doing it, but rather a true collaboration between the CDAT and communities to keep communities in control of their narratives.

Communities can preserve their history in a myriad of ways. They can keep records in  brick and mortar buildings like the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, or they can curate a digital archive like the South Asian American Digital Archive.[2]  Communal heritage or memory can be expressed through historic markers or murals, like the Portland Street Art Alliance’s “Keep on the Sunnyside Mural Project”[3] and through guided walking tours, such as those created by the Marian Cheek Jackson Center.[4] History and heritage can even be expressed through parades, commemorations, and community celebrations. In her article, “The records of memory, the archives of identity: Celebrations, texts and archival sensibilities” Jeannette A. Bastian notes,

the relationships between collective memory, records, community and identity as expressed through a particular celebration—a carnival— [is] located within the paradigm of a cultural archive. That paradigm theorizes that if an annual celebration can be considered as a longitudinal and complex cultural community expression, then it also can be seen dynamically as a living archive where the many events within the celebration constitute the numerous records comprising this expression.[5]

Community archival work can also be done in public libraries like the Queens Memory Project or with the support of universities like the SHC’s Community-Driven Archives project. We call our work community driven archiving because we take cues from community members on the best ways to support their memory work, we would not trample the long standing tradition of community owned and operated archives by co-opting their name.

We understand that working with communities to create archival, historical and heritage-based projects means grappling with complex issues of identity, ownership, and legacies of marginalization.  Community history has always been present; the community archives movement didn’t suddenly discover these histories.[6] We have a lot more to share about our perspective and experiences with community driven archival work, including its benefits and challenges for a large organization with a complex history like the University Libraries. With this post we are signaling that boosting community voices in all their intersectional, diverse, complicated and creative outputs is a top priority in the Southern Historical Collection these days.

This is a model we created to help us visualize the relationship between traditional archival users and community-history creators. By changing the emphasis on who is being considered essential to the archives story, you can completely change the priorities.

We post every week on different topics but if there is something you’d like to see, let us know either in the comments or email Claire our Community Outreach Coordinator: clairela@live.unc.edu. 

Follow us on Twitter    #AiaB #yourstory #ourhistory #communityarchives #EKAAMP #HBTSA #SHC #SAAACAM #memory

[1] “About: Community-Driven Archives Overview,” https://library.unc.edu/wilson/shc/community-driven-archives/about/

[2] South Asian American Digital Archive, “SAADA”, https://www.saada.org/

[3] Portland Street Art Alliance, “Keep on the Sunnyside Mural Project”, http://www.pdxstreetart.org/articles-all/sunnyside-mural-project

[4] Marian Cheeks Jackson Center “Soundwalk of Northside,” https://jacksoncenter.info/northside-stories/soundwalk-of-northside/

[5] Jeannette A. Bastian, “The records of memory, the archives of identity: Celebrations, texts and archival sensibilities,” Archival Science, (2012), 122.

[6] Yusef Omowale, “We Already Here,” Medium: Sustainable Future, September 3, 2018, https://medium.com/community-archives/we-already-are-52438b863e31.

Community-Driven Archives

Hello and welcome to the Community-Driven Archive blog located on the Southern Historical Collection’s Southern Sources! The Southern Historical Collection is part of the Wilson Special Collections Library of the University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. On this blog, we, the Community-Driven Archives Team or CDAT for short, will talk about the work you see (like the “AiaB” Archivist in a Backpack) and some behind the scenes activities, such as discussions about funding, obstacles we’ve faced, the little victories, and aspects of community archives that don’t make it into the brochures. We hope that you find our posts engaging and thought-provoking, and this blog is for anyone and everyone. From archival and institutional practitioners to community members and everyone in between you are welcome here!

Community archives are complex and there are a lot of ways to talk about the different types of community history and memory practices. One common analogy is that of a garden. In a recent Letonica article, Director of the Southern Historical Collection Bryan Giemza notes,  

[there are] those who see the archive as analogous to a garden. Properly tended, it keeps growing, and the measure of its good is both in its sustainability and the measure of nourishment it provides. If food sustains the ability of a community to reinvent itself, which is necessary to the advancement of any civilization, an archive contains the cultural resources that provide the creative sustenance for the process.

Gardens offer a more accessible image of information and community materials; they are an epicenter of collaborative activity. Community champions break the ground and help prepare the foundation. Donors provide the seeds, while volunteers till the soil, water, and feed the new growth. Visitors, outsides and locals, consume the produce and have the seeds of inspiration planted in their own minds. The community can be nourished by the visibly of their work, and the tangible outcome it provides, be that an exhibit, a website, a history harvest, or series of oral history interviews. Community archives can be kept small and within the bounds of the planter or they can climb over the garden walls and expand outside anyone’s previous notions. These types of community archive-gardens are unique to each community and we at CDAT are excited to share our experiences and hear about the work of others! 

We post every week on different topics but if there is something you’d like to see, let us know either in the comments or email Claire our Community Outreach Coordinator: clairela@live.unc.edu. 

Follow us on Twitter    #AiaB #yourstory #ourhistory #communityarchives #EKAAMP #HBTSA #SHC #SAAACAM #gardenarchives

EKAAMP Garden

This image is from one of our pilot projects, the Eastern Kentucky African American Migration Project, or EKAAMP. Gardens feature heavily in our jargon and our work as you can see!

Violence, Hardship, and the Southern Response

The South has witnessed unspeakable historical violence, hardship, and unrest. Whether it is a system developed over hundreds of years or the single act of one person, Southerners have used these circumstances as fuel to protest for a better reality and a better future.

At first blush, an archive might seem like an unusual place to learn about current events. We can’t provide the latest headline, updated numbers, or 24-hour news coverage. What an archive can do, though, is help explain how we got here in the first place. It can provide context, it can set the scene, and it can fill out a timeline. It can help draw comparisons, and it can bear witness to cycles, to repetition, and to causes and their effects. It can show what has worked in the past, and what has not.

We continue, as we always have, to collect the stories of those who stand up against violence and hardship. Below are just a few of our many collections that highlight how people have confronted difficulties in the past and fought for a South they could believe in.

Continue reading “Violence, Hardship, and the Southern Response”

New Collections: Activists, Educators, Families, and War

We have over a dozen new collections that are preserved, processed, and now available for research. Some highlights:

  • New materials span from 1764 to 2010
  • Subjects geographically range from Mexico to China (with plenty of Alabama and North Carolina in between)
  • Grassroots organizing, coal mining, and educational activism are common themes
  • There are 3 Civil War photographs and 2 books containing personal sketches from much of the UNC Chapel Hill classes of 1859-1865

Click on any of the collection titles to learn more about the materials, view any digital items, and request them for use in our reading room.

Continue reading “New Collections: Activists, Educators, Families, and War”

A Look at UNC’s Bout with Censorship: The 1963 Speaker Ban

Guest Poster: SHC Student Worker, James A. Moore (UNC Class of 2015)

From the eccentric monologues of the pit preacher, to the passionate Ferguson protest, to the somber vigil for Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha, recent times have demonstrated UNC’s reputation of being a place which fosters free speech. When thinking about all the recent demonstrations which UNC has welcomed, it can be easy to forget that less than 50 years ago, UNC had come under fire for passing a law which banned certain speakers from speaking on campus. This law was known as “The Speaker Ban Law”

Protestors outside of Carolina Coffee shop on February 1, 1964
Protestors outside of Carolina Coffee shop on February 1, 1964

 

Protestors outside of North Carolina Coffee Shop. February 10, 1964
Protestors outside of North Carolina Coffee Shop. February 10, 1964

Not too unlike today, in the 1960s UNC Chapel Hill had become a hotspot for political activism. Racial tensions and the war in Vietnam inspired many UNC students to hold demonstrations on UNC’s campus. Concerned that these protests may be seen as harbingers for communism, the more conservative members of UNC’s Board of Trustees passed The Speaker Ban Law, which prevented any speakers who were even suspected of having communist ties from being permitted to speak on UNC’s campus.

Naturally, a considerable amount of UNC’s students and faculty spoke out against the Speaker Ban Law. From the UNC chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, to UNC Chancellor William Aycock, a whole wave of dissident voices took to the press to speak out against the law in the name of free speech.

Although not as conspicuous as some other responses against the ban, a particularly eloquent response came from one of UNC Chapel Hill’s peers, UNC Greensboro. On March 6, 1966, Chancellor Otis A. Singletary of UNC Greensboro delivered a scathing critique of UNC Chapel Hill’s ban, with various passages that we here at the SHC believe everyone in the academic community would do well to remember:

Statement to the UNC Board of Trustees by Chancellor Otis Singletary of UNC Greensboro March 6, 1966. Anne Queen Collection (#5214)
Statement to the UNC Board of Trustees by Chancellor Otis Singletary of UNC Greensboro March 6, 1966. Anne Queen Collection (#5214)

The controversial Speaker Ban Law was eventually lifted on February 19, 1968 due to vagueness. This allowed students to protest more freely on UNC’s campus. The clipping below is just one example of how engaged students can be when given the oppurtunity to bring speakers and express ideas freely on campus.

Clipping from The Daily Tar Heel of the "March on South Building" from May 6,1970
Clipping from The Daily Tar Heel of the “March on South Building” from May 6,1970

To read more of Chancellor Singletary’s timely defense of free speech at College Universities check out the Anne Queen Collection (collection #5214), see other materials related to student activism, and learn more about the Speaker Ban Law, pay a visit to the SHC! For even more context and detailed information about free speech at UNC, you should check out the digital exhibit curated by the Southern Historical Collection, North Carolina Collection, and University Archives.

Playmakers Madness!

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to present our 2014 bracket, Playmakers Madness! In celebration of the current North Carolina Collection Gallery exhibit, Making a People’s Theater: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers, our 2014 bracket will feature some of our favorite photographs from over fifty years of Carolina Playmakers productions.

Playmakers Photo Bracket

From production shots to publicity stills to behind the scenes moments, these images from the North Carolina Collection capture the amazing range of performances the Playmakers put on between 1918 and 1976.  These are just a few of our favorite acting moments, costumes, and props, and we’re passing them on to you to choose the winner.

Starting today, we’ll be releasing a new poll every day with paired photographs to our Google poll, and also linked to our Facebook page.  Here’s one of our runner-up pairings as an example of what you’ll see:

The Taming of the Shrew, 1969 (left) and The Boy Friend, 1971.
The Taming of the Shrew, 1969 (top) and The Boy Friend, 1971.

You’ll be able to vote for your favorite in each pairing, and we’ll eliminate contenders, tournament-style, until a winner is crowned.  Happy voting, and we hope you enjoy the show!

UPDATE: We have a winner! The votes are in, and your favorite photograph is Experimental Play, 1947!

Playmakers Madness 2014 Champion: Experimental Play (1947) from the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Playmakers Madness 2014 Champion: Experimental Play (1947) from the UNC Photographic Laboratory Collection, North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This photograph shows a scene from one of the many student-written one act plays produced by the Carolina Playmakers, and we sure wish we knew what it was about.

For more about the Playmakers be sure to check out Making a People’s Theater, on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery through May 31st.
Thanks for voting, and we’ll see you next year!

Playmakers Madness 2014 Final Bracket
Playmakers Madness 2014 Final Bracket

Doris Betts, a Greyhound Bus, and an Academy Award

Did you know that one of Doris Betts’ short stories was adapted into an Academy Award-winning short film?
In 1969, the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts was published in the Red Clay Reader, an annual magazine focusing on the work of southern authors and artists.  Betts, a UNC English professor, was also an award-winning author short stories, novels, plays, and poetry.  “The Ugliest Pilgrim” told the story of a disfigured young woman named Violet who travels by bus from her home in Spruce Pine, North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the hopes of being healed by a televangelist.

Ugliest Pilgrim
“The Ugliest Pilgrim,” published in the Red Clay Reader, 1969. From folder 176 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.

 

In 1981, “The Ugliest Pilgrim” was adapted into a short film titled Violet, which in 1982 garnered the Academy Award for Best Short Film.  The film starred Didi Conn in the title role, otherwise known for her portrayal of “Frenchy” in the film Grease. UNC celebrated the success of the adaptation with a screening at the Carolina Fall Festival that year.

Carolina Fall Festival Program, 1982, featuring a screening of “Violet.” From folder 177 in the Doris Betts Papers #4695

“The Ugliest Pilgrim” was later adapted into a musical (also titled Violet), by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, which has been performed across the country, including a production by Playmakers Repertory Company.  A one-act adaptation starring Sutton Foster will debut on Broadway this month.

Productions of "Violet" by Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY) and Playmakers Repertory Company (UNC-Chapel Hill). From folder 179 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.
Productions of “Violet” by Playwrights Horizons (New York, NY) and Playmakers Repertory Company (UNC-Chapel Hill). From folder 179 in the Doris Betts Papers, #4695.

 

From the Doris Betts Papers #4695, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

“It’s a honey of a play…”: Playmakers Exhibit in Progress

Opening tomorrow, The North Carolina Collection Gallery will present “Making a People’s Theater: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers” from February 21st to May 31st. This exhibit demonstrates Frederick Koch’s involvement with the Carolina Playmakers, as well as the Playmakers’ contributions to student and regional theater in North Carolina throughout the 20th century.
The photo below features a few items contributed by the Southern Historical Collection to a section on the student-authored musical, “Spring For Sure.”
SFS_Case

Clockwise from top right:

Poster, Spring for Sure, 1952. Lynn Gault Papers (#4987), Southern Historical Collection.

Letter, Loren MacKinney to Lillian Hughes Prince, circa 1952. – William Meade Prince and Lillian Hughes Prince Papers (#3660), Southern Historical Collection.  

Photograph, Production of Spring For Sure, 1950, Chapel Hill, N.C. – Photographic Laboratory Collection (#P0031), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. 

Playbill, Spring for Sure, 1952. – William Meade Prince and Lillian Hughes Prince Papers (#3660), Southern Historical Collection.  

Photographs, Playmakers touring Spring for Sure, 1952. – Department of Dramatic Art Photographs and Related Materials (#P0035), North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives. 

Four activists to be honored in Chapel Hill, SHC preserves documentation of their legacy

This Sunday, August 28, 2011, four names will be added to a plaque at Chapel Hill’s “Peace and Justice Plaza.” Yonni Chapman, Rebecca Clark, Rev. Charles M. Jones and Dan Pollitt will all be honored posthumously for their contributions to civil rights, social justice and equality in the Chapel Hill community. The ceremony will begin at 3pm in front of the Historic Chapel Hill Post Office on Franklin Street, just across the street from UNC’s McCorkle Place. For the full story, see the article, “Four Honored for Activism,” from the Chapel Hill News.

The Southern Historical Collection is proud to preserve a large body of material that documents the lives and legacies of these four activists, including:

Charles Miles Jones Papers – The collection includes correspondence, church documents and publications, clippings, and other items reflecting Jones’s ministry and concern for civil rights. Materials generally focus on his public rather than personal life with a special emphasis on the 1952-1953 investigation of his Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church ministry. General correspondence includes letters from supporters (among them Frank Porter Graham) and detractors, commenting on the investigation, Jones’s sermons, and several well-publicized actions in support of social justice causes.

Oral history interview with Rebecca Clark (1 interview available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project) – In this interview, Rebecca Clark recalls living and working in segregated North Carolina. She finished her schooling in all-black schools, so the bulk of her experience with white people in a segregated context took place in the work world. There she experienced economic discrimination in a variety of forms, and despite her claims that many black people kept quiet in the face of racial discrimination at the time, she often agitated for, and won, better pay. Along with offering some information about school desegregation, this interview provides a look into the constricted economic lives of black Americans living under Jim Crow.

John K. Chapman Papers (available Fall 2011) – This collection documents Yonni Chapman’s social activism and academic achievements, and offers an account of nearly four decades of progressive racial, social, and economic justice struggles in the central North Carolina region. Organizational materials, including correspondence, notes, newsletters and reports, document the activities of the Communist Workers’ Party, the Federation for Progress, the Orange County Rainbow Coalition of Conscience, the New Democratic Movement, the Freedom Legacy Project, and the Campaign for Historical Accuracy and Truth, among other organizations on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, in Chapel Hill, N.C., Durham, N.C., Raleigh, N.C., and Greensboro, N.C. Workers’ rights and racial justice campaigns and commemorations, including those of the Greensboro Massacre and the campaign to end the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, are documented in paper, audio, visual, and photographic formats.

Daniel H. Pollitt Papers (available Fall 2012) – This collection documents Dan Pollitt’s distinguished career as an attorney, professor in the University of North Carolina Law School, and civil rights activist in the American South. The collection documents Pollitt’s activities with a number of organizations, including: the National Labor Relations Board, the National Sharecroppers Fund, the NAACP, the North Carolina Civil Liberties Union, the American Association of University Professors, the Rural Advancement Fund, and other organizations. Material also covers Pollitt’s involvement with the Speaker Ban controversy at the University of North Carolina, his opposition to the death penalty in North Carolina, issues of congressional misconduct, and many other legal and ethical matters.

Oral history interviews with Daniel H. Pollitt (13 interviews, many of which are available online via DocSouth’s Oral Histories of the American South project)