Investing in the Archives

The “Announcing ASAP” post from Princeton brings to mind many things we’ve talked about over the course of the semester, both in relation to archives and alternative histories but also just about mass involvement in the creation of history.

I was particularly surprised by how much Jarrett Drake’s announcement reminded me of Filene’s piece on “outsider history-makers” from the second week of class. Like Filene, Drake is arguing for more passionate connections between the public and more traditional methods of history-making. His way of speaking about the project seemed to ask for a similar kind of investment on the part of people outside of traditional history creation and/or curation fields. This also relates to our own discussions of the Bryn Mawr archives, and the way that alums often don’t see value in their own collections. Drake’s way of speaking about student lives and campus activism really brought out how necessary it is for people to care about the creation of history, and the impact that it can have when we can collect stories from diverse places.

Drake specifically asks students to invest in the archives, which I think is a fascinating way of thinking about this entire process. As is clear from Roger’s book, having archival records of activism is absolutely necessary in order to be able to talk about movements that questioned the system and traditional narratives. It is an investment to put time and energy into documenting the present, and we can absolutely see the way that that investment can pay off in the long (and even the short) run.