Reviewed December 2020
Christy Anderson, Marketing/Administrative Assistant
Kimbel Library and Bryan Information Commons, Coastal Carolina University
Archivists Against History Repeating Itself is more than just a collective resource website; it is a movement by archivists who believe in using “archives, archival labor, and archival theory for human liberation.” The goal is to shirk off the façade of neutrality in archives and use them for tools of liberation and political action. The site offers resources to equip archivists to take on elements of bias in cultural heritage collections and adjust the course of the field to align with a more just world.
Archivists Against is a volunteer co-op of archivists, students, and scholars engaging archives for social justice. The group seeks to tackle such relevant but weighty issues as white supremacy, colonialism, industrial prisons, ableism, climate change, and heteronormativity, among others. In facing these issues, Archivists Against members seek to “acknowledge, address, and repair the harms done.” The collective members are there as individual professionals, omitting any institutional affiliations and stating their cause as bigger than any institutions represented, while also exempting any institution from appearing to participate in an official capacity.
The website itself is a basic WordPress blog-style site. It forgoes the bells-and-whistles with a design that is simple and easy to navigate. The only contact information listed for the group is the Archivists Against Gmail account, although individual participants are named and listed separately. Aside from the logos, there are no graphics, making the site fast to download and very mobile friendly.
Content is curated by Archivists Against members who create and collect information, research, and training materials to assist archivists in their fight for social justice in archival collections and services. Collected resources are divided by type into three primary categories: activities, readings, and links. The tabs are then subdivided by the different issues Archivists Against seeks to ameliorate. There is no overall site search, so users will need to gather each resource by what form it comes in, not what subject it tackles. The site is an ongoing project, so there are still many blanks to be filled. For example, there are several group and teacher exercises under “Activities,” all of which were created by member Michelle Caswell, however, most of the activity categories are still waiting for information to be added. The fields of the “Readings” tab, however, are more populated, with at least one resource per topic. All items on the site’s lists are included presumably because a member knew of them and assessed them worthy to be added. Ideally, this is an organic, open sharing of resources; however, it can open the door for self-promotion, and great resources can be overlooked if members do not know of them or take the initiative to recommend them. Among these such resources are We Here and Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP). We Here is a BIPOC-created site for library and archive workers that is focused on collaboration, support, no-cost learning opportunities, and dismantling of systemic racism. A4BLiP is a Philadelphia-based collective whose scope applies to all archives and libraries; the group’s document on anti-racist description resources would be a particularly important addition to Archivists Against.
The project has ambitious goals, and Archivists Against serves as a recruitment center for new participants and a one-stop shop for resources on tough issues faced by cultural heritage institutions around the world. As membership increases, so will the collection of creative and educational ideas and information; the organic way in which Archivists Against is set up by archivists for archivists means the site will evolve with its users, offering a practical approach to real application. Archivists Against can serve as a great resource for heritage institutions as more curators, selectors, and archivists seek to acknowledge the biases that have shaped their collections throughout time.