Archives & Activism Symposium to be Held by Archivist Round Table of Metropolitan NY

The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (ART) has shared its call for participation in an upcoming symposium in the fall with AW and its readers:

“The rebellion of the archivist against his normal role is not, as so many scholars fear, the politicizing of a neutral craft, but the humanizing of an inevitably political craft.”
— Howard Zinn “Secrecy, Archives, and the Public Interest,” Vol. II, No. 2 (1977) of Midwestern Archivist.

The boundaries between “archivist” and “activist” have become increasingly porous, rendering ready distinctions between archivists (traditionally restricted to the preservation of records, maintaining accountability, and making critical information available to the communities they serve) and activists (who, with greater frequency, look to archives or adopt elements of archival practice as a means of documenting their struggles) virtually unsustainable. In the past year, archivists and citizen activists collaborated to document the Occupy Wall Street movement, and archivists committed to open government worked with the New York City Council to advocate for keeping the Municipal Archives as an independent city agency. While the apparent convergence of archival and activist worlds may appear a timely and relevant topic, these distinct communities often deliberate their roles separately with little dialogue.

ART and the New School Archives and Special Collections are sponsoring a symposium to bring together a diverse group of archivists, activists, students, and theorists with the aim of facilitating discussion of their respective concerns.  Among its proposed topics, the symposium will address potential roles that archivists may engage in as activists, as well as how archivists can assume a greater role in documenting and contributing toward social and political change.

Possible areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Archivists documenting the work of activists and activist movements
– Activists confronting traditional archival practice
– Possible models for an emergent “activist archives”
– Methodologies for more comprehensively documenting activism
– Archivist and activist collaborations
–  Community-led archives and repositories operating outside of the archival  establishment
– Archives as sites of knowledge (re)production and in(ter)vention
– Relational paradigms for mapping the interplay of power, justice, and archives…

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