Assessment of Need
Education : IMLS sub-menu
The work under this grant will build solidly on the work of the last two and half decades. For the past 25 years, professional organizations like the Society of American Archivists (SAA), Midwest Archives Conference (MAC), American Library Association (ALA), as well as other educational institutions and individuals, have worked aggressively to help diversify the archival profession. These initiatives have included the establishment of the SAA Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable (1987); SAA’s Harold T. Pinkett Award (1993); the American Libraries Association’s 1997 Spectrum Scholarship, and SAA’s Mosaic Scholarship (2009). One of the grant’s Advisory Board members, Brenda Banks, from 1999 to 2005 also created professional training for non-degreed archival staff at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Each of these programs approached the severe lack of diversity in the archival profession from a different perspective, and each has focused on attracting, recruiting, and training African American and other minority archivists to the profession.
Despite decades of effort, the percentage of African American archivists has increased by only 1% in 22 years-- from 1.8% as recorded in SAA’s 1982 survey of its professionals, to 2.8% in 2004 as recorded by the A*Census. This percentage exists although 12.7% of the U.S. population identifies itself as African American.(1) Elizabeth Adkins, Society of American Archivists President 2006-2007, calls this an “appalling low proportion” that adversely affects the profession’s ability to succeed in preserving and providing access to a diverse historical record that accurately reflects society.(2) Kathryn Neal points out that “archivists’ public image (or lack thereof). . . [and] a tradition of neglect of communities of color by the information professions” both contribute to low levels of minority archivists.(3) The profession’s homogeneity affects people’s approach and attitude towards the cultural institutions that record our history. If African Americans do not see themselves and their history reflected in an institution’s collections and professional staff, they will regard such institutions with indifference at best and with disregard at worst.
Increasing African American Diversity in Archives: The HistoryMakers’ Fellowship, Mentoring, Training and Placement Institute seeks to change this by designing and implementing a program that seeks to empower thirteen early career archivists of African American descent and/or those committed to working with African American collections to successfully find employment in African American archives. The Institute is comprehensive and builds upon the work of previous programs as noted by the following chart:
Comparison of Programs Aimed at Increasing Diversity in Archives and Libraries (1987-2009)