Impact and Diversity
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Increasing African American Diversity in Archives brings Institute Fellows together with experts from around the country (i.e. veteran archivists, African American scholars, representatives from African American collections, and archival diversity proponents). Bringing these stakeholders together in one location to interact and share information will have immediate and long term impacts on the archival profession as well as African American libraries and collections. The impacts include:
1. Increased Diversity
With funding, provided in part by the Institute for Museum and Library Sciences, The HistoryMakers will graduate thirteen Institute Fellows from Increasing African American Diversity in Archives: The HistoryMakers’ Fellowship, Mentoring, Training and Placement Institute. These fellows are selected and trained in best practices and archival standards by working closely with seasoned archivists, African American history scholars and representatives from African American collections. Instruction and training by veteran archivists gives fellows hands-on experience in records management, cataloguing, description, providing access to archival collections and digital preservation. Archival instruction during the summer training institute is provided by trained professionals, including Daniel Pitti, Katherine Stine, Katherine Wisser, Cecilia Salvatore, and includes instruction on the standards to create both EAD (describing archival records) and EAC-CPF (describing archival record creators) finding aids. Presentations by representatives from both local African American history collections and the partnering host institutions help to increase the fellows’ awareness of other African American history resources, in addition to their work with The HistoryMakers African American video oral history archive. Fellows also receive instruction on African American history from African American history scholar, Christopher Reed. The training that the fellows receive by The HistoryMakers during the 3-month summer training immersion program prepares them to be engaged and capable archival fellows to their host partnering institutions where they will further hone their skills, abilities, and knowledge. This hands-on experience is essential to future employment. Plus, some of the host partnering institutions have committed to hiring their fellows, as budgets permit, for at least one year after the conclusion of the fellowship.
2. Improved Workforce
The Institute works to create an important sense of community between the fellows and the collections with which they work. By participating in the program, they become part of a professional network that will serve as a resource in the future. This network is supported through the fellows’ weekly blog, monthly professional development calls with noted African American archivists in the field, and their attendance at the Society of American Archivist conference. More importantly, each fellow that participates in the program is matched with a mentor and exposed to leadership training during the three month training programs. Fellows work in groups on time-sensitive projects, manage deadlines, assign responsibilities, make presentations and write reports. Ultimately, the entire fellowship experience is designed to give the fellows a solid footing on which to continue in and contribute to the profession.
3. Effective Advisors
The Advisory Board consists of librarians, archivists, librarian and archivist educators, and African American history scholars and educators. These individuals represent leaders and stakeholders in the archival profession, and bringing them together to help guide this project will have overall implications throughout the field. The advisory board members take the lessons learned and apply them to other archival projects and institutions so that the work towards increasing diversity in the profession will continue well beyond the grant’s term.
4. Enhanced Education
Resources provided on this website and the fellows’ blog serve as a training toolkit and manual for use by other institutions with African American collections for their own training programs or to improve the skills of existing professional staff. Educators of future archivists will also benefit from the experience and tools developed by this project. The Institute will also produce literature that can be used by all LIS schools and professional organizations to promote the career aspirations of younger generations. Essentially, Increasing African American Diversity in Archives will result in greater skills and abilities in archival educators and institutions to reach potential African American archivists and archivists interested in working with African American collections.
5. Community Outreach and Accessibility
As part of their 9-month residency, fellows help partnering host institutions process more collections making them accessible and available for research, and bring current and emerging standard methods of processing, managing, and providing collection access to their host institutions. Fellows develop skills to further connect collections to communities through providing reference services in person and via phone or email. Their command of African American subject matter and the discipline of doing oral history interviews give fellows requisite cultural knowledge and understanding. Increasing African American Diversity in Archives also works to remedy the “invisible nature” of archives by requiring fellows to develop a public programming/outreach effort while at their host institutions. These programs help to improve the public profile of the archival profession and the collections of historically significant African American materials. Some of the public programs that fellows have worked on to date include a youth program at the Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum for members of the South Los Angeles Chapter Jack & Jill; a Black History Month project on black women in history hosted by the Franklin Library at Fisk University; and a public program by Alabama Department of Archives’ fellow, Cheylon Wood, on Tuskegee pictures from the Peppler Collection.
6. Professional Change
Increasing African American Diversity in Archives reflects a vision of potential change for the archival profession. The goal is to have an American historical record that more accurately reflects American society. This is done in a way that allows diversification in the collections that document American history and the professionals whose work makes this access to the American record possible.
The project’s primary goal is to increase the number of African Americans archivists and archivists qualified to work with African American collections so that the archival profession accurately reflects the demography of the rest of the country. Only 2.8% of professional archivists are African American when 12.7% of the US population is African American. This disparity inhibits the profession’s ability to serve African Americans—and Americans in general—and present them with an accurate and inclusive record of society. Furthermore, the archival profession can ill afford to risk continued loss of this sector of society.