This week, we celebrate Preservation Week to recognize the billions (at least 4.8 billion!) of items sitting in special collections, libraries, archives, and museums that require preservation and to acknowledge the challenges that these institutions face to reduce the damage to these items and to make them stable enough for use and accessible to the public. This is also a week to highlight that not only do museums and libraries hold valuable collections that are culturally and historically significant, but that there are unaccounted collections and items that are held by individuals, families, and communities; collections that contain books, manuscripts, audiovisual materials, physical objects (textiles, furniture, art, etc.), and prints and drawings.
The theme for Preservation Week 2021 is “Preserving Community Archives” and the honorary chair for this year is Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and New York Times Magazine journalist, as well as the creator of the 1619 Project. Community Archives “are organized by members of physical or self-identified communities—specifically those marginalized by traditional collecting institutions—and are focused on documenting and interpreting their own histories.”
Check Out These Community Archives
The IU East LGBTQ+ Archive
The IU East LGBTQ+ Archive is a local example of a community archive. In Spring of 2019, Dr. Travis Rountree and his Eng-W270 students collected interviews, news articles, photographs, and social media posts from in and around Richmond and Wayne County’s LGBTQ community, creating Richmond, Indiana’s first LGLBTQ+ archive. We are still striving to grow this archive into a sustainable and informative resource documenting LGBTQ experiences in the small, rural communities of Wayne County, Indiana, and the surrounding areas. So please contact Beth South at email@example.com if you want to contribute your story.
The Black Lesbian Archives
Krü Maekdo started The Black Lesbian Archives in June 2017. The BLA works to build community, educate, and preserve the culture of Black Lesbians, as well as bring awareness to their community. This archive is based in Chicago, IL, but travels around and is working on going digital. You can visit their website to find out information on how to contribute, support, or sign up for their monthly newsletter to stay up to date on this growing archive.
Arizona State Community Archives
With the support of Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Arizona State University created the Community Driven Archives Initiative in 2017, focusing on building relationships with historically marginalized communities and advocating for equal ownership and shared stewardship of the archives. At this time, they are working with the Chicano/a Research Collection and Greater Arizona Collection to digitize the items in these collections and make them publicly accessible via ASU Digital Repository.
The Jewish Women’s Archive
This outstanding archive “documents Jewish women’s stories, elevates their voices, and inspires them to be agents of change.” First created in 1998, the Jewish Women’s Archive shares stories and items from their collections in blogs, podcasts, social media, and public programs.
South Asian American Digital Archive
Since 2008, the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA) has worked to create a more inclusive society by providing a space for South Asian Americans to share their stories. SAADA builds collections that focus on the national, religious, regional, caste, socio-economic, sexual orientation, gender, and cultural identity of South Asian Americans. There are currently more than 4,000 unique items in this archive that can be explored in various ways, from time period to themes.
Southern Sources UNC
Southern Sources UNC is not an archive, but a blog that regularly highlights content from the Southern Historical Collection at University of North Carolina’s Wilson Special Collections Library. The Southern Historical Collection is a community-driven archive, much like Arizona State’s, that “supports historically underrepresented history keepers in telling, sharing, and preserving their stories.” This regional-focused archive provides insight into the history of these southern communities.
How to Get Involved
Learn how to take care of your own collections!
The American Library Association has a range of free webinars on various topics, such as conducting oral histories with your own family or community, caring for family keepsakes, preserving family history (papers, recipes, medals, photographs, family textiles, etc.), and personal digital photographs and memories. You can also read up on quick tips on how to take care and preserve your things in general or go more in depth and learn how to care for specific materials.
Join Crowdsourcing Projects
Many museums, libraries, and archives have photographs and documents digitized, but they need help in transcribing, tagging, or providing information on these artifacts that will allow them to be easily readable and searchable, in order to be accessible to researchers. You don’t need to be an expert in any particular field, all you need is a willingness to dig into some letters, diaries, logbooks, etc. and do your best to decipher the writing. If this sounds interesting and you have some free time, this is a fun and rewarding way to volunteer from the comfort of your home. For some suggestions on crowdsourcing projects, you can read our blog on Crowdsourcing Transcription of Historical Documents.
You can reach out to Archivist Beth South at firstname.lastname@example.org
for any questions related to preservation or archives. If you need assistance
with any of your research, just Ask Us! email@example.com or click here:
 “Why Do Collections Need a Preservation Week?” American Library Association, April 15, 2015, http://www.ala.org/alcts/preservationweek/plan/why
 “2021 Honorary Chair, Nikole Hannah-Jones “, American Library Association, January 22, 2021.