Archives and Activism
“Do it in the dark!”: Harrison Apple from the Pittsburgh Queer History Project shares their work as an after-hours nightclub archivist and oral historian. Following many years of discomfort with the extractive and repetitive demands of archival custodian techniques, Apple created a monthly screening series paying their narrators and donors to share an intimate experience with a broader eager audience. At its core, the series fosters a social bond that comes from teaching one another how to watch a tape as friends. The screening series, now known as “MS 89,” brings performers, media makers, and activists (back) into the limelight as they introduce themselves and the community created videos we watch. Pageants, Cable Access features, and Benefit shows mediate friendships between queer Pittsburghers who, for their own and collective reasons, are looking for ways to re-enter communities of desire and care, even if just for one night in the dark.
“Community-based Video Archiving for Human Rights”: Yvonne is the Senior Program Manager of Archives at WITNESS, a global nonprofit organization that helps people use video and technology to protect and defend human rights. She will discuss WITNESS’s work and the key role that video archives play in contemporary human rights investigations and advocacy. While video has expanded the ability of ordinary people to hold authorities to account, trust in documentation has also eroded due to the rise of misinformation and synthetic media. Archives and other stakeholders in the records lifecycle can play a part in fortifying the truth and help preserving diverse critical voices.
Records and Memory
Stanley H. Griffin
“Planting Trees, Growing Records: Reimagining Memory Praxis for Sustainable Societies”: In late 2022, the Jamaican Forestry Department, in its quest to increase the tree population, issued a challenge to revive the birthing ritual of planting a tree upon the birth of a child. This birthing practice usually includes the burial of the umbilical cord, colloquially known as the ‘naval string’. This gives rise to the Jamaican phrase, “My naval string bury here”, meaning, this land/area/nation is mine. This mostly rural practice was often done on family land, or more popularly called family plot, which is the communal land owned by families (often without the customary land deed or title). It was the space wherein the environment bore the markers of family life, history and even death, i.e. the ‘family plot’ that all members of the family return for burial. This practice is crucial for a modern society that is still plagued by those, who through dire circumstances, fall through the cracks of traditional state required recordkeeping. In this talk, we explore the archival and socio-cultural significance of the Forestry Department’s call to plant trees as memory markers, which extends beyond the innocence of sustainable environmental redevelopment. Trees ‘imbued with meaning’ give rise to other forms and expressions of memory making and preservation that are rooted in community activity, formation and life. We will re/imagine archives as an integral part of an ecosystem that nourishes, informs and sustains society.
“For Whom: The Role of Collective Memory in Struggles for Liberation”: Philippine national hero José Rizal once said, “those who do not know how to look back to where they came from, will never reach their destination.” The necessity of understanding the past in order to inform the decisions we make for the future presents an opportunity for archives in furthering peoples’ struggles for liberation. In the context of the Cordillera Indigenous peoples’ struggle for their ancestral domain and for self-determination, which is situated within the larger national democratic movement for freedom and just peace in the Philippines, their political activity acts as a living archives of their militant history whose purpose is to educate, organize and mobilize current and future generations of activists on how to respond to threats to their life, land, and livelihood. It is this practice of resistance that keeps memory alive. This presentation goes beyond this specific example to examine how political movements in the Philippines are shaping their own definitions of archives and taking the preservation of their collective memory into their own hands in ways that not only challenge the dominant archival paradigms of impartiality, neutrality and objectivity, but ultimately seek to utterly transform the systems of oppression that are at the root of the very problems that these organizations and activists struggle against on a daily basis. After all, what could be more paradigm shifting than revolution?
Truth, Reconciliation, and Archives
“More Than Just Records: Moving toward Decolonial Archival Futures in Reclaiming Archival Power and Spaces”: This session will explore how archives hold more than just records for Indigenous communities and Residential School Survivors; archives have stories. Indigenous peoples, their families, and communities cannot begin to know why and heal without the records. Skylee-Storm will look at community-based archival practices and how formal archives fail Indigenous communities through their structures, policies, and physical spaces. This session will demonstrate the relationship between the struggles of access and ownership to colonial and archival power dynamics. Participants will be invited to imagine a decolonial archival future that supports truth-finding, Indigenous data sovereignty, and a welcoming space.
“Getting to the Truth: Challenging Archival Practices for the Purpose of Furthering Indigenous Voices”: This session will highlight the importance of including Oral recordings alongside residential school records in order to give the best representation of the truth. This is representative not only of the healing journey, but also the shift in thinking required for reconciliation. Kristin will review the current colonial practices in archives that hinder Indigenous communities gaining records and how Survivor Oral Truths can shift archival practice. Participants will be able to leave with applicable ideas on how to de-structure archival practices.