For Mary Caldera and Kathryn Neal, editing SAA’s upcoming book Through the Archival Looking Glass: A Reader on Diversity and Inclusion was both a personal and professional undertaking. As a Latina and lesbian, Caldera was well aware of the absences in archives from the start of her career and came to value those who were forging change, while also making a commitment to creating a more inclusive archive herself. Neal knew that there were relatively few archivists of color in the profession but remained undaunted as a new archivist and questioned how the profession could recruit and retain archivists of color in greater numbers. Now Caldera and Neal are working to further the conversation on diversity in archives and the archival profession. Through the Archival Looking Glass, which will debut this winter in the SAA Bookstore, features ten essays that not only address this pivotal topic but also spark further contemplation, debates, and discussion. Read on for more about Caldera’s and Neal’s thoughts on diversity. SAA: What does diversifying the archival record mean to you? MC: Ensuring that future generations have an inclusive and representative historical record. Imagine a parallel world populated only by the people (both creators and subjects) documented in our archives.Only when that world is as diverse and multifaceted as our own will we have diversified the archival record. SAA: How do you feel the conversation about diversity in archives has changed in the past ten years? KN: In some respects, the conversation itself has become increasingly diversified over the past decade. The amount of archival literature, on subjects ranging from representation in the archives and within the profession itself to issues of objectivity and power, has increased remarkably. Within SAA, the conversation appears to have become a mainstay in the Annual Meeting program and within its infrastructure.Diversity is now an integral part of SAA’s mission and core organizational values and figures prominently throughout its 2013–2018 Strategic Plan. The Diversity Committee, formed in 2003, has expanded its membership to include more stakeholders from affinity groups within the organization.The awards and scholarship program also has expanded to include the Diversity Award and the Josephine Forman and Mosaic Scholarships. The growth of social media has created still more venues for conversation. SAA: Mary, you describe in the introduction to Through the Archival Looking Glass a pivotal moment when you discovered the newsletter of the Lesbian Herstory Archives (LHA). What did that discovery mean to you? MC: The concept of community archives opened a world of possibilities to me. The idea that all individuals and communities have the power to create and preserve the archival record and not be dependent on exclusive cultural institutions was empowering. Secondly, the very idea that lesbians existed through the ages, formed communities, and left vestiges of their existence—that there was a lesbian history to be saved—helped me formulate a socio/ historical/political identity. Taking the long view, which was possible only after studying our history, allowed me to place my experience in a historical framework and the struggle for social justice in perspective. SAA: What’s one step archivists can take to further diversify their collections? MC: Each of us can examine and question our own prejudices, values, and assumptions as well as those of our institutions. It is not just about prejudices related to different groups of people, either. Many of us have deeply entrenched beliefs about what forms of expression and formats we should preserve (text and paper, for example). KN: As one step, we should ask ourselves questions about our past and current collecting practices, including: What stories do our existing holdings tell? Which voices, perspectives, or formats are not represented? What roles might our own attitudes, values, and motives play in this process? SAA: If you could witness any moment in history, what would it be and why? KN: There are too many moments to name only one, so I’ll highlight an era instead.I would like to go back to the 1920s to eavesdrop on interactions between Langston Hughes, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Alain Locke, and other writers, musicians, artists, and scholars during part of the Harlem Renaissance. It would be exciting to hear them debate and share their hopes for this cultural movement. MC: I would love to witness any first public manifestation of a bloodless uprising: the Seneca Falls Convention, the March on Washington, the first New York Pride Parade, the first United Farm Workers strike. I imagine those moments, for the participants, were marked by fear overcome by empowerment and a sense that social justice is not only possible but inevitable.Why would I want to witness those moments? Hope. We all need hope.
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