FRIDAY Fast Five: Archival activism

"I realised that actually to decide to gather information, organize information, and preserve information to disseminate it, was a political act." Founder of Future Histories.

I've been thinking a lot about archival activism of late. I suppose the fact that I work in an archive means that critiquing the way we collect and remember is a part of my job. But more than that, critiquing what narratives/histories are given life and which are silenced is something all of us who choose to work in the cultural sector should engage in. We have a duty to do this. We have a duty to disrupt traditional narratives that have historically dominated the museological landscape. We have a duty to question collecting practices that in the past have sought silence marginalised or dissenting voices through either through lack of collecting or misrepresentation. As I slowly edge further into what looks a bit like a museum career, I hope that this desire to critique and question, to confront history, will only get stronger.

Aside from this rather constant swirling of thought, two specific things have inspired this week's Fast Five. The first - the discovery a couple of weeks ago that nearly twice the number of New Zealanders served in the Gallipoli campaign than the traditionally accepted narrative. This means several things. Firstly it reinforces the immense value of archives. And secondly, it may force us to re-examine the ANZAC narrative. The other inspiring fact is Project Continua, which I found through rabbit-holing off one of Courtney Johnston's Reading Lists in her Best of 3 blog. Spearheaded by Gina Luria Walker at the New School New York, Project Continua is a "collaborative of professors and students, is seeking out women's stories throughout history and finally giving them the sustained attention they deserve." It's basically a programme initiated to write women back into the history books. 

As I write this, I'm looking at the programme for the one day symposium Four Waves of Feminism: The Ongoing Conversation in Aotearoa New Zealand's Art and Art Histories to be held this coming Friday at the Dowse Art Museum. I am ridiculously pumped about the day for the exact reasons above - to have a day of questioning, provoking, agitating, appreciating, challenging traditional (or personal) narratives.  

So anyway, here's the list. These are examples not from Aotearoa. I imagine after Friday I may want to write a follow up edition to change that....

1. Andrew Finn's Archival Activism: Independent and Community led archives, Radical Public History and the Heritage Professions

Finn positions the archive as an inherently political space. As a Reader of Archival and Oral History at University College London, he also focuses on archives as transformative spaces, and as sites of social justice, inclusion, democratisation of knowledge and activism. This particular article examines the "approach to archiving and history-making which is an activist practice, frequently associated with a political agenda aiming at social transformation and challenging discrimination, and then second, an active and activist approach to the archival mission which encourages professional archivists and other heritage workers to engage more fully with a range of external activities and all sections of society whilst seeking better to reflect diversity in the archive."

2. Feminist Archvies, Feminist Futures (FAFF)

FAFF is an international, collaborative project based at the University of Leeds which "looks at the gendered histories of archives and their relationship to history making and feminist activism in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In particular, it is interested in the histories of Women’s Libraries and Feminist Archives, and their role in shaping women’s lives both in the past and in the future."

3. Glasgow Women's Library's 21 Revolutions

"In 2011 Glasgow Women's Library commissioned 21 artists and 21 writers to create new work inspired by our diverse and remarkable collections. Some of the most significant names in Scottish art and literature including Turner Prize nominees and lauded authors responded with new texts and artworks...21 Revolutions germinated from a desire to promote and celebrate 20 years of Scotland’s sole women’s library archive and museum, showcase the best of women’s contemporary visual art and writing and highlight the unique museum, library and archive resources at Glasgow Women’s Library. "

In addition to the publications and art work, 21 Revolutions also has a podcast.

4. Working Class Movement Library, Manchester City

"Working people have always struggled to get their voices heard. The Working Class Movement Library is a treasure trove with records of over 200 years of organising and campaigning by ordinary men and women...Our collection captures many points of view to tell the story of Britain's working classes from the beginning of industrialisation to the present day...We’re a living collection, growing all the time with fascinating donations from campaigners, activist groups and unions."

5. Lesbian Herstory Archive

"The Lesbian Herstory Archives exists to gather and preserve records of Lesbian lives and activities so that future generations will have ready access to materials relevant to their lives. The process of gathering this material will uncover and collect our herstory denied to us previously by patriarchal historians in the interests of the culture which they serve. We will be able to analyze and reevaluate the Lesbian experience; we also hope the existence of the Archives will encourage Lesbians to record their experiences in order to formulate our living herstory."

So yeah, pretty cool. I want to know more, more, more so if any one knows of any other projects I should check out, give Tusk a holler! And now I'm off to pack my bags and ride dat feminist art history wave all the way to Lower Hutt.