2020 ARCH Participants Write

Learnings from the ARCH Program: Archives, Objectivity, and New Skills
By Etana Laing, Lincoln University

This summer I had the privilege of participating in the ARCH program. Coming into this experience I had a very surface-level understanding of archives; little did I know I was uncovering just the tip of the iceberg. On my journey, I made important connections between manifestations of white supremacy and academia. The program served as a conduit for a deepened understanding of hegemony and my budding passion for archives. We engaged in meaningful discussions that invited critical thinking and taught the basic tenets of archives with a framework that recognized their white supremacist foundation.

Etana Laing, Lincoln University. (Photo courtesy Etana Laing.)

In our weekly synchronous sessions, we discussed the building blocks of archives through a critical lens. We participated in conversations that fostered open, honest dialogue around issues of white supremacy, patriarchy, and hegemony, which is essential for being able to grow and create new best practices that reflect intersectional values. The ARCH program provided a counterpoint to the typical classroom setting where one is lectured to (the banking method of education to use Freirean terms). Students and Princeton staff co-created spaces of learning in office hours and group sessions. Learning in an environment that openly named the oppressive structures which are at play was paramount to my educational process. Reading Medium pieces like “Expanding #ArchivesForBlackLives to Traditional Archival Repositories” by Jarrett Drake and “We Already Are” by Yusef Omowale gave me the language to understand the complexity of archives and ways to utilize them for liberation. This experience allowed me to both learn the basics of archival research and the praxis to apply these lessons in a transformative classroom. 

I have connected my learnings from the ARCH program to my current course load. Specifically, within my historical methods course, we are exploring different historical theories; this week we are discussing empiricism. Orthodox proponents of this methodology believe that researchers are capable of presenting a clear cut history not muddled by human perspective. I’ve found that similar to historians, many archivists in the field subscribe to the false notion of an objective truth or unbiased recording of history. The historian J. B. Bury stated, “There was indeed no historian since the beginning of things who did not profess that his sole aim was to present to his readers untainted and unpainted truth.” This concept of “the untainted truth” also shows up in archives. In reality, it is an example of how hegemony presents itself as being neutral. The white cishet man’s perspective is the only one afforded the term “objective.” Before starting the ARCH program, I thought a lot about the myth of objectivity, but this program gave me a place to explore that idea and see what it looks like when applied to higher education. When we ignore the fact that all people come to any situation or conversation with a set of values and ideologies, we invite uncritical modes of reflection and subsequently, white supremacy (because it is the default ideology). Hegemony is overwhelmingly pervasive in the idea of an empirical truth. We are not objective beings and by ignoring this fact we ignore the ways that racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. show up in academia as a whole.

As I continue my journey to becoming an archivist, these reflections will stick with me and help guide what I want my work to look like. It was extremely important for me to have a chance to talk about some of my ideas with other HBCU students and the Princeton library staff. I learned so much this summer and I am so excited to pursue a career in archives armed with this information.

My 2020 ARCH Experience
By Sierra Phillips, Tougaloo College

Sierra Phillips, Tougaloo College. (Photo courtesy Sierra Phillips.)

This summer was like none other for me—especially as it relates to acquiring summer opportunities. Going into the summer, I thought I would participate in one summer program, but a few weeks after my initial summer program ended, I was presented with another exciting opportunity: The Archives, Research and Collaborative History program with Princeton University Library. I was excited for this because I wanted to gain more insight on archives and research. Participating in the online version of the program was engaging and informative. Of course, I would have loved for it to have been in person, but I still enjoyed the experience. The staff was very organized and involved, and because of this, I got the most out of what the online version had to offer.

A particular session over the 4 weeks of the program that stood out to me was when we discussed digital archiving.I did not realize how important digital archiving is—especially as it relates to research. I learned how important it is to label folders and files to easily access needed information in the future. I also learned how websites such as Google Drive can discontinue, so it is important to save your files in multiple places to have a backup.

One of the readings I enjoyed the most was David Levy’s “Meditation on a Receipt.” It allowed me to think more broadly about what everyday items could be considered a primary source. The activity that asked us to find a primary source in my home was my favorite activity. I enjoyed this because it helped me realize that there are primary sources all around my home, but I did not stop to consider them a primary source or even a part of my history because I often look at history as something that happened a very long time ago. This activity helped me look at my life and my history and the primary sources such as family pictures that come along with it.

Ultimately, the ARCH program has exposed me to the archival profession and if it is something I would consider pursuing. I also learned also how to navigate an archive for research, especially digitally. Before this program, I have always been interested in the archival profession. I would be better able to evaluate my aptitude for this career if I had hands-on experience or shadowed someone in this field.

To learn more about 2020’s virtual Archives Research and Collaborative History program, please visit the feature story on the Princeton University Library website.

ARCH Participants Write, Part VI

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the sixth in a short series of such reflections.

Untitled

By Kimberly Monroe, Howard University

It has been said that archives are where memory is preserved and history is made. Archives have the ability to connect the past with the present and future, while still maintaining the character and originality it possesses. The Princeton University Archives, Research, and Collaborative History Program (ARCH) allowed students from HBCUs the opportunity to learn more about archiving as a profession and to explore the various collections at Princeton.

Kimberly Monroe, a PhD candidate from Howard University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part V

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fifth in a short series of such reflections.

Stepping Outside the STEM Box

By Genevieve Airyanne Antoine, Tuskegee University

From my awkward middle school days to my considerably less awkward years in college, one academic gospel has been preached to me. “STEM is the future. STEM is the new wave. Don’t want a job? Choose a major that ISN’T STEM.” Sound familiar? I am sure you can relate. Fear of the future, fear of failure, and fear of my own ambitions drove me to accept this as fact. In my junior year of high school, I committed myself to take the path of a scientist. I present myself now as undergrad-level chemist and physicist. Of course, I am proud of my accomplishments. Two degrees later, however, I wonder why the current professional and academic climates have turned such a blind eye to the humanities?

Genevieve Airyanne Antoine (Tuskegee University), Kimberly Monroe (Howard University), and Adisa Vera Bradley (Howard University) [foreground] and Mudd’s Valencia Johnson, Michael Marie Thomas (Texas Southern University), and Dr. Jontyle Robinson (Tuskegee University) [background] at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part IV

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the fourth in a short series of such reflections.

Agential Community Archiving

By Madison Washington, Lincoln University

The ARCH program provided an introductory glance into the field by archival professionals. We convened on a daily basis with staff from Mudd and Firestone Libraries, visited the Princeton University Art Museum, and spent our final day of the program at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Throughout the week we touched on various aspects of the field and ruminated over intense discussions. One of the discussions that resonated with me was that of Dunbar Rowland and William C. Bolivar. While the stories of these two men are starkly different, their commonalities present an important narrative on the importance of agential community archiving.

Madison Washington, seated next to fellow Lincoln University student Alaze Moriah Clausell, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part III

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the third in a short series of such reflections.

Do You Remember? Untitled Individuals And Closeted Negro Persons

By Kaya Mosley, Lincoln University

Being surrounded by so many fiery individuals has definitely lit a spark within me… kinda like nitrate film. Before my involvement in this program I viewed archives as simply dusty, old, mildewy smelling papers from “way back when”. Now I know that what is considered to be archives extends all the way to vinegar-smelling film and pre-presidential post-it notes. Aside from distinguishing smells, I became privy to a few more things.

Kaya Mosley and Taylor Brookins, both students from Lincoln University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part II

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the second in a short series of such reflections.

The Disappearing History of Xennials

By Michael Marie Thomas, Texas Southern University

I grew up a latchkey kid, meaning my parents worked and I came home to an empty house, but before you pull out the Kleenex, know that I was also the kid who enjoyed after school specials on television. I enjoyed Saturday morning cartoons, Saved by the Bell, cereal with real sugar, book fairs, and toys that could cause bodily harm. Basically, I enjoyed being a kid (R.I.P. Toys “R” Us). I also experienced the evolution of VCRs (R.I.P. Blockbuster), CDs (R.I.P. Borders Books and Music), cell phones (R.I.P. Motorola Razr Flip), and the internet (those who never experienced the sound of dial up internet: I really feel for you). Yet I am realizing that all these amazing things that I have grown up with are in danger of being lost to time.

Michael Marie Thomas, a student from Texas Southern University, at Mudd Library this summer. Photo by Shelley Szwast.

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ARCH Participants Write, Part I

As part of the Princeton University Library’s inaugural Archives Research and Collaborative History (ARCH) Program, 12 undergraduates and two graduate students from five historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) explored the connections among archives, historical narratives, and social justice at Mudd Library and Firestone Library from July 9 to July 13, 2018. They were asked to reflect on their experiences in writing. This post is the first in a short series of such reflections.

Beauty, Justice and the Future

By Adisa Vera Beatty, Howard University

I.

Most, likely many, of the experiences and information I encountered will continue to surface in my mind for several weeks. However, some experiences that have left an impression would be processing part of a collection and visiting the conservation lab. I’m a memory keeper so it’s not a surprise that those two experiences resonated with me. There is something very poignant to me about experiencing the artifacts of someone else’s lived life. There’s some mystery, randomness and beauty about that experience but I’m sure it loses its charm when you do it every day. Then there’s the conservation lab where there is no sifting and sorting; this space is filled with deliberate acts. They slow down, revive and restore pieces of the past daily.

The before and after results once paper conservator Ted Stanley has performed his miracles. Photo by Adisa Vera Beatty.

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