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ASU Library archives initiative receives prestigious Archival Innovator Award

Five people grouped together sitting and standing with library bookshelves in the background

Clockwise from top left: Alexander Soto, Kenia Menchaca Lozano, Nancy Godoy, Jessica Salow and Lorrie McAllister.

July 11, 2022

It started with a dream. Eleven years ago, Nancy Godoy was a graduate student in the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River library and information science program, imagining a way to center the lived experiences and knowledge of marginalized communities.

Now the director of the Community-Driven Archives Initiative at the ASU Library, that dream was recognized with a top innovator award for sharing and preserving untold stories and history.

The initiative has been named a 2022 recipient of the Archival Innovator Award by the Society of American Archivists. The award recognizes creative approaches by archivists, repositories or organizations that have an extraordinary impact on a community through archives programs and outreach.

“I believe this award represents a continued shift within the profession and academia to center and empower Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community,” said Godoy, an associate archivist with the ASU Library. “We still have so much work and advocacy ahead, especially in Arizona, but I think it’s important to highlight the power of BIPOC-queer solidarity, knowledge, safe spaces and community healing.”

A community-centered team approach

The Community-Driven Archives Initiative is the result of a concerted effort to broaden and deepen Arizona State University’s engagement with its communities. Impressed by the initiative's work to increase the documentation of marginalized communities in Arizona, the Society of American Archivists award committee recognized how the team developed this important work from a grant-funded project into regular practice. 

Current and past team members include Godoy; Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections services and analysis; Kenia Menchaca Lozano, archives specialist; Jessica Salow, assistant archivist of Black Collections; Alexander Soto, director of Labriola National American Indian Data Center; and Alana Varner, previously a project archivist of the initiative (Varner is now a project coordinator with the Digital Borderlands Project at the University of Arizona).

"The Community-Driven Archives team centers communities that have been historically marginalized by institutions of higher education, and works toward reparative archival memory-keeping in Arizona, serving as a model for transforming archival practice," McAllister said.

The results of this initiative created additional partnerships with marginalized communities, a greater focus on preserving BIPOC and LGBTQ voices and three permanently funded positions in the archives, including an archivist of Black Collections. 

The Archival Innovator Award follows recognition for the initative from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and ASU President Michael Crow. The initative recently completed a Mellon Foundation grant, Engaging, Educating, and Empowering: Developing Community-Driven Archival Collections.” The evolution of this project can be found in Godoy's recent publication “Community-Driven Archives: Conocimiento, Healing, and Justice” in the Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies. 

Last fall, President Crow recognized the Community-Driven Archives in the Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach (LIFT) Initiative, which aims to accelerate meaningful change at ASU and to contribute to a national agenda for social justice. 

Indigenizing archives

Person wearing a mask and holding a photograph while standing amongst bookshelves

Lourdes Pereira (Hia-Ced O’odham and Yoeme), Labriola Center Student Librarian, courtesy Shalanndra Benally for Turning Points Magazine

The intiative has also empowered ASU Library’s Labriola National American Indian Data Center to adopt and Indigenize Community-Driveng Archives approaches for engagement with tribal communities.

Lourdes Pereira (Hia-Ced O’odham and Yoeme), a student librarian with the Labriola Center, was inspired to become an archivist for her tribal community.  

"Labriola is the sole reason why I became an archivist for my own tribal community, stemming from my exposure to Labriola Community-Driven Archives workshops and meeting Alex Soto and Nancy Godoy,” Pereira said. “Their stories inspired me to take  initiative within my own community and our archive. It has been an absolute honor to work beside them. Their efforts to reach out and travel to tribal communities, connect with the community and not force settlers' ideology of what ‘archives’ are, but what that is to Indigenous communities should be recognized.” 

A new generation of community archivists

From archives toolkits to hosting local events and collaborating with BIPOC and LGBTQ community partners, the initative's work continues to empower marginalized communities through creating safe spaces of learning and engagement. Working with the Community-Driven Archives has been a defining experience for many students, including Myra Khan, who has worked with the archives for over three years. 

“CDA work is about both empowering communities and reforming institutions, and both aspects of our work are crucial in ensuring an equitable future in archives work,” Khan said. “Even though I don't intend on becoming a career archivist, I firmly believe that understanding the often deliberate erasure of minority history across the country has ramifications in politics, law, economics and so much more, and is necessary for all professions, especially those which seek to address social injustices.” 

Building the future of ‘memory-keeping’

As the work of the Community-Driven Archives expands to communities across Arizona and beyond, the team hopes that this will continue to make an impact within the archival profession. 

“The best way for archivists working at universities or other large institutions to get involved with CDA work is to reach out to community organizations and archives,” Khan said. “Share resources, both physical and academic, to help give power back to disenfranchised groups and change their relationship with the same institutions that have excluded them in the past.” 

Godoy will continue to keep building this dream. 

“Within the next five years, CDA will break down more barriers and power structures that lead to erasure and inequities,” Godoy said. “I really want to invest in our future by improving the educational pathway for BIPOC and LGBTQ communities. The future of memory-keeping is creating intergenerational and intersectional archives led by community archivists.”

The Society of American Archivists' Archival Innovator Award was established in 2012. This year, Laura Gottlieb and Robbie Terman are also recipients of the Archival Innovator Award for their work on the Center for Michigan Jewish Heritage.

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