ASU Black Collections symposium reimagines, centers communities in archives

Event on April 20, 22 hopes to 'support and empower Arizona's Black community'


A black and white archival image of a group of pepole standing and sitting posed for the camera

The Dunbar Social and Literary club, Sahauro Yearbook, 1940. LD 179.47 .S3 1972 University Archives, ASU Library.

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A new archival repository within Arizona State University's Community-Driven Archives (CDA) Initiative will host a two-day hybrid symposium on Thursday, April 20, at Hayden Library on the Tempe campus and Saturday, April 22, at Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix. 

The Black Memory and Storytelling Symposium, hosted by ASU Library's Black Collections, brings together ASU faculty, students, archivists and community memory keepers to reimagine 21st-century archives as spaces of inclusion and justice. Registration is now open and interested attendees can view the symposium website to find presentation descriptions and speaker biographies.

“I hope people come away from this symposium with the understanding that storytelling and the ability for folks to share their memories is the future of archiving. Community engagement is critical to the understanding of the work we do within academia,” said Jessica Salow, assistant archivist of Black Collections at the ASU Library. “I want to show communities and academic leaders how institutions like ASU can show up for the Black community and support their preservation efforts.”

Led by Salow and Nancy Godoy, director of the CDA Initiative, the symposium builds upon previous events and investment in Black Collections from the Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach (LIFT) Initiative. Presentations will cover Black history, preserving narratives that document Black life and innovative projects that uplift Black experiences. 

“The most important part of my work right now is providing a platform for Black and African-American people to share their history and stories,” Salow explained. “Within academic programming, we rarely see community outside of our institutions as experts. For this event, we hope to bring together scholars and community members who are credible experts that deserve our attention within academia.”

Carla LynDale Bishop, a filmmaker, documentarian and assistant professor with The Sidney Poitier New American Film School, will be the symposium’s keynote speaker on April 20. Bishop’s work explores the ways emerging technology can bring communities together to promote societal change and connect with new audiences.

Portrait of

Carla LynDale Bishop

“I use archives and emerging technologies in storytelling to make histories come to life. I integrate technology to augment oral histories, archives, books and documentaries, as a way to add a digital component to black history preservation,” Bishop said. “I also use technology to connect with younger generations. Mobile apps, virtual worlds, 3D technology and mixed realities are awesome ways to connect history to communities and are becoming more and more accessible.” 

These exciting trends in technology expand ways that archivists and community members can share stories of underrepresented Black communities in Arizona.

“The beauty in using mixed realities and emerging technology is the ability to recreate what once was,” Bishop added. “New technologies can be used to digitally recreate homes, schools, churches and important meeting spaces in Black communities as a form of digital preservation and memory.” 

“Technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality can bring traditional oral histories alive and bring a community historian into your living room through the use of a mobile app or VR headset,” Bishop said. “These technologies allow you to hear firsthand accounts of community histories. This is especially important for communities that are no longer in physical existence; technology allows us to recreate the neighborhoods and to preserve their histories.” 

The award-winning CDA Initiative’s programs and outreach share and preserve untold stories and history. Under the umbrella of CDA, Black Collections is committed to empowering and centering the lived experiences and knowledge of Black and African-American communities who are breaking cycles of erasure.

“The CDA Initiative seeks to reimagine archives by co-developing and implementing innovative solutions that address inequities and erasure,” Godoy said. “We are deeply committed to centering the voices and needs of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). This symposium represents a cultural shift within ASU Library and a continued promise to support and empower Arizona's Black community.” 

The second day of the symposium takes place April 22 at Burton Barr Central Library in downtown Phoenix. The day features an Archives 101 workshop and “Our Journeys Have a Name: Storytelling as Art, Healing and Justice Workshop” facilitated by poet, filmmaker and performance artist Leilani Clark, who is Santa Clara Pueblo and Diné-Navajo. 

“I want folks to feel connected and understand their place in this world. First and foremost, I want folks to know that our new collection at ASU is the beginning of a rich legacy of Black excellence, and we need to work together to preserve it," Salow said.

Symposium presenters include:

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