Monday 8 July

Decolonialization & Indigenization in/through Archives for Repatriation, Reparations and Land Reclamation 

Panellists: Jamila Ghaddar, Tonia Sutherland, Maria Montenegro, Etienne Joseph, Itza Carbajal and Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski

Seminar Room 1

10:45 – 12:15

This panel brings together racialized researchers and archivists who have been thinking about and working on decolonization, Indigenization, and anti-racism in archives. The panel is a facilitated conversation that brings feminist, critical race, decolonial and anti-colonial sensibilities to bear on both the symbolic and material consequences of the archives or Archive more broadly on racialized and colonized peoples, and their efforts to dismantle and recover from white supremacist violence. It will connect our theorizing to questions of archives/heritage repatriation, reparations for slavery and its afterlife, facilitation of land reclamation efforts, and the dismantling of the infrastructures of global white supremacy.


Other Places, Other Times: Historical Information Cultures 

Panellists: Gillian Oliver, Fiorella Foscarini, Charles Jeurgens and Zhiying Lian

Seminar Room 5

13:15 – 14:45

The emphasis in current research into information culture has been on understanding contemporary workplaces, from the perspective that identifying the values and attitudes that influence information behaviours will enable the development of culturally appropriate recordkeeping strategies. However, knowledge and understanding of the historical antecedents of these cultural influences is patchy and difficult to synthesise because of geographical specificity. For example, a notable contribution to understanding the historical information culture of the United States is JoAnne Yates’ Control through Communication: The Rise of System in American Management (1993), but the dominance of English language discourse in the international archival science literature does not promote awareness of comparable analysis in other places at other times. Insight into information cultures of the past will enhance our understanding of the present, and contribute to the development of standards that are truly international.  The purpose of this panel is to raise awareness of insight that can be gained from research into historical information cultures. Panellists will describe the characteristics of the information cultures in the 1930s in government in three non Anglophone settings: the Netherlands, China, and Italy. Discussion will include reflections on influences of these cultures on contemporary recordkeeping practice.


Rights in Records 

Panellists: Kathy Carbone, Anne Gilliland, María Montenegro, Frank Golding and Kirsten Thorpe

Seminar Room 1

15:00 – 16:30

Recent archival and recordkeeping research has raised important concerns about how inequities in recordkeeping and digital systems exacerbate the vulnerability and disempowerment of those who are already among the most vulnerable in society. In this panel session, researchers will briefly discuss the relevance of their work in three different areas for the development and application of and key issues in rights in records. This will be followed by an interactive audience discussion about the synergies between these different projects and the potential development of a multifaceted rights in records research and development agenda.

“A Charter of Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping” (Sue McKemmish, Frank Golding, and Kirsten Thorpe) centers on the information and recordkeeping needs of Australian and Indigenous Australian children in out-of-home Care and care leavers. The principles and values supporting the Charter relate to child wellbeing and safety, Indigenous Sovereignty and cultural safety, self-determination linked to archival autonomy and agency, and the best interests of the child. The development of the Charter draws on the perspectives and lived experiences of children in out-of-home-Care, care leavers, Forgotten Australians, Stolen Generations and British Child Migrants, and in the Charter, rights in records and recordkeeping have been identified in relation to lifelong identity, memory, cultural, and accountability rights, and the right to participate in decision-making that impacts lives in the broader context of human rights, social justice and historical justice.

The “Framework for Refugee Rights in Records” (Anne Gilliland and Kathy Carbone) evolved out of the Refugee Rights in Records (R3) Project (UCLA and LUCAS). The Framework advances twenty-nine individual “rights in and to records” developed from an archival literary warrant analysis that surfaced ways records and the recordkeeping purposes, systems and processes that produce and manage them, play under-appreciated roles in securing or denying human and other personal and data rights of internally displaced persons, asylum-seekers, refugees and others who have experienced forced displacement. Warrants nalysed included human rights and data privacy conventions and instruments; professional international guidelines for records relevant to human rights; and media and personal accounts of documentation and recordkeeping challenges faced by refugees. Key issues in the Framework research include the substantial complexities, contingencies, complications and likely contestations involved in pursuing these rights.

(María Montenegro) Current procedures of Federal Recognition—the ‘legal acknowledgement’ of the sovereign and separate political status of tribal nations by the U.S. government—require tribes to document their history, race, culture, and genealogy, and to submit the evidence for review to the Office of Federal Acknowledgement (OFA), where federal agents sit in critical judgment of the petitioning groups’ identity and tribal status. This presentation considers applying the “rights in and to records” framework to the current standards of admissibility and interpretation of evidence of the Federal Recognition system, with special focus on “cultural, self-identity and family rights in records,” such as tribes’ right to have their oral histories and traditional knowledge recognized and legitimized as standalone evidence in Federal Recognition petitioning processes.


Tuesday 9 July

Imagining and Enacting Liberatory Memory Work 

Panellists: Michelle Caswell, Jarrett Drake and Tonia Sutherland

Seminar Room 1

10:30 – 12:00

In a 2014 report for the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Chandre Gould and Verne Harris propose the term “liberatory memory work” to discuss a range of memory practices aimed at preventing recurrence of systemic injustice. Writing in response to a global gathering of memory workers from post-conflict societies, they state, “The aim of liberatory memory work is to release societies from cycles of violence, prejudice, and hatred and instead to create vibrant and conscious societies that strive to achieve a just balance of individual and collective rights.” This panel aims to pick up where Gould and Harris left off, imaging ways to activate archives and archivists in service of building more just presents and futures. The panel will begin with a brief framing of the concept of liberatory memory work, situating it within the initial context of the Mandela Foundation’s initiatives to spark international dialogue among memory workers in post-conflict societies across cultures. Next, the anellists will present their own take on liberatory memory work. Michelle Caswell will address the material, affective, and temporal aspects of liberatory memory work. Speaking from an American context, Caswell will argue that building a liberatory future will require both material reparations for past and ongoing harm to Indigenous and African American communities, and the cultivation of the joy of resistance in the present. Jarrett Drake will consider the extent to which liberatory memory work constitutes one integral ingredient both to the resistance and reparation of state and police violence in the United States. He will argue that the concept of liberatory memory work, which on the surface accords with transitional justice or restorative justice, is best understood in its proximity to transformative justice. By placing liberatory memory work into the sphere of transformative justice, this essay seeks to advance discourse and praxis on prison abolition as well as provide practical ways forward for how communities of survivors, advocates, abolitionists, archivists, and educators within and beyond the United States might proceed to resist and repair harms caused by other forms of state violence. Verne Harris will reflect on South African experiences of mobilising both archive and memory in struggles for justice. He will speak to the 2018 report A Ground of Struggle: Four Decades of Archival Activism in South Africa, for which he was a co-editor, and make the argument that liberatory futures are unimaginable without deep and continuing reckonings with pasts. Tonia Sutherland will discuss ongoing efforts to reckon with Black pasts and Black futures in the Pacific. Centering the multivalent histories of people from the African diaspora in the Hawaiian islands, and looking closely at recent endeavors to make Black lives visible in Hawai’I and the broader Pacific (see, for example, The Pōpolo Project), Sutherland will argue that liberatory memory work often requires complex, nuanced, and difficult historical engagements—that include global as well as local perspectives—to build liberatory futures.

The panellists will then engage in roundtable discussion with each other, addressing the following questions:
*Do archivists have the same or differing roles as other kinds of memory workers—museum workers, librarians, teachers, for example—in building liberatory presents and futures?
*How should archivists engaging in liberatory memory work best deal with the constraints and expectations of their employers and funders?
*What is the relationship between community archives and liberatory memory work? Do community archives replicate dominant oppressive structures or provide a space for reimagining the possibilities of archival work?
*To what extent do we need to transform dominant Western archival theory to reimagine archival work as liberatory?
*How can individuals, communities and institutions contribute meaningfully to the dismantling of oppressive structures of power when they are implicated in them?


Archival Bodies and Embodied Archives 

Panellists: Jamie Lee, Marika Cifor, Tonia Sutherland and Zakiya Collier

Seminar Room 1

13:00 – 14:30

In this panel, presenters reveal the sense-making role that bodies – those human and non-human – play in the production of the archives in and for traditionally under-represented communities. Through active interrogation into archival methodologies and methods, each presentation considers the inter-related existence and becoming of bodies in archives and as part of collected and collective memories. Putting Critical Archival Studies and Black Studies into conversation, one presentation moves toward a radical understanding (and questioning) of the archives’ “inherited dispossession and dispositions.” Another presentation explores the historical archival collections of early trans lives in the Kinsey Institute to suggest that such early pathological records “produce the bounds of what is known and knowable (and) requires due attention in this political moment.” Further presentations work to instantiate the power that circulates within the archives with a closer look at what the body as a framework can do when deployed through multiplicity and complexity and as an intervention into understandings of the universal body. Attending to the archival body and embodied archives can, in turn, support more nuanced archival productions – theoretically, methodologically, and practically.


“The Paper Self”: Participatory, Inclusive Recordkeeping in Out-of-Home Care 

Panellists: Victoria Hoyle, Joanne Evans, Gregory Rolan, Elizabeth Shepherd and Belinda Battley

Seminar Room 1

14:45 – 16:15

The institutional abuse and neglect of children and young people in state and out-of-home care has recently been the subject of national inquiries in Australia (Royal Commission, 2018), New Zealand (RCIHA, 2019) and the United Kingdom (HIA, 2017; IICSA, 2018; SCAI, 2019). The processes of investigation and redress have highlighted the critical importance of records and recordkeeping systems for care-experienced people. The inadequacy, inconsistency and poor quality of records, and the multiple barriers to accessing them, have been exposed and criticised. At the same time the value of records has been acknowledged, not only for judicial and reparative justice but for the individuals and families to whom they relate.

In family settings written records and photographs document significant events and milestones. However, for adults who grew up in out of home care these kinds of archival objects are often missing. Care leavers may have significant gaps in their childhood memories and unanswered questions about their lives. In the absence of family archives many turn to subject access requests to see the records held by local authorities, charities, schools, health services and archival institutions. These organisational records are their personal histories, helping to create and reconstruct narratives about themselves in the past. Research has suggested the critical importance of this life story-making for future life chances and wellbeing.

However, requests to access personal records are often fraught with difficulty. They may be heavily redacted prior to disclosure or lost in confused management systems. Some are authored by abusers; others have been accidentally or purposefully destroyed. Where they do survive they may be fragmentary, contradictory and contrast sharply with a person’s existing memories. They often conceal or obscure as much as they reveal. Care-experienced people report feelings of powerlessness, frustration, anger and trauma in trying to recover their childhoods from these archives, contesting positive discourse about the relationship between records and remembering.

Our panel brings together researchers from Australia, New Zealand and the UK to explore these issues and describe work in progress to design and establish participatory, inclusive frameworks for childhood recordkeeping. Joanne Evans and Gregory Rolan will speak about their work as part of the Archives and Rights of the Child programme at Monash University (Evans, 2017; Rolan 2017), while Victoria Hoyle and Elizabeth Shepherd will outline the findings of MIRRA, the Memory – Identity – Rights in Records – Access project at UCL (Hoyle et al. 2018). Belinda Battley will introduce issues and challenges emerging at the outset of the Royal Commission inquiry into Historic Abuse in New Zealand. These papers will acknowledge the needs and perspectives of multiple actors, with the care-experienced voice at their heart. Drawing on social justice work elsewhere in the archival studies field, our papers will align social care recordkeeping with broader issues of human rights and the rights of the child.


Thursday 11 July

Continuing Presence: Grief Work, Records Work and Acts of Love

Panellists: Jennifer Douglas, Alexandra Alisauskas, Emily Larson and Ted Lee

Seminar Room 1

13:00 – 14:30

This panel presents ongoing research from Douglas’ project “Conceptualizing Recordkeeping as Grief Work: Implications for Archival Theory and Practice.” In the panel, Douglas and her graduate research assistants will:

1. Introduce the conceptual framework that informs the study: The first part of the panel will explain how key concepts from the literature on bereavement (including “grief work,” “continuing bonds,” and “continuing social presence”) can be productively mapped into an archival space.

2. Describe attitudes to recordkeeping discussed in semi-structured interviews conducted with bereaved parents: Using these concepts, we will identify some ways in which records and recordkeeping form an important part of bereaved parents’ grief work; our research suggests that the work of creating, compiling, organizing and preserving records provides parents with an active means of not only perpetuating the memory of their children but also of maintaining a kind of relationship with them. We will discuss how interviewees characterize these relationships and the records work that goes into maintaining them.

3. Explore grief work as records work in different modes in archival case studies: Using the Sylvia Plath collections in the Mortimer Rare Book Room (Smith College) and the Lilly Library (Indiana University), the Lara Gilbert fonds (University of Victoria Archives) and the Hamilton family fonds (University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections) as further examples of records work as grief work, we will continue to explore how personal recordkeeping provides a means of maintaining relationships with the deceased. We will also explore how the transformation of personal records through placement in public archival collections and repositories can play a particular role in continuing the social presence of the deceased.

4. Consider the implications of understanding records work as grief work: Drawing on the interviews and archival research discussed in previous sections, we will explore the ethical implications of understanding recordkeeping as a means of continuing relationships and continuing social presence, and will situate recordkeeping as care work (Caswell & Cifor 2016) and – further – as an act of love.

5. Discuss the impact of doing this type of research: Finally, the panel will address the impact of doing this type of work on the researcher (in this case, ourselves) and – eventually – on the archivist.

The panel will include ample time for questions and discussion. A major aim of the presenters is to gather feedback on the concepts explored and the approaches taken, and to build capacity in developing care work approaches to recordkeeping.


The use of Archives to promote Reconciliation, Transformation and Decolonization 

The Case of South Africa

Panellists: Proscovia Svärd, Nampombe Saurombe and Mpho Ngoepe

Seminar Room 5

14:45 – 16:15

This panel presents three studies that discuss the challenges surrounding the use of archives in post-conflict South Africa. The first study investigates whether the documentation that was generated by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SATRC) is being used to promote reconciliation and an understanding of its work. The South African TRC process was broadly broadcast and it also received much international support. It was referred to as a success story that other post-conflict countries such as: Sierra Leone and Liberia could emulate. Though the SATRC recommended the broad use of its archives research confirms that the documentation has been politicized and it is very hard for an ordinary citizen to access it. The paper therefore discusses the challenges surrounding the SATRC archives. The second study focuses on how archival access to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) records in South Africa can be transformed through the freedom of information legislation to lead to justice, advocacy and reconciliation work relating to apartheid injustices. The author argues that the lack of public access to archives in South Africa has been repeatedly addressed through various fora such as; conferences and seminars, yet it remains a persistent troubling matter. Some archival groups such as the Justice (only individual files), Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Rivonia Trial (only individual files) and others cannot be accessed due to a number of reasons associated with physical, bibliographic and intellectual access. The third study explores the role of archives in the decolonisation of the education curricula in South Africa. The recent nationwide ‘FeesMustFall’ student protests in 2015 and 2016; followed by the 2018 report by the country’s Department of Basic Education’s ministerial task team which recommended History as a compulsory subject in schools from 2023, have pressurised the need to urgently address this matter. The ‘FeesMustFall’ movement called for free quality education and the decolonisation of the university curriculum in South Africa. By the same token, the Department of Basic Education argues that the decolonisation process can be achieved through offering History as a compulsory subject for schools, more importantly that the content of the history curriculum should be Afrocentric and gender sensitive. The term ‘decolonisation’ is a highly contested term that will only be used within the context of this paper. Fundamentally, decolonising the curriculum involves serious interrogation of history. All this would be a difficult proposition in the absence of archives. Surprisingly, little is known about the role of archives in the process of decolonising curricula in South Africa. Perhaps this can be attributed to the lack of awareness about the archives and their significance in South Africa.


Friday 12 July

Assessing the State of Archival Impact 

Panellists: Caitlin Christian- Lamb, Ricardo L. Punzalan, Michelle Caswell and Oraison H. Larmon

Seminar Room 1

10:30 – 12:00

Impact is often at the heart of archival research, teaching, and practice, yet it remains difficult to measure. This is particularly salient when thinking of the ways in which materials related to and sourced from underrepresented communities are collected, cataloged, shared, and made accessible.

The Valuing Our Scans: Understanding the Impacts of Digitized Native American Ethnographic Archives project (VoS), headed up by Dr. Ricardo L. Punzalan at the University of Maryland, examines how the digitization of Native American ethnographic archival materials impacts indigenous communities as well as the wider public. Dr. Punzalan and doctoral student research assistant Caitlin Christian-Lamb will discuss the process of defining and identifying “stories of impact” to better describe impact in terms of digitization and use of Native American archival collections, including the outcomes of a May 2018 advisory summit with researchers (including indigenous community members) who had utilized the J.P. Harrington collection at the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives, as well as the practical application of this research that led to developing survey instruments and interview protocols.

UCLA’s Community Archives Lab explores the ways that independent, identity-based memory organizations document, shape, and provide access to the histories of minoritized communities, with a particular emphasis on understanding their affective, political, and artistic impact. The Lab’s “Assessing the Use of Community Archives” project examines the way Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ community archives in Southern California counter the absence or mis-portrayal (what feminist communication scholars have termed “symbolic annihilation”) of their communities in mainstream media and archives by providing both avenues for autonomous self-representation and politically generative future-oriented spaces for shaping collective memory. In addition to producing scholarship on this topic, the Lab has created a tangible toolkit for community archives to expand their practice, assess their own impact, and leverage their strengths to attract funding and support. The Lab’s Director, Dr. Michelle Caswell, will report on the creation of this toolkit for assessing the affective impact of community archives and present tangible ways that community archives can leverage assessments of their impact for outreach and fundraising.

The Lab’s graduate student researcher, Oraison H. Larmon, will present on the UCLA/Mellon Community Archives Internship Program. This program provides UCLA MLIS students year-long paid internships at community archives sites from across Los Angeles. Larmon will present on the impact of these paid internships for the sites participating in the program. They will report initial findings about the program by presenting qualitative data from participant interviews with site coordinators, while critically assessing the impact of the program on the communities served and represented by the participating archives. Larmon’s presentation will address questions of labor practices, community participation, and representational belonging in community archives.

Panelists will give talks on their respective research topics, followed by a robust discussion amongst presenters and audience on non-traditional methods of assessing impact of archival collections, community-building in relation to archives work, and ethical archival practice in conducting research with and on underrepresented communities.


Archive as Terrarium 

Panellists: Ronald Suresh Roberts, Christian Nerf and Josh Ginsburg

Seminar Room 4

10:30 – 12:00

Our panel interrogates the archive as terrarium: as organic meshwork sustaining fugitive knowledges.

The archetype of the Terrarium presents an infrastructure that, whether open or sealed, capsules as it transports organic contents across implausible distances of time and space, to thrive within hostile environments. Each panellist addresses the plural evolutions and future possibilities of this archetype as generative threats and opportunities.

We intend to convene as a diverse and gender-balanced panel of four to six contributors, each of 10 to 15 minutes. Three panellists are currently confirmed, while two are awaiting-confirmation. We are triply-centred in the West Indies, Liverpool and Southern Africa.

Ronald Suresh Roberts explores frail genesis in the Terrarium, existences afflicted and unfinished, but also always stubbornly undead, as these play out in the fiction and essays of Wilson Harris, the West Indian writer by whom the Amazon is re-explored, not as a banal yet impossibly coercive network for commodity transactions, but instead as a dense and timeless (or temporally multiple) “fabric of imagination.”

Christian Nerf foregrounds the Stafford Beer archive at Liverpool John Moores University, with a special focus on the generative possibilities of repurposing Beer’s Cybernetic, systems-based organisational strategies for artistic practice. Beer’s Viable Systems Model – a viable system is that which is capable of independent existence, which is akin to the notion of a terrarium – thus becomes a convivial tool to investigate how serendipitous output is generated through the freedom of working inside prearranged frameworks .

Josh Ginsberg stages his own spontaneously self-organised and self-organising human memory, staged as the play of play itself, where objects that were remnant or seemed inert retrieve their agency through fresh juxtapositions within a digital archive, making for an inherently ungovernable biopolitics that is summoned up afresh by every observer who comes out to click-and-play. This digital archive of over 40 000 images enables Ginsberg, and others, to activate what Toni Morrison terms ‘rememory’ – the remembering of a memory, including questions about the construction forgetting, which Paul Gilroy terms “agnopolitics”.

If the panel has a guiding spirit it is that of the late Cornelia Vismann, who has shown how technologies that are simple to the point of invisibility (such as the table in a courtroom) fundamentally shape, and hence archive, our lived experiences (such as judicial decisions).

This panel strengthens research and supports academic cohort-building across national borders, and global North-South divides. Presented in Liverpool, it’s centre of gravity tilts decisively towards Southern Africa, with inclusive diasporic inflections. Upon acceptance of their panel proposal, the panellists would intend to launch an AHRC-NWCDTP-cohort, supported by the cohort development funding in principle available to the lead applicant under the NWCDTP scholarship scheme:

Therefore, this panel carries strong prospects for a fertile afterlife, doubly so because our cohort development planning has rich collaborative tapestry across North-South juxtapositions.