Decolonizing the Archive

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Historypin is excited to share with you our whitepaper Moving Beyond Colonial Models of Digital Memory – Exploring the dynamic role of tribal libraries, archives and museums in bridging community values and digital strategy. A report on building capacity in tribal libraries and cultural heritage organizations so they can identify, seed, and create digital products for their community needs.

Recognizing the problems with asking such a question as outsiders, and the potential of propagating colonial patterns of extraction and trauma, we asked Jennifer Himmelreich (Diné), someone with first hand knowledge and experience in this field, to lead the research. In working with our tribal partners, she very quickly turned the question around to have the research better suit their needs, asking instead, “how can community values inform digital strategy in tribal libraries, archives and museums?”

In 2017, Historypin worked closely with a group of tribal libraries in New Mexico and interviewed a group of cultural heritage professionals in Southern California. This was part of an IMLS Planning Grant: Digital Memory in Rural Tribal Libraries: A Program for Technology Training & Memory Gathering, grant LG-72-16-0113-16.

Through this lens, our long term objective was to take a native-led, human centered design approach to identify how we might create a program for technology training and memory gathering in tribal libraries. Our partners made very clear that we were looking at product solutions too soon, and not taking into account some of the key challenges facing these communities.

We hope this report can further the discussion of the role of tribal archives in an increasingly digital space.