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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Issues in Community Archives Research


Since their rise over half a century ago, community archives have filled in the gaps that mainstream archives have knowingly or unknowingly left, preserving the history of typically marginalized groups on their own terms. But it is only in the past decade or two that scholars have begun seriously contending with community archives, a timeline that perhaps not coincidentally overlaps with the archival profession’s increased focus on its own role in perpetuating power relations and systems of oppression. How has the so-called traditional archival community conceived of its relationship to both power and community archives, and what potential do community archives hold to help the archival field rectify its history of exclusion? Through a review of trends in the current literature on the topic, this paper will explore community archives as an alternative to traditional archival practice. Ultimately, this paper will argue for a reconceptualization of community archives as part of the archival continuum rather than as traditional or mainstream archives’ binary opposite. If archives and archival professionals want to begin to grapple with their legacy of power and exclusion, rethinking how we conceptualize archival working taking place outside of the academy and traditional heritage sector is a promising place to begin.

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