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“Something that feels like a community”: the role of personal stories in building community-based participatory archives

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Abstract

Our research aims to explore the personal contexts of community-based participatory archive contributors by unveiling the stories behind the objects the contributors donate to the archives. These stories are historical and valuable in intent because they provide rich evidence about and insights into the past from the perspective of the community members. Using the Mass. Memories Road Show as a case study, we analyzed interviews with individuals who contributed photographs that provide a snapshot of their community to the community-based participatory archives. We employed a grounded theory approach to categorize the photographs contributed and identify themes from the memories and sentiments evoked from the stories behind the photographs. The results of this study demonstrate how people perceive and appraise their past life memories and how their surrounding community influences the formation of community-based participatory archives. This study sheds light on how individuals make connections to their communities through their personal objects and stories.
Vol.:(0123456789)
Archival Science (2019) 19:27–49
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10502-019-09302-2
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ORIGINAL PAPER
“Something thatfeels likeacommunity”: therole
ofpersonal stories inbuilding community‑based
participatory archives
AnaRoeschley1 · JeonghyunKim1
Published online: 7 February 2019
© Springer Nature B.V. 2019
Abstract
Our research aims to explore the personal contexts of community-based participa-
tory archive contributors by unveiling the stories behind the objects the contributors
donate to the archives. These stories are historical and valuable in intent because
they provide rich evidence about and insights into the past from the perspective of
the community members. Using the Mass. Memories Road Show as a case study,
we analyzed interviews with individuals who contributed photographs that provide
a snapshot of their community to the community-based participatory archives. We
employed a grounded theory approach to categorize the photographs contributed
and identify themes from the memories and sentiments evoked from the stories
behind the photographs. The results of this study demonstrate how people perceive
and appraise their past life memories and how their surrounding community influ-
ences the formation of community-based participatory archives. This study sheds
light on how individuals make connections to their communities through their per-
sonal objects and stories.
Keywords Community· Community archives· Participatory archives· Memory·
Collective memory· Communities of records· Documentation projects
Introduction
Participatory archives are conceptualized in both interrelated and disparate ways.
As previous works on participatory archives (e.g., Roued-Cunliffe and Copeland
2017) have shown, participatory archives range from independent community-led
* Ana Roeschley
Ana.Roeschley@unt.edu
Jeonghyun Kim
Jeonghyun.Kim@unt.edu
1 University ofNorth Texas, Denton, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
... The artists are able to import their materials and tag them according to their own idiosyncratic taxonomies, establishing ontologies and an interconnection between the various artists, thus expanding the network of connections between them [9]. In this sense, a parallel can be made with participatory archives, insofar as the participants themselves are considered as co-creators, as the archives are created based on collaborations with and for the community [10]. Members of a given community are responsible for much of the archival work itself, from their contribution to the record through assessment, archival organization, description and access, having a greater voice in the construction of the archive and creating their own metadata, while following advice from professional archivists [10]. ...
... In this sense, a parallel can be made with participatory archives, insofar as the participants themselves are considered as co-creators, as the archives are created based on collaborations with and for the community [10]. Members of a given community are responsible for much of the archival work itself, from their contribution to the record through assessment, archival organization, description and access, having a greater voice in the construction of the archive and creating their own metadata, while following advice from professional archivists [10]. Archives more directly engaged with the community fit into the notion of the post-custodial archive. ...
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Most collections conceived in artistic domains, whether in dance, music or theatre, as they are performances and involve heterogeneous sources such as text, image, audio-video recordings, music, scenarios, gesture, movement, among others, are difficult to describe or document in archival contexts (e.g., music theatre). Archiving these works challenges musicologists, as it requires an in-depth knowledge of their collaborative practices, in addition to a study considering an archaeological musicology, being necessary to gather the pieces of the puzzle, since the different elements/materials of the works are dispersed by various sources. Post-custodial forms of archive present some solutions, however it would be important to seek for a common core language and combine archival standards in order to allow the interoperability of information to understand these works from a holistic perspective. In this paper, I seek to broaden discussions about the issues around preserving creations in the field of performing arts in the (digital) archive, giving specific examples in different artistic spheres.
... Individuals can donate parts of their collections to community archives (Roeschley and Kim 2019), which may be managed by national memory institutions or even public libraries (Copeland 2015). Public libraries can also help individuals to manage their collections (Copeland and Barreau 2011) and encourage their involvement in the management of community archives (Hives 1994). ...
... This recordkeeping potential highlights the important role of personal records in creating societal/collective memory as described by McKemmish (1996) and Hobbs (2001). Personal collections are also perceived as rich sources of information for creative purposes of storytelling in various forms (confirming suggestions of Roeschley and Kim [2019] and Feinberg [2011]). ...
... Desmond (2009) presents a participatory archive project, ArtLog, which allows artists to document their personal stories along with the context of their work for a Residential Artist's Centre in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in the U.K. Desmond notes that the archive enriches the understanding of both the artist and the work while simultaneously drawing positive reactions from participants. Roeschley and Kim (2019) research on the Mass. Memories Road Show demonstrate that oral records, or stories, offer added meaning and detailed and holistic descriptions to the collection and the community. ...
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Using the Utah COVID-19 Digital Collection as a case study, this study investigates the nature of the materials collected in a community archive during COVID-19, examining their unique contributions to building public history. The authors collected and analyzed metadata from 812 collection items created between March and June of 2020. Findings show that the local community's active voluntary participation was noteworthy. The local community submitted more than half of all collected materials. Even when submissions from the campus community decreased during summer break, the local community's submissions remained steady, helping to broaden the collection's geographical and topical coverage. The authors conclude by offering their recommendations for COVID-19 community archiving projects and future research directions.
... The participatory framework privileges the power of those connected through ownership or cultural heritage to archival materials so that they may play integral roles in the archiving process as archive designers, researchers, depositors, and users [7,15]. As outlined in Cook as well as in Roeschley and Kim [7,14] participatory archives may, depending on the wishes and needs of the community, be facilitated, and established by institutional archives. ...
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