“History is written by the victor.” So says Winston Churchill and so quote countless high school history teachers before they begin lessons from textbooks written by those aforementioned victors. Most people are satisfied with these histories. They trust them because they see no reason not to.
Archives are envisioned and created to disrupt this complacency. Their purposes are to tell the stories that would otherwise not be told; to fill the gaps and spaces of history where entire cultures and event should be but aren’t. They are ideally created as “sites of institutional change, development, and collaboration,” where discussions are had, curiosity is piqued, and history is rearranged. They are created with the best intentions but even the archives which champion the forgotten and ignored must navigate complex politics of creation, content, and presentation. When perusing archives it is important to consider the unintentional biases of curators (teachers, scholars, artists, etc. ), the limited funding that most of them are dealing with, and the limits or enormity of the information they have complied. Any of these issues have the potential to effect the content of an archive in the end.
Regardless of politics, archives and their curators do serve integral roles in the decolonization and reconceptualization of history. And thanks to advancements in technology that allow for easier access to information and educations that have taught us to think critically about the information we are presented with, a group of us have chosen to question the histories that we have been taught and examine organizations and archives that aim to decolonize the histories of people and places that have otherwise been ignored or forgotten. Acknowledging the faults of history lead to the creation of archives. Acknowledging the faults of archives leads to further research and a continued discussion of these lost histories.
Located above are links to blog entries giving an overview of some of the archives that certain people have dedicated themselves to creating and maintaining in an effort to save and educate the world about lost histories. Please take a look.
To learn more about the complex and powerful community of archives and archivists check out the NYU Workshop in Archival Practices’ blog.