Exploring challenges for digitally archiving Black history in the UK
Digital archives have a poor track record on centring marginalised communities in their design. Through connecting with a wide range of organisations, collections and groups across the UK we worked to develop a clear picture of the current landscape and problems faced. Multitudes worked with community archivists and artists to explore where materials on Black history are stored, the challenges to accessing these materials and the opportunities for developing community-based archiving resources.
The R&D allowed us to test the aims of community tech: using a collaborative approach, prioritising mutual learning, action, investigation and listening, to centre community knowledge for greater self determination and power over our shared digital voices.
Mapping and surveying
To get a better sense of the challenges faced by communities accessing digital archives, it seemed necessary to first investigate where collections were and what was contained within them.
This investigation in turn highlighted some of the structural issues within local authority archives; the most pressing work for local authority archives regarding Black histories were not usually the same as it is for Black communities. As the archival sector is generally under resourced there is a wide range of ways that systems and access are skewed away from the needs of local Black communities.
The Oral Tradition podcast was an organic production that provided a vital opportunity to fold in community voices and provide much needed colour to the historical issues facing archives that hold material on Black histories. As a tool for community engagement its aim was to increase digital participation, preserve communities’ stories, and engage wider audiences in Black histories.
By the end of the three-month phase participant facilitators mutually agreed a direction for moving forward, which involves moving away from an institutional focus and developing infrastructure for local community groups to better help them develop and disseminate digital black history archives in accessible and sustainable ways, whereby the needs of the community as it relates to their history are placed at the centre of design decisions and participation in caring for and contributing to these archives is increased.
COLLABORATE WITH US
Are you a community technologist from an excluded community and interested in developing resources to support local community groups? We’re building a network of community tech stewards and would love to hear from you. Reach out and say hi: email@example.com