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Special Collections History

In 1998, University Archives and Special Collectioms began a two-year project to identify, locate, secure, and make accessible the most important and at-risk historical records of Boston's African American, Asian American, LGBTQ, and Latino communities. This project followed the “documentation strategy” principles and guidelines laid out by Helen Samuels, Larry Hackman, Richard Cox, and others whose intent was to chart a new path for acquisitions and donor relations in Archives. The concept originated in the 1970s as “efforts by some archivists to grapple with documenting social movements, minority issues, popular concerns, and other topics that were not well-represented in most archival and historical records repositories.” Key to documentation strategies are their use of non-archival expert community “advisors” to identify collections, reach out to potential donors, and appraise the collections for acquisition. Part of the long history of conversations around social justice and equity in archival and library literature outlined in Caswell and Punzalan’s “Critical Directions for Archival Approaches to Social Justice," documentation strategies emphasized deep listening and community understanding.

Because of this long-term commitment to community partnership, network building, and earning trust, UASC’s activities are rooted in community understanding and the Archives are woven into the fabric of Boston’s neighborhoods and community groups.

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