Head, Digital Programs and Services, Libraries
Louisiana State University
Our digital collections can reinforce legacies of racism in our institutions or actively work against them. When selecting material in archives and special collections for digitization, we can work with these legacies or against them. As race scholar and National Book Award winner Ibram X. Kendi recently wrote, “All policies, ideas and people are either being racist or antiracist. Racist policies yield racial inequity; antiracist policies yield racial equity.” For those us of working in the field of digital cultural history records, we choose what is digitized and thus what narratives to promote, what history to highlight, and what legacies to further. Louisiana State University (LSU) Libraries is in the midst of creating new digitization prioritization policies, and to inform our decisions, we’re looking closely at our legacy of racist and exclusionary practices. As a collecting repository at a historically white university in the South, racism has infused all aspects of the collections we have and the policies of access we’ve developed. We are framing our digitization priorities to ameliorate some of these conditions by focusing on (1) collections that contain unrepresented communities, but have neglected to properly describe these communities, and (2) reviewing internal documents to identify collections previously restricted from “non-preferred” researchers. These efforts are in their early phase, and we still have much to learn.
This talk will describe efforts at LSU, explore recent scholarship in antiracism and how local contexts are integral in forming anti-racist digitization selection plans and increased community involvement, and will include opportunities for others to describe what they are doing in this regard at their institutions.