Engage! Educate! Empower! Planting the Seeds for Revising History

We’re creating intergenerational and intersectional safe spaces where individuals, driven by justice and a deep love for themselves and their communities, could use archival knowledge to preserve their history and dismantle the power structure that has dehumanized them.

~Nancy Godoy, Arizona State University Archivist, Chicano/a Research Collection (ASU Library, “Planting the seeds for community archives,” September 19, 2019).

“Engage, Educate and Empower” has become the motto of archivist, Nancy Godoy, as she heads up the Arizona State University Library Chicano/a Research Collection (CRC).

Godoy’s effort to highlight and expand the documentation of marginalized histories is now receiving state-wide as well as national attention. On November 8, 2019, Godoy’s team will receive the Arizona Library Association (AzLA) Outreach Services Award for their community-driven archives work, and the Popular Culture Association’s 2019 First Runner-Up for Best Electronic Research Site, which acknowledged the excellence of the Bj Bud Memorial Archives online exhibit, associated with the largest LGBTQ* archive collection in Arizona.

Within a few years of arriving at ASU, Godoy had created bilingual digital exhibits, such as Crossing the Border, made the Bj Bud LGBTQ* collection available to the public, and created workshops that engage marginalized community members with collecting and preserving their own history. In 2017, with her enthusiasm and dedication leading the way, ASU Libraries received a $450,000 Mellon Grant to support the community-driven collections she saw as a necessary means toward integrating a more comprehensive history into the Arizona archives. So what’s an archive and why do they – and Godoy’s work – matter?

Archives house all sorts of primary documents – letters, posters, recordings, photographs, etc. – from the past that historians, journalists, artists, political organizations, corporations, genealogists, and others use to better understand the past and how it relates to today. A 2012 assessment by the Arizona Archives Matrix exposed that although minority communities constituted 42% of Arizona’s population, their documents made up less than 2% of materials in known archives around the state. Interestingly, ASU holds most of that 2%, which begs the question of whether or not a selective archival record might share the blame for getting history wrong. And of course, it isn’t only Arizona that is missing significant pieces of its historical record.

The Engage, Educate, Empower strategy, along with the bilingual pamphlets, introduce community members to the collections available, also encouraging them to attend Archives and Preservation Workshops as well as what’s known as Scanning and Oral History Days, where they can begin changing the historical record. Current collections feature

  • Arizona arts history, such as the Xico and Movimiento Artistico Del Rio Salado (MARS) Records collections
  • efforts to unionize undocumented farm workers in Arizona, visible in the Gustavo Gutierrez Papers
  • the Alianza Hispano Americana (AHA) and Chicanos Por La Cauza records, organizations dedicated to improving the lives of Mexican Americans.

Godoy’s team co-hosts the free community events in public libraries, bilingual bookstores, and locations associated with wide-ranging but often marginalized communities. In the longer term, this effort will help shift those 2012 statistics as well as the way Arizona history is understood. And this is just the beginning of a larger movement that everyone can participate in.

If you’re in AZ, you can check out the collection and visit a upcoming community event, the information for which is available on the CRC Facebook page. If you’re somewhere else, ask yourself what’s happening in your community to change the face of history? We’d love to hear.

¡Si Se Puede!

Image citation: “Si Se Puede Button, C. 1970s,” Martha Mitten Papers, Arizona State University Libraries: Chicano/a Research Collection. Accessed September 26, 2019 https://asulibraries.omeka.net/items/show/22.