Housing Our Story: Towards Archival Justice for Black Baltimore

Location: JHU Archives

Dates: 2017-2018

Description: 

Housing Our Story (PIs: Jennifer Kingsley, Shani Mott, N.D.B. Connolly) engages in the practical ethics of building an archive about African-American staff and contract workers at the Johns Hopkins University. Undergraduates participate as student researchers as well as in courses.

Archivists nobly aim to preserve the memory of the world, yet historically archives institutionalize the choices of the powerful. Archivists and their benefactors get to determine what belongs in special collections, where to locate archives, how to organize them, and even what counts as an archival source. Because archivists have their own biases and have to deal with the realities of a given institution’s capacities, their choices ultimately result in silences, silences that, not infrequently, infringe on black people’s ability to form social memory and history. New commitments to diversity and social justice among archivists carry an ethical imperative to fill gaps in collections, but activist collecting brings its own set of ethical concerns centered on preserving the autonomy and agency of community participants. 

Funded by the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

Grant Announcement