I recently attended a talk at The University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities. It was part of the Institute’s year long programming on Archives & Futures. UM Professor Marie E. Cotera spoke about a digital archives project she helped spearhead in 2009, and has continued to work on, called the Chicana por mi Raza Digital Memory Collection and Archive. Professor Cotera and friend/colleague Linda Garcia Merchant felt moved to begin this project because of the lack of Chicanx and Latinx history being documented/acknowledged in the Civil Rights/Women’s Movement of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. The Collection includes interviews with Chicana activists and a myriad of materials from personal collections of those involved in these movements.
Professor Cotera made some important points about the relationship of power and privilege between scholar/researcher/archivist and the individuals whose histories are being collected. These are important things that as librarians, archivists, and scholars, we should think about when working to collect and preserve histories. Professor Cotera pointed out that many of these women had experiences of feeling betrayed by scholars who used their stories without taking the time or effort to share the results of their research. Personal items of scholarly interest, like papers, newspapers, etc. would be used for research and never returned to their rightful owners. Respecting these women, their rights, and their stories is an imperative part of the Chicana por mi Raza Digital Memory Collection. The digital archive is institutionally affiliated, but also provides open access to the public through the website linked above. Personal items like flyers, papers, pins, etc. were scanned for the digital collection, but then returned to their rightful owners.
The Chicana por mi Raza Digital Memory Collection continues because of the hard work of its founders and those passionate about preserving and presenting stories that may have otherwise been lost to time.