Archives Month 2021: Activism + Archives

By Amanda Brent, Processing Coordinator, Special Collections Research Center

It hardly needs to be said, but 2020 and 2021 have been landmark years for the United States, and the world at large. Not only did 2020 bring a global pandemic, it also brought forth focused attention on racism, bigotry, and institutional inequality like never before. This led to a groundswell of activism and a fight for intrinsic human rights – particularly those of BIPOC (Black and Indigenous People of Color) communities – that the U.S. has not seen since the 20th century. The activism of thousands of Americans, both past and present, inspired this year’s Virginia Archives Month theme – Activism and Archives.

Marchers, many carrying signs, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Oliver F. Atkins photograph collection, C0036, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

How do archives intersect with activism? Well, not only do archives provide documentation of activists, activism, social movements, and social injustices through the decades, archives and archival collections are also used as tools in modern activism. Examples include: bringing a modern lens to past injustices, gathering information to support modern causes and research, and providing information and documentation to assist with reparations. We’ve included links to projects and news where archives supported these kinds of inspiring and necessary projects.

This year, we welcome you to explore records from Virginia repositories highlighting activism of the past and present on our Flickr page. Free coloring pages can be used in the classroom, both in person or virtually, to teach about activism and protest. We’ve also created some downloadable postcards for you to print off and send to your representatives so you can advocate for the causes you’re passionate about. (Post cards are also available in SCRC on the second floor of Fenwick Library!)

As always, we also have links to archival information and events happening during October. We hope you’ll find some benefit to these resources and share them with colleagues, friends, and family. All of this can be found at https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/archivesmonth/2021/

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