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A photo of several of the (folded and unfolded) print Illustrated Guides to East Baltimore's Historic American Indian "Reservation" released in 2021, a community documentation and archiving initiative led by Ashley Minner Jones.
The print Illustrated Guide to East Baltimore's Historic American Indian "Reservation" released in 2021, a community documentation and archiving initiative led by Ashley Minner Jones, discussion panelist. Photo by Sean Scheidt.

You’re Invited: Community-driven Archives Online Discussion Event, September 8, 2023

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The online discussion event, Community-driven Archives: Local Needs/Global Practices in Safeguarding Living Cultural Heritage, will be held online on Friday, September 8th, 2023 from 10:30am – 2:30pm U.S. Eastern Time (GMT-4). See the schedule below for the two discrete roundtable discussions.

Update: view the event recording here

Hosted by the American Folklife Center, home to a significant ethnographic archive, Community-driven Archives: Local Needs/Global Practices in Safeguarding Living Cultural Heritage comprises two roundtable discussions, bringing together distinguished scholars and professionals to share and discuss examples of community-guided documentation and archival preservation work, foregrounding issues of ethics and equity, community self-representation and ownership, as well as access, from international perspectives. Guiding questions include: What roles can archives play in uplifting and safeguarding people’s cultural knowledge, living traditions and expressions? And in what ways can cultural documentation, through archival preservation and access processes, be community led?

The event is facilitated with support from the American Folklore Society and the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore. See Schedule and Panelist information below and register here.

Community-driven Archives Rationale

Theorization, scholarship, and on-the-ground practice in the area of community-based, cultural documentation and archival efforts continues to grow, thanks in no small part to the work of the scholars and professionals, and their ideas and efforts, whom this event has been fortunate to convene. Moreover, at the American Folklife Center, there is a long history of helping to support cultural communities and social groups in the documentation of their cultural knowledge, traditions, and expressions, including the archival preservation of related materials, through ethnographic field schools, educational resources, and newer programs that build on this legacy, such as the Center’s Community Collections Grants, among other activities. Similarly, the American Folklore Society brings important support and attention to this topic, as does the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore and its Working Group on Archives.

A black and white photo of the outside of the Inter-Tribal Eat In Carry Out in East Baltimore circa 1989-1991
The Inter-Tribal restaurant at 12 S. Broadway, East Baltimore, ca. 1989-1991, courtesy of the Baltimore American Indian Center.

Nevertheless, discussions on the roles archives and related cultural documentation practices can play – and have already been playing – in supporting communities’ cultural livelihoods remain needed, especially with respect to international dialogue and information exchange. This is certainly true in light of UNESCO’s popular 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which turns twenty this year, and whose anniversary sparked in part the idea for the Community-driven Archives discussions. With over 180 countries signed on to the Convention, global awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage (or living cultural traditions and practices) and its protection has been significantly raised, including in terms of how community involvement in safeguarding efforts can be better fostered. As part of its safeguarding recommendations, largely written for the government representatives and professionals involved with its implementation, the Convention calls for the identification, documentation and ‘inventorying’ of people’s living cultural traditions as very first steps. Indeed, these widespread efforts have produced an immense amount of contemporary cultural documentation (e.g. audio and/or visual recordings, images, and text), perhaps more than ever generated on a global scale. As such, there remains a critical need to ensure the protection, sustainability, and accessibility of this rich material, not only from technical and logistical standpoints, but as guided by source and descendent communities.

Community-driven Archives panelists are invited to share and discuss community-focused documentation and archival initiatives in a range of contexts, and to bring to light theoretical and practical considerations – including challenges and lessons learned – concerning this work. As one step, it is hoped that discussions will help to expand global discourses to include archives and related efforts as equally-significant approaches to the safeguarding of people’s living cultural heritages, and that community-led archival initiatives are supported to meet their needs, in their words and on their terms.

Schedule and Panelist Presentations

The below information is in U.S. Eastern Time (GMT-4). See also panelist bios below.

10:30am: Welcome and introduction to the American Folklife Center (AFC)

This introduction to the AFC will include an overview of the Community Collections Grants Program, as part of the Library of Congress Of the People: Widening the Path initiative, and as an example of national-level institutional support of community self-representation in cultural documentation and archival preservation – including collaborative metadata – processes.

Roundtable 1) 11:00am – 12:30pm: Documenting living traditions and the changing roles of archives: a global view

Moderator: Robert Baron, Goucher College

Fresh Air in Archives – New Directions for Community Engagement, Access and Glocal Interconnections

It’s a new day for archives with folklife collections. An overview of these new directions will introduce topics that may be explored in the presentations and roundtable discussions during this convening. They include co-curation of collections by source communities, access and ethical issues in the digital age, community generated metadata, repatriation, crowd sourced engagement with collections, online interactive platforms and archival issues relating to 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. While the Convention has generated documentation of traditions on a unprecedented, worldwide scale, archiving is glaringly deficient in the implementation of the Convention. Archiving that incorporates community-driven approaches is imperative for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in tandem with its documentation, which possess both local and global (“glocal”) significance and resonance.

Shubha Chaudhuri, Associate Director General (Academic), Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology, American Institute of Indian Studies

Anthony Seeger, Professor Emeritus UCLA and Curator Emeritus Smithsonian Institution

(Co-presenters) Communities and Archives: Trust, Flexibility, and Collaboration

Communities are not homogeneous and archives are not identical. Interest in archiving is usually actively pursued by only some members of a community. Engaging with different ideas about knowledge, heritage, and sound requires trust, flexibility, and often close personal interactions among participants. Using examples from several projects of the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology in New Delhi, India, and an Indigenous community center archiving project of the Kĩsêdjê in Mato Grosso, Brazil, Chaudhuri and Seeger generalize from their experiences to discuss the challenges and rewards of collaborations between community archives and repositories of multiple collections and relationships.

Maryna Chernyavska, Digital Archivist, University of Alberta Archives, Libraries and Museums

Folklife Archives in the Archival Multiverse

This presentation will focus on the role of folklife archives in the preservation of and access to cultural heritage of communities. Folklife archives have been long established as sites for the preservation of traditional cultural expressions. They have a long history of documenting everyday life, local traditions, marginalized groups, women’s and children’s activities and views, and histories that have so often slipped between the cracks. Folklife archives enact cultural sensitivity, scholarly tradition of reflexivity, careful attention to ethics of fieldwork research, and treat the community being studied as primary creators of records. Drawing on examples of archives that are members of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore, I will discuss how different folklife archives are engaging with their constituencies.

Andy Kolovos, Associate Director and Archivist, Vermont Folklife Center

Public Folklore, Collaborative Documentation and Ethnographic Archives

Using Vermont Folklife Center as a case study, this presentation explores the intersections between collaborative ethnographic research, preserving field research materials in archives, and ongoing engagement with individuals, communities and institutions represented in collections.

Q&A Discussion

–30 minute break–

Roundtable 2) 1:00pm – 2:30pm: Community-driven Archives in Action: Approaches and Impacts

Moderator: Michelle Stefano, AFC – brief introduction to roundtable and panelists

Michelle Caswell, Professor, UCLA, Co-Director, UCLA Community Archives Lab

Community Archives and Liberatory Memory Work: The View from Los Angeles

As community-engagement becomes more explicitly named in archival work, it is important to clearly define key terms. Based on more than a decade of work at community archives in California, Caswell will posit some foundational concepts for community-engaged archival work, with a particular emphasis on how community archives intersect with power, identity, and the politics of liberatory memory work. She will conclude with some thoughts on how academic research can ethically engage community archives.

Ashley Minner Jones, Artist, Folklorist, Assistant Curator for History and Culture, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Revisiting the Reservation of East Baltimore

In the mid-twentieth century, thousands of Lumbee and members of other tribal nations migrated to Baltimore City, seeking jobs and a better quality of life. They created a vibrant, urban, intertribal American Indian community and affectionately referred to it as their “reservation.” Today, most Baltimoreans are surprised to learn the reservation ever existed, but this is changing. Ashley Minner Jones will share some of the story of an intergenerational team’s process to reconstruct the reservation and reactivate heritage through oral history, archival research, mapping, walking, and the creation of a new collection.

Junious Brickhouse, Founder and Executive Director, Urban Artistry, Inc.

Harmonizing Heritage: My Time with Two Piedmont Blues Legends and the Codes that Define Us

“Harmonizing Heritage” offers an intimate exploration into the heart of Piedmont Blues, framed by profound experiences with National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellows John Dee Holeman and Phil “Harmonica” Wiggins. This presentation unveils the transformative journey of delving into the rich melodies and stories, while shining a light on moments that resonate profoundly and shape our understanding of learning, caring, and deep collaboration. Central to this narrative is the introduction of the “Collaborators Code,” a set of guiding principles instrumental to successful documentation and archival endeavors. By melding personal anecdotes with the timeless essence of blues music, the discussion underscores the criticality of preserving traditions while also fostering relationships that transcend mere collaboration. Join us in celebrating the intricate dance of history, music, and human connection at the crossroads of heritage and passion.

Patrick Maundu, Kenya Resource Centre for Indigenous Knowledge, National Museums of Kenya – information forthcoming (Dr. Maundu is instrumental in facilitating the ongoing initiative, “Success Story of Promoting Traditional Foods and Safeguarding Traditional Foodways in Kenya,” as recognized by the UNESCO Register of Good Safeguarding Practices of the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.)

Q&A Discussion

Panelist Bios

Robert Baron, a folklorist, is on the faculty of the MA in Cultural Sustainability Program at Goucher College. He has served as director of the Folk Arts Program, Music Program and Museum Program of the New York State Council on the Arts. Baron is Secretary of the ICH NGO Forum, which provides advisory services in the framework of the UNESCO ICH program, co-chair of the Cultural Heritage and Property Working Group of the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore and Vice President of the Fellows of the American Folklore Society. His research interests include heritage studies, public folklore, museum studies and creolization.  He has carried out field research in the Caribbean, US and Japan. Among his publications are Creolization as Cultural Creativity, edited with Ana Cara; Public Folklore, edited with Nick Spitzer and articles in the International Journal of Heritage Studies, Curator, Journal of American Folklore and Journal of Folklore Research. Baron has been a Non-Resident Fellow of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African-American Research at Harvard, a Fulbright Senior Specialist in Finland, the Philippines and Slovenia and Smithsonian Museum Practice Fellow.

Junious L. Brickhouse is an internationally recognized scholar practitioner dedicated to the sustainability of Hip Hop Cultures. As a researcher, folklorist, cultural ambassador, mentor, and logistician, Junious currently serves as Director of Next Level, driving the strategic direction of the program’s cultural diplomacy and global conflict transformation initiatives, activating 30+ years of community engagement in over 60 countries. Junious founded Urban Artistry Inc., inspiring and creating a movement of artists dedicated to the preservation of street dance culture, specifically within communities of practice. As Urban Artistry’s Executive Director, Junious produces projects such as The International Soul Society Festival, The Preservatory and the UA Digital Archives to encourage other artists to research and document tradition bearers and their contributions. Today, Urban Artistry continues to flourish as a model for community-focused arts programming and cultural preservation with international reach. Junious’ daily focus on mentorship is the backbone to his international impact and success. Having the honor of being mentored by two NEA National Heritage Fellows (John Dee Holeman and Phil Wiggins), Junious invests and advises his mentees in sustainability as tradition bearers, and creating accessible pathways to institutional investment within arts communities. Advocating for greater inclusion of Urban Dance and Music Cultures as American Folklife Traditions on a national scale, Junious is an Executive Board Member at The American Folklore Society and serves on the Board of Directors at the National Council for the Traditional Arts. Junious also conducts independent research into those cultural traditions whose influence is reflected in street dance culture. From Ring Shouts and Acoustic Country Blues to Hip Hop and House Music, understanding the nature and meaning of these art forms and their influences, is what motivates this artist. See full bio here.

Michelle Caswell, PhD, (she/her), is a Professor in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) where so co-directs the UCLA Community Archives Lab. In 2008, together with Samip Mallick, Caswell co-founded the South Asian American Digital Archive, an online repository that documents and provides access to the stories of South Asian Americans. She is the author of two books: Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work (Routledge, 2021) and Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory and the Photographic Record in Cambodia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), as well as more than four dozen peer-reviewed articles.

Shubha Chaudhuri has a Ph.D. in Linguistics. She has been with the Archives and Research Centre for Ethnomusicology of the American Institute of Indian Studies since its inception in 1982, and Director since 1985. In the field of audio visual archiving, her major interests have been database applications, research archives and ethnomusicology, issues of Intellectual Property Rights and community archives. Her fieldwork has been in Western Rajasthan, Goa and Kutch. She has served as Vice President of the International Association of Sound and Audio Visual Archives, and was cofounder with Anthony Seeger of the Research Archives Section. She has been active in holding training workshops for archiving and ethnomusicology and served as consultant with the Ford Foundation, WIPO and UNESCO. As a trained facilitator of UNESCO she has been active in Capacity Building workshops for the implementation of UNESCO’s 2003 Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention.

Maryna Chernyavska is the Digital Archivist at the University of Alberta Archives, Canada. Prior to that, she had worked as the Folklore Archivist at the Kule Folklore Centre, University of Alberta for over a decade. Maryna holds a Master of Arts degree in Folklore and a Master of Library and Information Studies, and is currently pursuing an interdisciplinary PhD focusing on unorthodox archiving practices. She is a co-chair of the Working Group on Archives for the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore, and a Bureau member of the Section on University and Research Institution Archives, International Council on Archives. Her research interests focus around community archives, folklife archives, traditional knowledge and memory keeping.

Andy Kolovos is the Associate Director and Archivist of Vermont Folklife where he focuses on collaborative ethnographic research and representation, theory and practice in ethnographic archives, audio field recording, audio preservation and graphic ethnography/ethnographic cartooning. In between all this he also manages the organization’s multi-format ethnographic collection with Associate Archivist, Susan Creighton. He holds a Ph.D. in Folklore and Ethnomusicology and an MLS, both from Indiana University.

Patrick Maundu is an Ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary research fellow at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT. His research experience spans 30 years in Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa. His main interest has been identification, documentation and promotion of African traditional and indigenous foods. He maintains a database on Kenyan and African food plants and recipes. Patrick led a multi-institutional team of researchers in promoting African leafy vegetables (2001-2010) in ten Sub-Saharan African countries. This work saw the return of indigenous vegetables in the Kenyan markets and diets. For these efforts, he was recognized as a guardian of biodiversity in a Global campaign for Diversity for Life and in addition received the 2006 CGIAR Outstanding Award for an innovative and highly effective campaign to promote the consumption of micronutrient-rich African leafy vegetables in Sub-Saharan Africa.

His work led to the decision by UNESCO’s sixteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage to place “Kenya’s Success Story of Promoting Traditional Foodways” on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. He is author or co-author of a number of books including: Indigenous Food Plants of Kenya (1999); Useful Trees and Shrubs of Kenya (2005); Useful Trees and Shrubs of Ethiopia (2007) and Traditional Foodways of the Pokot and Isukha communities of Kenya (2013). He is currently working with others on a Traditional Foodways book series of various African communities (Mijikenda, Maasai, Dagara (Burkina Faso), Gumuz (Ethiopia)), and developing a protocol for foodways documentation.

Ashley Minner Jones is a community-based visual artist, curator, and folklorist from Baltimore, Maryland, where she has lived on the same block her entire life. Her interdisciplinary practice is deeply rooted in place—usually within the context of the U.S. South—and is focused on honoring and celebrating everyday people by lifting up their stories. Ashley is an enrolled member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina. She earned an MFA in Community Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art and a PhD in American Studies from University of Maryland College Park. As an artist, she has exhibited widely and her work is represented in many collections. Her research is being archived as “the Ashley Minner Collection” in the Albin O. Kuhn Library of the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her most recent project is a reconstruction of East Baltimore’s historic American Indian “reservation.” A monograph on the same is forthcoming. Ashley currently works as Assistant Curator for History and Culture at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.

Anthony Seeger is an anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, audiovisual archivist, record producer, and musician.  He has taught at the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro (1975-1982), the Brazilian Conservatory of Music (1980-1982), Indiana University (1982-1988), and UCLA (2000-2013). He served as director of the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music (1982-1988) and was the founding curator and director of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (1988-2000). He holds emeritus appointments from UCLA and the Smithsonian Institution.  His three books, four co-edited volumes, and over 150 articles and book chapters have focused on the music of Indigenous peoples of Lowland South America, audiovisual archiving, music ownership, cultural rights, applied ethnomusicology and other topics. He is a past President (1997-1999) and Secretary General (2001-2005) of the International Council for Traditional Music, a past president of the Society for Ethnomusicology, co-founder of the Research Archives Section of the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives (IASA), and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

We hope you can participate in what will undoubtedly be fruitful discussions, so register here! And bookmark this page, as it will be updated and serve as the event program. Special thanks to event co-organizer Robert Baron, and for their support, the American Folklore Society and the International Society for Ethnology and Folklore. Update: the event recording is now available on the Library’s website, and on the Library’s YouTube channel.

Harmonizing Heritage with panelist Junious Brickhouse (right, photo by Michael G. Stewart) with photos of John Dee Holeman (left, by Michael G. Stewart) and Phil Wiggins (middle, by Roman Gabriel).


  1. This looks exciting!

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