Is that an archive in your basement...
or are you just hoarding?
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
– Joni Mitchell
Are you an ‘accidental archivist’? Have you been saving the publications and documents produced by the social justice projects you’ve been involved in? Have those materials you collected grown into a daunting accumulation of stuff in your basement, garage, or storage locker? Are you looking for a solution?
Then Connexions would like to hear from you.
Connexions is a Toronto-based project that works to preserve the history of grassroots movements for social change and make it accessible to new generations. According to Connexions co-ordinator Ulli Diemer, “We do it because we believe in the importance of people’s history, keeping alive memories, experiences, successes, failures, and visions” of those who have worked for social justice over the years.
Connexions, an all-volunteer project founded in 1975, is best known for its online library for activists at www.connexions.org, which attracts more than 70,000 users a month.
Behind the scenes, it has also assembled the Connexions Archive, a substantial – and growing – collection of newsletters, magazines, books, leaflets, posters, political buttons and other ‘stuff’.
Connexions is working to find partners, funders, and supporters able to help secure a permanent space for the Connexions Archive and its ongoing work – including the volunteers who need space to work on cataloguing, digitizing, and indexing the materials so they can be made available online.
Archive locally, share globally?
It turns out – so the folks at Connexions have learned – that a number of other people, groups, and small archives are wrestling with similar problems: trying to figure out how to preserve informal archives found in basements and back offices and, just as important, to make them accessible.
Connexions hopes to initiate a discussion and perhaps a working group about the ‘archive problem.’ “Maybe we can work together to find solutions,” says Diemer. “Can we figure out a way to pull together a network of sustainable local grassroots archive projects which collaborate on cataloguing and digitizing materials to make them available via the Internet? Our slogan could be ‘Archive locally, Share globally’“
Anyone who would like to take part in such a discussion and help find a solution to the ‘people’s archive’ problem is invited to call Connexions at 416-964-5735, email peopleshistory [at] connexions.org, or visit www.connexions.org.
If you have a collection of social justice materials in your basement/locker, etc., and would like to participate in an exploration of co-operative archiving and/or searching for shared space, please fill out this form and email it to Connexions.
Anyone who would like to make a donation to the Connexions Archive can do so by using the Donate button on the website, or via mail the address below.
The Case for Grassroots Archives
The Connexions Archive: Securing a future for the past
A Look at the Connexions Library Catalogue
A Glimpse of the Connexions Archive
Selected Archive Projects
Memory as Resistance: Grassroots Archives and the Battle of Memory
Make a Donation
Connexions exists to support individuals and groups working for freedom and social justice. We work to maintain and make available a record of the theory and practice of people struggling against oppression and for social change. We believe that the more we know about the struggles, victories, and defeats of the past, and about those who took part in them, the better we will be to bring a new world into being.
Connexions maintains a physical archive of books and documents (The Connexions Archive), and is engaged in an ongoing project to build and expand an indexed digital archive of documents. We try to feature a wide variety of resources reflecting a diversity of viewpoints and approaches to social change within our overall mandate of support for democracy, civil liberties, freedom of expression, universal human rights, secularism, equality, economic justice, environmental responsibility, and the creation and preservation of community.
We are internationalist in our orientation, but as a Canadian-based project we feature an especially extensive collection of Canadian documents and profiles of Canadian activist organizations.
Statement of Values
We believe .....
1. In the value of preserving the history of grassroots movements for social justice and making it accessible to new generations.
2. In the importance of keeping alive the memories, experiences, strategies, successes, failures, and visions of those who have worked for social justice over the years so future generations can learn from them and be inspired by them.
3. In the tradition of ‘history from below’ –people's history – working to keep alive memories of resistance in the face of a political culture that insists there are no alternatives to the way things are, and that ‘resistance is futile’.
4. In the importance of diversity and pluralism, of recording and making available a wide range of approaches to social change and social justice. We aim, as best we can, to feature resources reflecting a variety of viewpoints and alternative approaches to social justice.
5. In the value of knowing our history, of knowing that people have been working at the grassroots for a better world for many decades and of learning about the problems they faced and how they tried to deal with them.
6. In the value of passing on the experience and knowledge of elders, and of people who have passed on, to the activists of today and tomorrow. These are threads of wisdom and experience that can be woven into the tapestries of our movements for change.
7. In the importance of sharing information as well as preserving it. Our goal is to make the contents of the archive available as widely as possible, in a variety of formats and languages.
8. In connecting people in different places. For people to act locally and think globally, it helps to know what people in other places are facing and how they are trying to bring about change.
9. In the values of democracy, civil liberties, freedom of speech, universal human rights, secularism, equality, economic justice, ecology, and the creation and preservation of community, which we seek to support through the Connexions Archive.
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