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Alumni Lecture

March 26 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

“They are the text/while you’re a footnote or [in] a margin*:” Thinking about what and whom Archivists Save.

We are told that archivists (in the United States) do not, in general, provide monetary appraisals for donors, as best practice. It is a refrain spoken in library schools and posted on the websites of archival institutions.

Last year, a student in one of my classes pushed back on this point, asking me to consider how archival appraisal is inherently tied to economic valuation. This allowed me to see what had been there all the while. Are we pretending not to see the financial ramifications, sometimes down the line, sometimes more immediate, when an archivist (or someone in archivist’s clothing) declares that materials have historic, research, artefactual, and or informational value? How do we not make connections to the “pay out” culturally, politically, and yes, financially that this offers individuals and entire communities?

Taking this idea as a starting point and taking into consideration this raw time in which we find ourselves, this talk will work to start a conversation about the ramifications of the field of archives and libraries in “the real world,” and in the values attributed (or not) to people’s material records, memories, and lives. It will also address the courage it takes to document what the world says is insignificant or chooses to discount. It takes its examples from experiences in African-America and from the region called “the Middle East.” This talk is dedicated to the memory of the late Dr. Barbara Moran.

*From the poem, “In Jerusalem” by Tamim Al-Barghouti


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About the Speaker

Dr. Sumayya Ahmed was recently appointed the Executive Director of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium at the University of Chicago. Prior to this appointment, she taught as an Assistant Professor at the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science. Her research focus is on documentary heritage, societal provenance, archival history and the politics of cultural heritage preservation in North Africa, the region called the Middle East, and African-America.

Sumayya earned her PhD in Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2016 where she held the ELIME-21 grant and was the co-editor of the 2016 De Gruyter volume, Library and Information Science in the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, she is the co-editor for the Routledge Studies in Archives Series.


March 26
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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