Grant Supports Mobile Archive to Document Diversity

A new grant will allow SUNY Cortland Memorial Library’s Archives and Special Collections and the Cortland County Historical Society to partner in documenting the local community.

The goal is to remember the histories of people from marginalized and underserved populations on the campus and throughout greater Cortland.

The $7,000 grant, from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), will fund a project called “The People’s Record: Using a mobile archive to document and preserve Cortland’s diverse stories.”

Memorial Library’s Archives and Special Collections and the Cortland County Historical Society will host a series of pop-up archive sites on and off campus to begin documenting and recording the memories of people from these populations. Community members will have the opportunity to bring in materials for donation or to have those materials scanned into the digital archives and retain ownership of the originals. Materials may include photographs, family histories, scrapbooks or any other type of document.

Pop-up archive events will begin on Tuesday, Feb. 15 in Memorial Library and are scheduled once per month through the spring semester. Individuals may also schedule alternate virtual or private sessions.

Pop-up events for Spring 2022 include:
Tuesday, Feb. 15: Memorial Library, tables near Bookmark Café, 2 to 6 p.m.
Tuesday, March 15: Cortland Free Library, 32 Church St., Cortland, 3 to 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 19: BRU 64, 64 Main St., Cortland, private room, 3 to 7 p.m.

Organizers intend the project to be an inclusive opportunity for all participants to record meaningful conversations, preserve memories and give the community a public voice in the historical record. Stories may relate to family history, occupations, social justice, education or COVID-19, among many possible topics.

The project will be led by Jeremy Pekarek, SUNY Cortland’s archivist and instructional services librarian, and Tabitha Scoville, director of the Cortland County Historical Society. SUNY Cortland history majors MacKenzie Guernsey and Caleb Blaise are working as interns and will receive assistance on interview planning and implementation from Associate Professor Evan Faulkenbury.

Pekarek shared a quote from historian Howard Zinn, which appeared in the Midwestern Archivist in 1977, on the importance of documenting history from marginalized and underserved communities.

“We learn most about the rich, not the poor,” Zinn wrote. “The successful, not the failures; the old, not the young; the politically active, not the politically alienated; men, not women; white, not black; free people rather than prisoners; civilians rather than soldiers; officers, rather than enlisted men.”

Scanned materials and interviews will be preserved through SUNY Cortland’s Digital Commons and New York Heritage, an online portal for learning about the people, places and events that made New York state.

The project is sponsored by the Cortland County Historical Society, SUNY Cortland Memorial Library, South Central Regional Library Council and the university’s Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee (CICC).

For more information, contact Pekarek or Scoville.

Participants are reminded to follow all COVID-19 safety policies on the SUNY Cortland campus, including wearing face coverings at all times while indoors. Details are available on the COVID-19 Safety Information page.

This article appeared in the Bulletin Online Newsletter on 02/08/2022