The ArchivesSpace Community: Working to Amplify and Support Antiracism and Inclusion

LYRASIS is the organizational home for five community supported software programs. Recently the ArchivesSpace team sent a message to their community to get a conversation going about meaningful actions ArchivesSpace can undertake to amplify and support efforts around antiracism and inclusion. Christine Di Bella, ArchivesSpace Program Manager, offers some initial thoughts for the broader LYRASIS community about this effort.

Like so many we in the ArchivesSpace program have been wanting to reach out and struggling to find a way to do so that’s meaningful, at a time when violence against people of color and many of the structures that perpetuate it have been especially laid bare. As an open source archival information management system, the ArchivesSpace application is intended to support the good that archives do, but we’re mindful that archives and software applications are not neutral, and are themselves capable of perpetuating structures that harm or silence. We’ve been thinking about the part that ArchivesSpace, as an application and as a community supported program, can and should play in making progress.

Recently we sent a message out to our community in the hopes of moving this discussion forward. We started with some brainstorming among the team for what we consider a running list of ideas, including subsidizing memberships and deployments for some community archives, tribal archives, and grassroots organizations; convening a working group to examine unconscious bias and barriers to entry in the ArchivesSpace application; and working with organizations and groups that help others understand ethical collecting and archival description to identify best practices for using (or not using) ArchivesSpace. Most of all, though, we want to hear from the wider community that uses ArchivesSpace, knowing that the most powerful ideas are going to come from them.

Our next step is to convene the ArchivesSpace community in an open call later this month. We’ve made our running idea list open to anyone who wants to comment or contribute ideas before, during, or after that call. We’re encouraging people to participate however they want, whenever they want. While we’re starting with a period of intense reflection and discussion, we aim to incorporate this work as organically as we can into our ongoing programming and our users’ experience of ArchivesSpace. This is not a project, in the sense of having a beginning and an end. It needs to be fundamental to how we approach everything we do.

As Program Manager, I often tell people that ArchivesSpace is not just one thing, it’s really three: an application, a community, and, most of all, an opportunity. The opportunity to bring people together and help archives confront challenges and solve problems makes what we do truly rewarding. Right now there is an opportunity not just for us, but for all open source and community supported software communities to think about their role in amplifying voices that need to be heard, confronting structures that cause harm, and making our world more inclusive. We’re eager to help move that discussion forward and get to work.

Contact the ArchivesSpace team at ArchivesSpaceHome@lyrasis.org with thoughts and questions.