Interview with the Editor: Hannah Crummé on Inclusive Strategies in Practice

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

February 13, 2024

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Hannah Crummé, the editor of Building Representative Community Archives: Inclusive Strategies in Practice published by the American Library Association.

Lauren Hays: Please introduce yourself to our readers.

Hannah Crummé: My name is Hannah Crummé and I am the Head of Special Collections and College Archivist at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

LH: Briefly summarize Building Representative Community Archives.

HC: The book is a compilation of chapters written by various authors and it examines continuing efforts in archives across the U.S. to build inclusive records that better represent the disparate histories of this country.

The chapters detail projects the authors have undertaken to compile the histories that their collections elucidate. The book mostly consists of projects in university libraries, but there are several public libraries and public historical societies represented as well.

Overall, the book is an opportunity for people to get together, think about the projects they have worked on and share what has worked and what has not worked so that we can all improve our approach to this type of project.

LH: Why did you decide to write this book?

HC: The special collections staff and archivists at Lewis and Clark College Library had undertaken a project to compile the history that our archive honored. Specifically, we have been working to build an archive of the Vietnamese American experience in Portland for about 6 years now. In doing that work, we had made a number of errors.

I always thought it was quite fruitful to talk through the errors with others. I particularly found it helpful to discuss the project and errors with people from the Vietnamese community in Portland who could help us re-calibrate the project to what the community needed. It is also helpful to talk to other librarians who are doing similar types of work, because those conversations have been so fruitful for me. Therefore, I wanted to gather that kind of experience into a book.

LH: How can librarians benefit from the information in the book?

HC: I think the chapters in this book do a particularly good job speaking about false starts, errors, or corrections that can be made. A lot of librarians are doing this type of work to reassess and think more critically about what constitutes history.

It can be hard and uncomfortable to talk about where you’re going or where you have gone wrong. Yet, that is really the most fruitful thing to think about, especially as this work is in its infancy. The type of historical approach taken in the past has its origins in the Roman Empire. We are relatively new in thinking about how to go back and reconstitute and reconstruct histories that we have ignored.

Thinking about refining our approach to these types of projects is an important part of the process. The chapters in this book do that well.

LH: What are two things you hope all readers take away?

HC: I hope this book continues the conversation around reassessing how we have approached holdings in archives and documenting the human experience. The traditional narratives of history are too limited.

I also hope the book grounds us, in a sense that we are also participating in a type of documentation that is imperfect and in need of further refinement. There is a tendency to think of ourselves at the endpoint of history. Whereas really, we are just fumbling along as everyone always has. It is great that we are thinking critically and trying to advance, but subsequent librarians will reassess what we have done, and have critiques themselves. I hope the book also inculcates readers with a certain amount of intellectual modesty about the projects they are undertaking.

LH: What actions do you hope readers will take away from reading the book?

HC: The book serves to inspire brainstorming for the types of projects you can undertake to start collecting the histories of the communities that surround you.
Our library [at Lewis and Clark College] is working on Vietnamese histories and Vietnamese American histories in Portland, but there are a lot of groups that have impacted our city and our college that we don’t have time to document right now.
Therefore, I hope people keep undertaking this kind of project. It is important for people to keep collecting community archives and thinking critically about what constitutes a community.

LH: Is there anything else you would like to share?

HC: I am very grateful to my team at Lewis and Clark and to the contributors to the volume. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with everyone.

Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays

Dr. Lauren Hays is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter and interviewer on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. Take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus, used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.

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