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Sunday, August 4 • 1:30pm - 2:30pm
202 - Happy Endings Only, Please! Documenting Community Development in Governmental Archives [Pop-Up]

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Three archivists-in-training will discuss the challenges of appraising a collection of electronic documents from the Texas Department of Agriculture. Specifically, we will be focusing on the Community Development Block Grants and programs targeting the colonias – areas with populations of low-income that sit along the United State-Mexico border. In the state of Texas alone, there are over 2000 of these types of settlements. We will discuss our encounters with the “traces” of the colonias in our collection of the materials (particularly, photos with little identifying information) and will share our experiences of recognizing the archive’s participation in exercising control over the community narratives.

Our involvement in the appraisal of community development grants alerted us to moments of invention in the archives, namely, how governing practices impose narratives about underprivileged populations and how those narratives can be emphasized or erased through archival practices. We will also address the difficulties of appraising an incomplete selection of files and how this affected our ability to fully understand the competing narratives.

We envision this session as including an interactive discussion with the audience, inviting them to share stories of unease and discomfort when making appraisal decisions on conflicting, controversial, and contradictory materials, their memories of encountering archival silences, and their strategies for dealing with it. As aspiring archivists, we are particularly interested in soliciting advice for young archivists still working on crafting their professional identities.

This session will directly address the issues of power, erasure, and marginalization encountered when appraising government documents related to the community development block grants in Texas, especially in the documentation of the southern-border colonias. Our discussion will speak to the double-edge issue of government’s programs aiming to transform poor communities by providing for basic needs (such as housing, water, and basic infrastructure) and those programs’ potential for disrupting the communities’ social fabric, identity strategies, and memory practices. Additionally, we will discuss archivists’ responsibilities of documenting competing narratives and controversial outcomes of the community development iniatives.


Natasha Kovalyova

University of Texas at Austin

Amy Padilla

Graduate Research Assistant, University of Texas at Austin

Haley Latta

University of Texas at Austin

Sunday August 4, 2019 1:30pm - 2:30pm CDT
Grand Salon 8, [Level 4]