I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I want to get opinions from other members of the profession. Do you believe that, if it is possible, it is important/preferable, so hire archivists who represent the community you are documenting? For example, if your collection focusing on…
To me it seems obvious that subject expertise is only beneficial. But especially so in this case because archives and libraries are already so white-dominated and lacking in diversity, that it would just feel like another form of cultural appropriation. Maybe there’s official literature or information to be found with the Archivists of Color group of the SAA or Ethnic Librarians of ALA, or just general feelings about it even on Tumblr. But regarding the “academic distance” comment, I think that’s logic people have used in the past to justify keeping out marginalized people for being too biased, when in reality it’s an asset. It’s also disingenuous to assume some people can just separate part of their identity and be “objective”and others can’t. Here’s another relevant article about intersectionality and librarianship, and a resource about cultural appropriation for those who may not be familiar with it.
I completely agree on all points. I think I mispoke when I discussed the “academic distance” perspective…I don’t agree with it, but I understand that it exists as an argument. Adding to the links you provided (great resources!) the NAAR also has developed the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials as a guide for archivists.
A further question: I think that the conversation has revolved around ethnic and racial identity, which is a HUGE concern (and rightly so) in the field, because libraries and archives are lacking in diversity. Does the same hold true for other communities? For example, if a collection focuses on the history of a specific geographic area, neighborhood, or community, does a history with and involvement in that communtiy help, if is it unnecessary? Also, if we feel that all of this is the same thing and that yes, involvement and identity are always a good thing (which my gut is telling me they are), where does that fall in the matrix of “what we’re looking for” when hiring for positions?