Addressing the Missing Archives: Lessons Learned from a DIY Archiving Project

Authors: Tracy Perkins*, Arizona State University
Topics: Environmental Justice, Cultural and Political Ecology, Applied Geography
Keywords: environmental justice, archives, nuclear waste, environmentalism, indigneous peoples
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 37
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Environmental justice activists have long critiqued the way their concerns have been sidelined within the broader environmental movement - through the methods by which some environmental organizations pursue their goals, the hiring of disproportionately white staff, the disproportionate amounts of funding given to largely white organizations, and the exclusion of people of color in written environmental history. Now, more than thirty years after the beginning of the self-identified environmental justice movement in the 1980s, environmental justice activism risks another form of exclusion, this time in the archives that will inform future writing about these times.

This paper presents lessons learned in a “do-it-yourself” archiving project focused on preserving the history of a 1990s-era anti-nuclear waste campaign in the Mojave Desert’s Ward Valley. The project combines the digitization of privately held archival records and their donation to the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, and the creation of new audio, video and photographic records, and work-in-progress to share these records online. These activities complement the Fort Mojave Tribe’s annual ceremony held at the site of the proposed nuclear-waste dump to commemorate their victory and share information about current threats to the desert. The paper uses this project to reflect broadly on how to maintain and share the vital records of grassroots environmental justice campaigns, ultimately arguing for the necessity of their preservation in formal institutional archives.

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