The Nomadic Archivists Project (NAP) is an initiative that partners with organizations, institutions, and individuals to establish, preserve, and enhance collections that explore the global Black experience.
Our central objective is to archive local histories from a grassroots perspective. NAP does not subscribe to the philosophy that curation and archiving should stem from the mission of traditional repositories. We believe in flexibility and the freedom to choose the path to archiving one's creative endeavors, political advocacy, family, and history. NAP believes in equitable partnerships that arise from the needs of the community. We are dedicated to developing archival literacy in audiences unfamiliar with the process of identifying, collecting, and preserving cultural heritage.
For inquiries about archival projects, keynote addresses, speaking engagements, seminars, and workshops, please contact us.
I began thinking about family, legacy, culture, and history from an early age. I grew up with a genealogist in an era where tracing your roots and finding your ancestors were becoming a growing interest both in the Black community and in my family. I spent years talking with and recording my family members, trying to recreate the story of my grandmother, Fannie Pearl. And then, the research and documentation quietly moved into my archives, where it has stayed for decades. Not because it became unimportant, but because there is pain and grief in remembering and retelling. In Black families, we feel it profoundly.
This interest, however, put me squarely on my path to becoming an archivist. It foregrounded my thinking in the significance and consequence of preserving and holding memory. It taught me that when it comes to stewarding Black history and culture, it has to be an ever-present and extremely active movement because there is an active movement against it. I heard Sapphire recently say, “silence will not help African Americans; to silence their telling is a part of erasure.” I co-founded NAP because I believe this work is our portal to the future and our endurance.
Along with being the co-founder of the Nomadic Archivists Project, I am the Director of the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation (RBSCP) at the University of Rochester. Before becoming the department head, I was the Special Collections Archivist for Discovery and Access and Curator of modern literature and publishers, human rights and social justice, and local LGBTQ history and culture.
During my career in this field, I have worked in the Manuscripts, Archives, and Rare Books Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York Public Library), the Department of Semitic and Egyptian Languages and Literature, and its Institute of Christian Oriental Research (ICOR) at Catholic University, the African and Middle Eastern Division at the Library of Congress, and the Warren M. Robbins Library at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.
Steven G. Fullwood
Archivist, Filmmaker, and
I live to document the history of people of African descent. It’s a privilege to do so for many good reasons: primarily, doing so allows me to pay the appropriate respect to people of African descent in Africa, as well as in the African diaspora.
My good fortune began early with my mother and grade school teachers who nurtured my interests. After obtaining my BA in Communications and Writing, I became a children’s librarian in Toledo's black community, where I was born and raised. The job required me to think broadly about the needs of African-American children and to help their parents augment their children’s education through books, film festivals, and other Black-focused programs. After three years, I entered Clark Atlanta University’s School of Library and Information Studies to learn the theory behind the practice. In 1997, Masters in hand, I moved to New York to work as an archivist at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library. My work as an archivist and curator for over 19 years at the Schomburg Center brought me closer to my dream as a culture keeper.
My mentors, Ms. Diana Lachatanere, retired curator of the Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division and the assistant director of Collections and Services, and Dr. Howard Dodson, former director of The Schomburg Center, instilled in my skills and a critical vision for the advocation for the preservation of global black culture. It was through their mentorship I founded the In the Life Archive, an archival project to collect and preserve materials created by and about LGBTQ people of African descent, the largest archive currently in existence.
I’ve spent much of my adult life working in creating or saving cultural work created by and about people of African descent. This is my social justice work: to assist in leaving a record for generations to find, discover, and be inspired by. If we don’t know the story, we can’t build on it. To this end, I’ve worked alongside artists, archivists, librarians, program directors, and writers for the better part of 30 years to build archival collections that speak about black lives in the evidence. That is, who and what we are, what we tried to do, and what we expect of future generations building on the rarely told accomplishments of their ancestors; and moving forward with the courage, heart, and imagination to be better?
I am currently at work on my first film short, Timothy, or Timothy to the Future. This vérité-styled documentary follows Timothy DuWhite, a 27-year-old black, gay, HIV + poet as he rehearses his first one-man show, Neptune, a story about where the unloved go to find love.
My published works include Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam's Call (co-edited by Charles Stephens), 2014,
To Be Left with the Body, (co-edited by Cheryl Clarke), 2008, and Carry the Word: A Bibliography of Black LGBTQ Books (co-edited by Lisa C. Moore), 2007.
Over the course of my career, my work has been recognized by The New York Times (NYT Librarian Award in 2005), and the New York Public Library (Bertha & Franklin Feder Award for Outstanding Service in Librarianship in 2010.) The most important acknowledgment about my work, however, has been from the black community.