The Evidence: an introduction
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
by Miranda Mims
The Nomadic Archivist Project is producing an anthology called The Evidence: Black Archivists Holding Memory. The global Black archival experience is complex and converges over time, space, and memory. NAP acknowledges and affirms archiving our stories as a cultural and political act. Archivists rarely share their experiences as archivists. The Evidence is a platform to tell these unique and powerful stories within the context of the Black archival tradition.
The Evidence is inspired by the legacy of countless people, like Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, to whom the anthology title is in homage. His legacy was to collect "the evidence." To reclaim the power that every day attempts to strip down our importance, undermine our contributions, and erase our existence from the historical record. As a bibliophile, Schomburg knew the importance of collecting and protecting the evidence that the global Black world is fierce. Through the building of his library and through the act of institutionalizing it, he reached into the future, and my archival journey was born. My time spent archiving at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture taught me many things. Every act matters. We need to keep bringing the past into the future, in the wake of past pioneering archivists, curators, librarians, and scholars such as Regina Anderson Andrews, Brenda Banks, Abdel Kader Haidara, Jean Blackwell Hutson, Alexander Gumby, Sara Dunlap Jackson, Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Dorothy Porter, Marion Stokes, and many others who left an indelible mark on archiving the global Black experience.
I spent years at the Schomburg trying to understand Arturo as a bibliophile; what stories was he most concerned with preserving, and why? From that inquiry, I began a project to reconstruct his library. I was not alone in this endeavor and I am grateful that it is still underway. If you are interested in knowing more about this project, check out the latest issue of the African American Review [vol. 54, no. 1 and 2, Spring/Summer 2021]. The journal features “Library Archaeology: Reconstructing a Catalog of the Arthur A. Schomburg Book and Pamphlet Collection,” an article I co-authored with Laura E. Helton, Alice Adamczyk, and Matthew J. Murphy.
The Evidence...what does it mean to you?