May They Reminisce Over You: On The Potential of Archives as Homespace

  • Robin Margolis
Keywords: Community Archives, Archival Activism, Documenting Performance, Memory, Archival Theory


For archives preserving the cultural heritage of artists and marginalized groups, community memories entangle with memories of community displacement . How can we as memory workers promote the potential of our collections to serve as hermeneutic aids in the transmission of cultural and social heritage? This paper weighs the turn toward participatory archives as form of liberation against the liberatory work located within Black Feminist scholar bell hooks conception of “homeplace as a site of resistance,” where “all black people [can] strive to be subjects, not objects.” (hooks, 1999)

To investigate the potential of archives to act as homeplace, this paper explores the author’s design of a proposed community research project of a collection at La MaMa Archives. It argues for transforming the process of digitizing cultural heritage into an opportunity to reshape the collection in accordance with principles of participatory archiving. It theorizes methods of engaging and partnering with Jeannette Bastian’s “community of records” connected to different performances held by La MaMa, taking up the call by Anne Gilliland and Sue McKemmish to “reposition the subjects of records and all others involved or affected by the events documented in them as participatory agents.” (Bastian, 2003; Cox, 2015)

By taking up the call for participatory archives, it advocates for the benefits of the practices of reminiscing and oral history to complement web-driven or more technologically oriented solutions often linked with participatory efforts. Anticipating the needs of the artists and community elders implicated within and involved as co-creators of these records, it integrates aspects of emerging models of continuum informatics and participatory appraisal with the professional practices of oral history and reminiscing work. It examines possibilities for integrating Leisa Gibbons Mediated Recordkeeping model with Jeffrey Dean Webster’s Heuristic Model of Reminiscing.

Author Biography

Robin Margolis
Robin Margolis holds an MLIS specializing in Media Archival Studies from the UCLA Department of Information Studies. He completed his B.A. in Media Studies atPomona College. He approaches archives from a foundation as a teaching artist, community organizer, and filmmaker, aiming to serve social movements both emergent and ongoing. His research interests involve community-based archiving,oral history in the digital age, personal digital archiving, archiving performance,archives as a site for transmission of culture and political memory, and revolutionary arts traditions. He has worked in the film industry and as a union researcher. He currently consults for Oral History Projects at the Academy Foundation.