Interdisciplinary Discussions: Archivists and Historians Consider Possibilities of and Challenges to Expanding Women and Gender in the Archives
Coordinating Council for Women in History 5
“Interdisciplinary Discussions: Archivists and Historians Consider Possibilities of and Challenges to Expanding Women and Gender in the Archives”
Co-sponsor: Coordinating Council for Women in History (CCWH)
This panel, organized by Nupur Chadhuri, Sherry Katz, and Mary Elizabeth Perry, had its origins in their edited collection of essays on women’s history methodologies, Contesting Archives: Finding Women in the Sources (University of Illinois Press, 2010). The contributors to that volume explored the problem women’s historians frequently encounter in their archival work: that women’s voices and their texts have been obscured or lost altogether, as women have not, until quite recently, been considered legitimate subjects of history and therefore of archival collection.
The publication of Contesting Archives led to invitations to several major archivist conferences, where we found receptive collaborators eager to expand women and gender documentation and collections in the archives. The idea for a second volume of essays began to take shape: cross-disciplinary conversations among women’s historians and archivists. This proposed panel represents an early stage of that new book project.
This panel crosses the intellectual boundaries that separate archivists and historians in bringing them together to reimagine the archive that has for so long marginalized women. This cross-disciplinary discussion can build bridges within the academy, and offer a site of hope and possibility to further women and gender in the archives, as well as to provide a sobering assessment of the struggles inherent in this project. The panel offers a comparative and transnational conversation among women’s historians and archivists from the United States, Canada, and Europe. Our effort ultimately is to further common ground among historians and archivists interested in women and gender.
Participants in this roundtable will discuss many ways of incorporating diverse women and gender into the archives. Sherry J. Katz (San Francisco State University) will explore the process by which editing Contesting Archives led to a series of cross-disciplinary discussions among women’s historians and archivists. Kelvin L. White (University of Oklahoma) will present findings of a research study on the needs and uses of archival material among historians of women and will discuss how archival practices might be transformed in order to incorporate more sources on women and gender. Catherine Powell (Labor Archives and Research Center, San Francisco State University) will discuss strategies to identify sources relevant to women and gender research within existing labor history collections and to make them visible to researchers. Francisca de Haan (Central European University, Budapest) will examine new oral history initiatives of the independent Alleta Institute for Women’s History in Amsterdam (founded in 1935) to interview former Communist women. Finally, Pat Myers (Royal Alberta Museum) will talk about effective methods to help women overcome their reluctance to donate their historical records to public archives. Many of the panelists will address the prospects and perils of making documents available digitally. Finally, all of our panelists suggest that discussions and collaborations among women’s historians and archivists are central to the project of fully integrating women and gender sources into the archives.