UVa Scholars’ Lab: Take Back the Archive

How should academic communities come together to preserve and memorialize artifacts of sexual violence? Amidst heightened public concern and activism around campus sexual assault, faculty, students, librarians, and archivists from the Scholars’ Lab at the University of Virginia Library have come together to offer an inspiring and creative answer with Take Back the Archive. This public history project documents and contextualizes the history of rape and sexual violence at UVa.
Archival material ranges from a 2014 article in Rolling Stone to a 1988 program from the National Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s annual conference and meeting. While the archive currently only holds select institutional collections, plans are in the works to include crowd-sourced material. This is what I love most about the project – that it offers a safe space and platform for survivors and allies to browse and share documents, images, artifacts, ephemera, and even personal stories. While we wait to see the fruits of the project’s crowd-sourcing efforts, there is enough material here to inspire adaptation by public historians, feminist scholars, and digital archivists across the country. How is your college or university working to preserve and memorialize its institutional history of sexual violence? The more colleges we see engaging with their histories, the more we can trace local, regional, and national trends. Understanding these patterns may be what it takes to help put a stop to today’s rape culture.

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