Inclusivity in the Archives: Expanding Undergraduate Pedagogies for Diversity and Inclusion

Inclusivity in the Archives: Expanding Undergraduate Pedagogies for Diversity and Inclusion

Amy J. Lueck, Beverlyn Law, Isabella Zhang
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5724-1.ch001
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This chapter uses the experience of two undergraduate students conducting research in their university archives to consider the “hidden curriculum” entailed in archival research at some institutions. When diverse identities and experiences are not represented in our archives, we run the risk of communicating a lack of value for those identities, producing a feeling of marginalization and exclusion for some students and foreclosing an opportunity to build solidarity across difference for others. In light of the limited holdings at many university archives and the increased prevalence of archival research in the undergraduate classroom, the authors draw on research from writing studies, anthropology, archival research, and public memory to produce recommendations for students, faculty, and institutions working to compose inclusive archives and research experiences.
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Archives have the power to privilege and to marginalize. They can be a tool of hegemony; they can be a tool of resistance. They both reflect and constitute power relations … They are the basis for and validation of the stories we tell ourselves, the story-telling narratives that give cohesion and meaning to individuals, groups, and societies. -Schwartz and Cook, 2002

The documents, artifacts and memorials that record and preserve the work of our universities are rich historical and pedagogical resources increasingly valued as a means to teach students about history and memory as well as research, writing, rhetoric, and representation. They provide opportunities to forge a sense of community and shared identity as members of the university. They also perpetuate legacies of colonization, marginalization, and exclusion.

This chapter addresses the experiences of marginalization and exclusion that institutional archives at many of our universities may perpetuate among undergraduate researchers because of the lack of diversity those archives often represent, particularly in relation to Native communities.. It is important that undergraduate students and other communities to whom our universities are responsible see their own lives and experiences reflected in the university’s archives and other sites of memory and preservation across campus in order to break the cycle of oppression in which the U.S. university has participated and invite students into a posture of solidarity with marginalized groups. Increasing our archival holdings is one avenue for pursuing this goal, but the issue leads to other questions of diverse representation and engagement on our campuses as well. The objective of this chapter is to illustrate the “hidden curriculum” of marginalization and exclusion in university archives and to recommend policies and practices to improve archival teaching, learning, and historical engagement on our campuses.



It is well known that U.S. education systems have marginalized Native people in a number of ways, both historically and presently. Most infamous are the Native American boarding schools established in the 1870s, which forcibly removed Native children from their homes and communities in order to enculturate them in Western ways. But the marginalization of Native Americans in education has persisted into the present as well. Native Americans continue to be underrepresented in institutions of higher education, representing only 1.1 percent of the total college and university enrollment in 2006. While Native American enrollment in colleges and universities has doubled since the 1970s, still only twenty-six percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native 18- to 24-year olds were enrolled in colleges or universities in 2006 (NCES, 2008). And Native and indigenous voices and stories continue to be devalued in various ways within schools as well.

For example, the marginalization of Native experiences continues in the curricula of U.S. schools. James Loewen (2008) described some of the issues in his book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, particularly emphasizing the shortcomings in ways high schools teach their students about American history. Loewen (2008) noted that the nature of history textbooks keeps students in states of ignorance because they enforce the concept that history is simply facts to be learned. Therefore, students fail to realize that history is only written by the winners. Additionally, Loewen (2008) pointed out how “textbooks employ a godlike tone, so it never occurs to most students to question them” (p. 9). Because students learn about the past in this way, they assume that the debate has been settled and all that is left is the facts. A combination of these factors leads to the general ignorance regarding Native American history that the typical American holds. With the odds already placed against them, Native Americans are only further marginalized in higher education because they are trying to work against previous misconceptions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Archive: A repository of documents and other materials held by the universities, governments, and other institutions and organizations for the purpose of preservation and future use.

Hegemony: Power or control, particularly cultural or political in nature.

Pedagogy: A theorized teaching practice.

Archival Activism: An archival practice that actively seeks to redress inequity in the archives.

Public Memory: A historical remembrance reflective of values and priorities of groups in the present.

Solidarity: A posture towards difference that recognizes differentials in power and privilege.

Marginalization: A lack of representation or value; to push to margins rather than the center.

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