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Grassroots Archives: Preservation as subversion?

October 8, 2012

Ulli Diemer of Connexions, a social justice library and archive – – discusses problems facing grassroots archives at a talk sponsored by the Humanist Association of Toronto (HAT) on Saturday October 13.

Our society has little interest in the past or the future: it lives in the here-and-now: a constant whirl of unchanging change. The future – grim and hot – is best ignored. The past, except when packaged into marketable heritage attractions, is of scant interest.

Yet the past is part of the present. Choices made in the past brought us where we are today, and continue push us in particular directions. Knowing that those choices were the outcome of often-fierce conflicts between competing interests and alternative visions helps remind us that the future too is being shaped by similar conflicts and choices.

Historical memory is potentially subversive because it tells us that no form of society is permanent, and no economic system is inevitable. By reminding us that there are alternatives, it reminds us that we can choose our future.

One way people actively resist the ideology of inevitability is by preserving memories and histories of past struggles. Some groups and individuals have done this is by collecting grassroots archives ? more or less informal collections of documents and materials produced by citizen activists in the course of trying to shape a future based on justice, cooperation, and freedom.

These grassroots archives face problems of surviving, and finding ways sharing the accumulated history in their collections. Questions of where and how to keep small 'basement archives' and 'backroom archives,' and how to make them available digitally, confront the keepers of these archives.

Ulli Diemer shares some thoughts and questions about the future of the progressive past at this HAT event.

When: Saturday October 13, 2012; 1:30 pm
Where: OISE, Room 5-230, 252 Bloor St West, Toronto
(near St George subway station, Bedford Rd exit, between St George St and Bedford Rd)

For more information:
Humanist Association of Toronto
Connexions Website:

Is that an archive in your basement... or are you just hoarding?
The Connexions Archive: Securing a future for the past
About Connexions
A Glimpse of the Connexions Archive

Click here to view Connexions’ Sources Listing:

Connexions Information Sharing Services


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