n.documentation of a group of people that share common interests, and social, cultural and historical heritage, usually created by members of the group being documented and maintained outside of traditional archivesBarr 1942, 588Libraries as Community Archives in Wartime [title].Darby 1999, 17Don Yoder argued in his “folklife manifesto” of 1963 that the folk-cultural approach to history could “revitalize, even revolutionize” community archives, local history centers, and museums by connecting people to history through recognizable remnants in folk culture and the lives of everyday people.National Archives 2004, 20If we also accept that community archives encompass heritage groups, then it is instructive that of the digital community archives groups in Yorkshire (championed most successfully by Commanet), only a handful are currently mentioned in a List of Family and Local History Societies in Yorkshire. Certainly a definition of community archives needs to be broad enough to cover the activities of these respective types of organisations. ¶ Equally there needs to be consideration of the potential relationship between community and official archives and how that has a bearing on the terms of any definition. For example, at the CAAP Creativity Sessions, the way in which community archives give a richness and context to official records was discussed in response to the question of how community archives illuminate official archives. A further point made about the use of the term community ‘archives’ was that, as far as the communities themselves were concerned, there was little distinction made between the domains, and that community archives encompass archives, museums and libraries.Flinn 2007, 153Community histories or community archives are the grassroots activities of documenting, recording and exploring community heritage in which community participation, control and ownership of the project is essential. This activity might or might not happen in association with formal heritage organisations but the impetus and direction should come from within the community itself.Flinn and Stevens 2009, 5‘Independent archives’ or the qualified form ‘independent community archives’ might be a more appropriate nomenclature; however, we use ‘community archives’ in this context as a term which is already widely used and generally understood. The emphasis is on the community or group’s own self-definition and self-identification by locality, ethnicity, faith, sexuality, occupation, ideology, shared interest or any combination of the above.Flinn, Stevens, and Shepherd 2009, 73The defining characteristic of a community archives is the active participation of the community in documenting and making accessible the history of their particular group and/or locality on their own terms.Caswell 2014, 307This article proposes a theoretical framework for managing records documenting human rights abuse based on five key principles learned from community archives discourses: participation, shared stewardship, multiplicity, archival activism, and reflexivity. In shifting the focus of human rights archives to these core community-centric values, this paper proposes a survivor-centered approach to such records and argues that survivors should maintain control over the decision-making processes related to records documenting their abuse.Gilliland 2014a, 19However, community archives, variously conceived of or referred to today as community-led, -centric, or -based archives; DIY (do-it-yourself), grassroots, oppositional, participatory, or independent archives; and archives from-the-bottom-up, are no longer a phenomenon predominantly of countries with a significant colonial, immigrant, slavery, refugee, or labor history or with a tradition of independent or private archives. They are increasingly emerging around the globe in physical, digital, and hybrid forms due, in part, to a compelling contemporary mix of political, professional, and technological factors that go far beyond these earlier forms of community heritage and documentary efforts.Duranti and Franks 2015, 145Despite growing international usage, the term community archives has not been precisely defined or even deemed capable of precise definition. In some countries the term is used mainly to describe local, geographically located communities and archives, elsewhere instead of or in addition to place, the term refers to communities self-identifying by race, ethnicity, faith, nationality, gender, sexuality, disability, class, occupation, shared interest, or a combination of the above.McCracken 2015, 182Community archives generally rely on participation from their founding communities at all levels of archival work including acquisition, description, outreach, collection preservation, and oversight of the archives. Additionally, many community archives are born out of political activism and a desire for marginalized groups to see themselves in the historical record. The establishment of community archives is often rooted in the desire to rewrite dominant narratives and stories about a collective past.Bastian 2016, 8–9Although the term “community archives” entered the archival vocabulary several decades ago, its definition remains vague and ambiguous. A “community archives” usually refers to materials generated by not-for-profit and non-governmental entities, often a particular group or community sharing common interests, whether origins, geography, ethnicities, lifestyles or other factors. Community archives are often independent grassroots organizations primarily run by volunteers.Bastian and Flinn 2020, xxThe term ‘community archives’ itself as a specific designation came into general use in the twentieth century to characterise a non-traditional archival collection specifically tied to a particular group, often one that may be undocumented or under-documented by traditional archival institutions.
Community archives can be self-defined or self-identified, such as in cases of human rights abuse, and can be initiated by an individual or group without professional oversight or sponsorship by institutional archives. American use is often related to a particular geographic area.