Carolina 225

I Was Here. Don’t Forget Me.

"‘I was here; don’t forget me.’ That’s it. That’s the role of archives.”

"‘I was here; don’t forget me.’ That’s it. That’s the role of archives.”

“I went to this conference, and they asked us to put together six words as to why archives matter,” said Chaitra Powell, the African American collections and outreach archivist at the University Libraries’ Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Special Collections Library. “I wish I was this brilliant, but one of my friends, she said ‘I was here; don’t forget me.’ That’s it. That’s the role of archives.”

Powell is one of several archivists at Carolina working to preserve documents essential to understanding the history of the American South. Her role holds the promise of including more diverse voices in archives and of helping communities preserve their rich histories.

Through community-driven archives — which rethink traditional, institution-based archives where an archivist decides what materials contain enough cultural and historical value to bring under the institution’s roof — Powell and her colleagues empower collectives of people to curate their own archives in their own voices.

Already, the Southern Historical Collection has cultivated these kinds of archives in partnership with the Historic Black Towns and Settlements Alliance, a collective of historically black towns in the South, helping members to preserve manuscripts, photographs, oral histories and artifacts in independent, self- sustaining archives.

This is story number 49 in the Carolina Stories 225th Anniversary Edition magazine.

Readers Also Viewed...

Diversity

Challenging Preconceptions

“It clicked for me that Carolina was the place I wanted to be.”

Alumni

For Something That Had Been Denied

In 1951, five African-American law school students desegregated the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Alumni

Against All Odds

Defending black students’ education rights was Julius Chamber’s first landmark case, but certainly not his last.

Diversity

Linking academics, cultures and people

Carolina’s joint degree program is broadening students’ perspectives.

Innovation

Finding An Intellectually Stimulating Environment

"I really liked the process of trying to understand."

Student Support

The Scholar Success

"I liked how going in I would already have a family."