The University Archive is launching a program called Archiving Student Activism at Princeton, University Archivist and Curator of Public Policy Papers Dan Linke said.
According to the Mudd Manuscript Library’s Digital Archivist Jarrett Drake, ASAP is meant to collect and preserve individual and organizational records created by the University students who engage in activism both on and off-campus on a broad range of issues and perspectives.
The collection will take place in Frist Campus Center between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Thursday, and between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at Mudd Library on Friday. Students will be able to drop off their records at these times, Linke said.
According to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections website, archivists will be on site to acquire students’ records directly from any digital devices or paper records.
The University Archives assures the confidentiality of records for up to 20 years.
Drake explained that the idea for the initiative largely came from expressed student interest in 2014. A student had inquired in Dec. 2014 as to whether or not the Archives were documenting the student protests that had been occurring, such as the die-in. Drake said that this inquiry struck a chord with him and that he had then thought about what the Archive could and should do to ensure it captures contemporary student experiences at the University.
He added that an integral piece for finally being able to move forward with the initiative was the hiring of Assistant University Archivist for Technical Services Alexis Antracoli in July, whose very role is conducive to organizing collections like ASAP.
The initiative’s present launch-date, Drake said, is directly related to the timeliness and pertinence of collecting records of student activism in light of recent protests. He explained that once the sit-in was happening and so much content was being produced and distributed around it, the need for a collection of this moment in history as well as others in the University’s past seemed immediate.
“At this time last month, I didn’t think we’d be doing a new initiative,” Drake said. “It was that Thursday morning, I remember I met with Alexis and Dan and said ‘We have to do something.’ ”
Drake explained that, while paper records need only a light source to be readable, digital files are, in many aspects, much more fragile as constant technological innovation may render certain files unreadable if the technology needed to read them becomes outdated or obsolete.
Linke noted that in the 1990s the Archive used to email student organizations asking them to submit their records from the preceding year.
“Obviously that wasn’t a very productive way of collecting things. We didn’t have a high yield,” Linke said.
He said that the Archive wanted to come up with a better way to collect records of the student experience, especially in today’s digital age where most students are making digital records like pictures and videos via smartphones or other devices.
Linke explained that, beyond the current ASAP initiative, the Archive wants to pursue ideas such as making some kind of website or portal where students can submit records that can be added to the Archive’s collections.
“We just feel like we’re at a moment in history, with all that’s happened on campus in the last few weeks, that we need to capture all of this,” Linke said. “Let’s not limit this collection to what has been in the national news, let’s open it to all the groups that are out there. I’m excited to see how this is going to go. I hope we have the problem of too many student groups coming.”
Antracoli noted that, in the historical subject files, there is already a file on student demonstrations going back to 1746.
According to Linke and Antracoli, the presentation of newly collected records from ASAP will still largely be determined by the nature of the records themselves and is impossible to concretely predict.
Antracoli explained that an important decision the Archive will have to make is the name of this collection. Since this collection will be from an array of individuals instead of a single organization, it will likely be grouped by subject instead of becoming a separate collection for a specific organization, he added.
“I think this is a real opportunity for students and stories of students who typically don’t appear in an institutional archive to make sure that their voices are included,” Antracoli said. “We want a full picture of this community and of every student in this community and we want them to feel included in this space and to have their stories and their Princeton experiences documented and told for future generations.”