Archival Science

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 73–93 | Cite as

Imagining transformative spaces: the personal–political sites of community archives

  • Michelle Caswell
  • Joyce Gabiola
  • Jimmy Zavala
  • Gracen Brilmyer
  • Marika Cifor
Original Paper


Although much has been written about formal archival spaces, little scholarship has addressed the physical spaces of community archives. This paper asks: How do community members imagine the physical spaces that steward identity-based community archives? Based on focus groups with more than 54 community archives users at five different community archives sites across Southern California, this paper examines how members of marginalized communities conceive of the physical space inhabited by community archives representing their communities. The sites explored range from a prominent location on a university campus, to storefronts, strip malls, and small cinderblock buildings. Yet across sites, users spoke about community archives spaces as symbolic and affectively moving locations. Many users described their community archives site as a “home-away-from-home,” marked by intergenerational dialog and a profound sense of belonging. For other users, community archives sites were described as “politically generative spaces” which foster dialog and debate about identity, representation, and activism and enable the community to envision its future. And yet, while the very existence of community archives is political, many participants felt that the full political potential of these sites is not yet realized. By listening to the voices of the communities represented and served by community archives, our research both indicates that a shift is warranted in archival metaphors of space and reveals how community archives are personally and politically transformative spaces for the communities they represent and serve.


Community archives Space Identity Politics 



This research was made possible by support from an Institute of Museum and Library Services Early Career Grant RE-31-16-0117-16, as well as support from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies Dean’s Diversity Initiative. The authors would like to thank Thuy Vo Dang, Sharon Sekhon, Michael Okamura, Jen LaBarbera, and Rosa Russ for their help in connecting us with their communities, as well as all of the focus group participants for their time and intellectual contributions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.UCLALos AngelesUSA

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