Mission Statement (2nd draft)

The United States Chapter of Archivists without Borders (AwB-United States) is a member of Archivists without Borders International.  AwB-United States’ mission is to unite archival professionals through education, outreach, and advocacy to support human rights, underrepresented populations, and endangered archives both in the United States and in collaboration with international chapters.

Human Rights

  • Promote and defend human rights through the protection and conservation of archives produced by public and private bodies.
  • Promote the development of relationships with human rights organizations.

Underrepresented Populations & Endangered Archives

  • Protect the identity and historical memory of nations in the context of cultural diversity.
  • Preserve, conserve, and disseminate the world’s documentary heritage.


  • Provide continuing archival education for caretakers of archival and documentary holdings to ensure their preservation, conservation, and dissemination.

Outreach and Advocacy

  • Provide support and collaborative involvement with other archivists and cultural heritage professionals in cooperative archival administrative projects at local, national, and international levels.
  • Lead outreach and advocacy movements to empower citizens to understand and access archives.
  • Ensure access to public documents in political systems.

(Draft 1)


9 responses to “Mission Statement (2nd draft)

  1. Wanda Williams

    I have a few ideas about the section titled, Underrepresented Populations and Endangered Archives. I’m reminded of endangered archives from my memories of circumstances following the earthquake in Haiti. There were major concerns and several discussions related to the custodial protection and care of historical documents impacted by the quake. And while I’m not certain if this ever happened, some Haitians opposed the suggested removal of documents to locations outside the country. Given past archival thefts in Haiti and other countries due to natural disasters, political unrest, and etc. this will continue to be a concern and great efforts should be made to assist countries with maintaining control of historical documents. I propose this group consider this concern and express some level of support in the mission statement under this category. However, if the international AWB organization already addresses this issue, then should it be a concern or does it need to be addressed by the U.S. chapter?
    Also, I’m not totally clear on the last part of the first bullet point which states, “in the context of cultural diversity” at the end of the statement. Exactly how is cultural diversity being defined as it pertains to nations? Cultural diversity is getting to be overly used these days; it’s turned into a catch-all phrase, which can be problematic in my experience and opinion. I’m thinking something like, “Protect the historical identity, memory, representation and culturally diverse histories of world nations.”
    I also think the U.S. chapter should support cultural and ethnic diversity among *professionals* during discussions and deliberations regarding archival materials in the U.S. and abroad.
    Thanks for allowing feedback.
    Wanda T. Williams, Archivist
    The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations Review
    The Association of the Study of African American History and Culture
    National Archives and Records Administration (St.Louis, MO)

  2. Mariecris Gatlabayan

    Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this process! I can see that a lot of thought has gone into creating and integrating previous comments into the proposal.
    One recommendation I have is for the bullet points in the “Underrepresented Populations and Endangered Archives” (UPEA) section. The use of the words “protect” and “preserve” connote that the AWB-United States are archivists that are working on collections. When in actuality, AWB-United States will “function[n] as a network for information and advocacy, a clearinghouse for relevant news and information, and a hub for volunteer activities within and outside the United States’ borders. There may be some projects were archivists go out into communities to and process collections. But from information I gathered on the website, the organization’s main work is to create a network, provide education, and advocate for the tenants listed in the “Mission Statement.” As a result, I suggest using the words “support,” “promote,” “foster,” “or coordinate efforts to” in front of the terms “protect” and “preserve.”
    In addition, I like Wanda T. Williams rewording of “in the context of cultural diversity” to “culturally diverse histories of world nations.” She also brings up a great idea of incorporating the “support of cultural and ethnic diversity among professionals.” Perhaps we can put some language to this effect in the “Education” section. Maybe it can be akin to “Promote a culturally and ethnically diverse professional community that actively recruits members who are part of historically underrepresented groups.” Or maybe “encourage and support members of underrepresented communities to pursue archival education as means of empowerment and preservation of a holistic (comprehensive?) representation of the world’s heritage and history.”
    Also, I think the working in the first bullet, under “Outreach and Advocacy,” could be simplified to “Collaborate and support involvement with other archivists and cultural heritage professions in local, national, and international archival administrative projects.”

    Mariecris Gatlabayan
    Archivist, Archives and Special Collections
    Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchroage

  3. Both previous comments have called attention to the section on “Underrepresented Populations & Endangered Archives.” The language in the two subheadings suggests an intervention that could easily be construed as imperial neo-colonialism. I’m sure that is not intended; so if we “support” or “collaborate” to achieve these goals as Mariecris Gatlabayan suggests, we avoid being miscontrued that we would directly intervene.

    James Cartwright

  4. Wanda Williams

    I’d like to thank Mariecris and James for comments that underscore my concerns.

  5. As I read the first bullet point of “Underrepresented Populations & Endangered Archives,” the phrase “in the context of cultural diversity” speaks to the necessity focus attention on preserving documentation of groups that are traditionally excluded from the historical record. Perhaps if the bullet point read: “Collaborate in preserving the fullest identity and historical memory of nations by supporting efforts to ensure that the historical record reflects the diversity of their citizens,” it would alleviate some of the concerns expressed above.

  6. My main question is what characteristics, if any, define the other AwB chapters? Are there chapters known for offering specific services, assistance, training, etc. to a specific region or nation? I think knowing this could help in the identity formation and goals of this chapter.

    I agree with the above statements concerning the problems and reworking of wording for the bullet points under “Underrepresented Populations and Endangered Archives,” as well as “Education.” The bullet point: “Preserve, conserve, and disseminate the world’s documentary heritage” is loaded with loftiness that is untenable and problematic. In some cases, disseminating a part of the world’s documentary heritage goes against the human rights of specific populations. This thought leads me to the section on education. What is the definition of archives being used for archival education purposes? I think it’s important to know if you’re using a traditional (SAA, ICA, it is noted that AwB is a member of ICA) or contemporary definition (as in expanding the idea of archives) or a hybrid of both because underrepresented populations may archive themselves differently than tends to be understood by archivists schooled in normative practically oriented practice, which is fine (and I’m not trying to be dismissive here) but it should be made clear. In my opinion, we have a lot to learn from underrepresented populations and their own “archival configurations” so the archival education and training efforts of AwB could actually be more relational (we learn from each other through these continuing education efforts) and radically different (we define/align ourselves along the borders of traditional notions of archives, or at least as far as the AwB charter allows). I am not sure if this AwB chapter was intended to be an alternative to the norm, but it certainly has the potential.

    Thanks for all your efforts!

  7. Thank you for opening up the discussion about the mission statement. I suggest replacing “the nation” with “communities” [in the sentence: “Protect the identity and historical memory of nations in the context of cultural diversity” under the heading: “Underrepresented Populations & Endangered Archives.” ] I realize that “nations” in this context is defined loosely, and is meant to be inclusive, but I think it is better to be cautious when using “the nation” as an inclusive framework. Instead, I think AwB should highlight that it transcends the political framework of nation-states, and that it explicitly supports archival initiatives by people and communities that are excluded from nations and from the status of citizens for political, religious, and other reasons, or that have voluntarily decided to operate outside of national frameworks. So, I generally agree with James Cartwright, but instead of clarifying that the term “nation” is meant to be without borders, I would avoid it all together, and instead use communities. [James Cartwright suggested that “we need to clarify that ‘the nation’ should include all peoples within it of whatever differing ethnicity, cultural heritage, religion, or linguistic heritage, since many nations are made up of diverse populations and the histories of all should be safeguarded.”]

  8. Mariecris Gatlabayan

    I agree with Katja Hering’s insightful comment on substituting “nation” with “communities.” This expands the scope to include communities that may not self-identify with a specific nation or who self-identify with a specific nation but do not inhabit it. Examples of these communities include the Hmong community and refugees living in refugee camps.

    In addition, I just wanted to share my appreciation our dialogue on key issues that not only affect the mission of AWB-U.S., but how we approach collections in general.

  9. Pingback: First phase – round 2 | Archivists without Borders

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