Diversifying Collections proposes a series of conversations that together will seek to establish and even advance the state of the field among scholars, artists, librarians, and archivists. Thinkers and practitioners will share their experiences, helping to pinpoint both the theoretical and practical challenges that diversifying collections involves, and the rewards that it bestows.

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Our understanding of the human past is limited by the material records that bear witness to it. Whether interred in soil or collected for consultation in a library, museum, or archive, the material, textual, and visual traces of past human lives are the foundation of any knowledge about how people lived before our time.

Past institutions embedded the values of their time into the records they chose to preserve, intentionally or by omission excluding perspectives that, in the first quarter of the 21st century, require recovery. In addition, new technologies have made possible the study of the past beyond the written record, whether through bioarchaeology or genetic research. A global sensibility quickened by technology and travel has made breaking out of the Western-centric historical focus of earlier generations imperative. Domestically, an ongoing reckoning with centuries of racial and social injustice sharpens the need to expand the canon of who counts as a historical actor and what counts as history.

  • How should repositories such as libraries and archives respond to these epistemological transformations?
  • How can they include perspectives that revise the past, even radically?
  • To what extent can professional guardians and students of the past afford new visions that might help shape our present and futures?

This collaboration among four institutions in the greater Albany area–Hamilton College, the College of Saint Rose, Skidmore College, and Williams College–will unfold during the 2022–23 year across all four campuses. Events will take place in person, in hybrid format, and remotely. The series is generously sponsored by the Lang Fellowship at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia among other funding bodies.

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