How and why did you get involved as an AWE Fund Organizer?
I spent years precariously employed in archives so know firsthand the immense stress and anxiety that comes with not knowing if you’ll be able to pay next month’s rent. Throwing a global pandemic into the mix heightens all of this exponentially. I saw the announcement about a meeting to discuss mutual aid for archival workers and didn’t hesitate to jump in. I see AWE Fund organizing as a natural extension of my ongoing labor advocacy work and, given my current (relative) job stability, I felt it imperative to step up.
What is one cultural shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?
I’d love to see a greater recognition of the importance and power of community. Our society, and even profession, has been increasingly geared towards individualism and a competition for scarce resources (like permanent archivist jobs!). It’s essential to support each other and band together to address systemic issues and effect real and lasting change.
What is one public policy shift you would like to see come out of this crisis?
It’s ridiculous that health care in this country is tied to one’s job. Now that there’s a staggering unemployment rate, I’m hoping comprehensive healthcare reform will come about sooner rather than later.
What’s an archival item you’ve worked with that you love to share with people, and why?
One item that brings me immense joy is a “punk quilt” created by UCLA students and donated to the UCLA Library Special Collections punk archive. Each student contributed a square and then they sewed everything together with dental floss and some safety pins for good measure. My colleague and I use the quilt in instruction sessions to dismantle common (mis)perceptions about archives and special collections; examine notions of archival and historical value; and introduce concepts such as community and participatory archives and self-documentation.
What’s one thing — archives related or not! — that you’re proud to have created or accomplished?
In 2014 I co-founded the Los Angeles Archivists Collective along with two former classmates of mine, Angel Diaz and Jennifer Kishi. We had no idea that it would blossom into such a remarkable community, and as I step back from my leadership role and watch newer professionals take up the mantle, I couldn’t be more proud.
Courtney Dean is the Head of the Center for Primary Research and Training (CFPRT) in UCLA Library Special Collections, where she provides hands-on training in archival methodology to graduate students from a variety of academic backgrounds and facilitates creative engagement with special collections materials. In 2014, she co-founded the Los Angeles Archivists Collective, a community-driven local professional organization with a focus on students and new professionals. She’s on Twitter at @courcore.