The research project titled “The impact of independent community archives” is funded by the National Science Centre, Poland (no. 2022/47/D/HS3/00914) and is planned to last 36 months, starting in October 2023.
The project aims to identify and understand the social and affective impact of independent documentary initiatives (community archives). These archives, often run by NGOs and informal groups, among others, are becoming an increasingly important element of the archival landscape in Poland and worldwide. However, there is still a lack of empirical research on this component of non-state archival resources, especially outside the non-Anglophone countries.
The aim of the project will be achieved through empirical research in which the PI will first learn the detailed context of the three selected community archives (e.g. what is their history and origin stories, aims and objectives, the characteristics of collections, methods of collecting, preserving, processing, and providing access to archival materials, activities and outreach, problems and plans). This context (a thick description of the nature of community archives) will be used to further explore the impact of these archives on their contributors - community archivists (usually volunteers), donors, and users. The project focuses specifically on social impact (e.g., stimulating community, enhancing intergenerational dialogue, contributing to lifelong learning) and affective (emotional) impact.
The expected results of the project include the production of a detailed description of three Polish community archives; the identification of the ways in which community archives impact people and communities and thus estimate their value beyond the archival materials they collect; the introduction of the topic of assessing the impact of archives to Polish archival researchers.
In a broader context, this study is part of an exploration of the contemporary role of archives in society, public history and the use of knowledge about the past.