African Activist Archive Project Collection Policy

The African Activist Archive Project's approach to preserving collections of materials and selecting material for posting on the website is based on the project's mission. Our purpose is to preserve and make freely accessible to the public multimedia materials that reveal the history of people in local groups across the United States that took action in solidarity with struggles against colonialism, apartheid, and social injustice in Africa during the second half of the 20th century.

Guidelines for choosing collections, selecting items from them, and digitizing objects for preservation and access reflect several unusual characteristics of this archival project.

Collections: The project began by encouraging activists to locate and save their personal collections of papers and multimedia materials. This is very different from most digitizing projects that begin with collections already organized, described, and stored at a single institution. The African Activist Archive still is encouraging people to create new collections, and we will help to arrange deposit of materials in an archive - either the Michigan State University Libraries' Special Collections or another library or historical society of their choice. Collections may consist of a wide variety of material including publications (leaflets, newsletters, pamphlets, articles, press releases, etc.), testimony, speeches, correspondence, buttons, T-shirts, posters, photos, and audio and video materials. We also will work with individuals who wish to keep their materials but who are willing to lend us items to digitize for the website or who wish to digitize selected items themselves.

Copyright status: Some organizing materials were created for public dissemination in order to publicize events or campaigns, so we regard these types of objects as being in the public domain: press releases, leaflets, public testimony, buttons, posters, and T-shirts. Some activist campaigns sought to change federal, state, or city laws; therefore, public documents are relevant to this archive. We treat bills, laws, resolutions, and hearings of all levels of government as being in the public domain.

We make reasonable efforts to seek permission to publish online written materials such as newsletters, authored publications, brochures and pamphlets, statements of purpose, and organizational minutes, as well as interviews, audio and video recordings, and photographs.

Many local organizations and coalitions involved in African solidarity work were run by volunteers and had no paid staff. Often they published print and graphic materials without attribution. Furthermore, most of these organizations no longer exist, which makes it very challenging to obtain permission to digitize and publish these materials online. To post materials of organizations that no longer exist, we attempt to locate leading members and request their permission. We seek permission from the current staff of organizations that still exist.

We believe that this policy regarding copyright status is sound and appropriate to the project; however, we are willing to remove objects from the online archive if individuals inform us inform us that they hold the copyright to certain materials and do not wish to have them on the site.

Guidelines for Selecting Materials for Digitizing:

  • Documents: From papers of a local organization, we typically select newsletters, statements of purpose, and diverse types of documents - such as leaflets, educational pamphlets, press releases, articles, event programs, and testimony - about one or more campaigns.
  • Multimedia objects: We give priority to photographs, posters, buttons, T-shirts, audio, and video, in order to enhance and enliven the written historical record. However, old audio and video items may be particularly costly to digitize.
  • Private collections: We are willing to consult with and post documents and other objects selected by individuals from their personal collections that meet these guidelines.

Within these selection guidelines, materials in the online archive may reflect limits of the collections we have accessed as well as project funding. In the case of some organizations, we have digitized everything meeting our guidelines from one or more archives that we have located. In other cases, we have obtained one or more partial collections and either are not aware of other archives or have not yet been able to access archives located far away. In yet other cases, we have access to large collections from an organization to which we may return to digitize further materials that meet our guidelines as additional funding becomes available.

We give priority to digitizing materials not included in other digitizing projects. Our main objective is to preserve and provide access to materials from local organizations whose records are likely to be lost unless we make a concerted effort. We also include materials from some national organizations because they often provided important resources for local campaigns as well as reports on the activities of local groups.

Although our focus is on the U.S. solidarity movement, we are willing to include in the online archive images, audio and video (but not documents at this time) provided to the project by organizations in other countries or otherwise available for digitizing at low cost.

This online African Activist Archive does not include documentation of the activities of African peoples in their own countries with whom international activists acted in solidarity. We are creating this archive to complement the many important archival projects underway in Africa to preserve this important history.

Digitizing, metadata creation, and preservation: Existing best practices are being used by MATRIX and the African Studies Center at Michigan State University to create digital preservation and access copies of text, image, audio, and video objects for this project. We also will accept digital files appropriate for online access from organizations that wish to make materials available on this website but do not ask us to provide digital preservation. Metadata are based on Dublin Core standards. The open-source KORA application created by MATRIX is the digital repository used for the project.

Contributions of materials and funding: Please contact the project if you would like to contribute materials from an organization in which you participated. We will add as many materials as possible as described in this collection policy, subject to the constraints of our funding resources. The African Activist Archive is grateful to the foundations, organizations, and individuals (listed on the About page) that have provided financial support. We continue to seek funding for the project in order to add more organization's collections and expand the content from organizations already represented.