Of the People: Widening the Path

library of congress

Library of Congress launches new initiative to connect more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities.

History, as we know, is subjective and depending on who is in power as it is being committed to the history books, some voices and experiences are amplified and others are silenced through omission. In the West the predominant perspective that has, and continues prevail in terms of talking about our history, is male, white and well off. In an attempt to try to readdress the balance and represent the full spectrum of voices and stories that make up our collective history, the Library of Congress has launched a brand-new initiative called Of the People: Widening the Path.

A multiyear initiative aimed at connecting more deeply with Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and other minority communities by expanding its collections, using technology to enable storytelling and offering more internship and fellowship opportunities, the initiative is supported by a $15 million investment from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

To be accomplished through three programs: investing in community-based documentarians who will expand the Library’s collections with new perspectives; funding paid internships and fellowships to benefit from the wisdom of students and engage the next generation of diverse librarians; and creating a range of digital engagements to connect with underserved communities and institutions, the initiative will expand the Library’s efforts to ensure that a diversity of experiences is reflected in our historical record and inform how we use those materials to understand our past.

The Library will support those from Black Hispanic and other Indigenous and minority communities who are already working to collect, collate and archiving contemporary community-driven cultural expressions and traditions, as well as those looking to enter the field, or begin new projects. For students attending or looking to attend historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, Tribal colleges and universities and institutions that serve Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, this project will offer internship opportunities and more. And finally, a digital strategy program will allow creators in minority communities to harness the power of contemporary technology to both package and share their stories in a way that to date has been nearly impossible.

This initiative represents a conscious effort to connect with those in historically and currently marginalised communities, and the desire to record their stories and share them with the rest of the world (using the opportunities offered by digital technology). It is fuelled by the hope that one day true multiplicity in the documentation of world history will be realised. If we can look back into our past and see the stories of every community represented, then we will be far better equipped to write the stories of our future.