“Surely if you have nothing to look backward to and with pride, you have nothing to look forward to with hope.” – Barbara Craig
My time at the Rockefeller Archive Center has only emphasized my desire for preserving history. I came to the RAC with an interest in archival history and my personal goal to help build an archival center in my community of Spring Valley, New York. After reading What is Past is Prologue by Terry Cook, I realized as a community we do not have any spaces that honor our past, more accordingly the history of Blackness and people of color in our community. I remember days of block parties, outdoor sporting events, dance classes and, before my time, there was a village full of vibrancy and a sense of community. While that’s changing due to rapid gentrification, you can feel the memories of what once was, being forgotten.
The priority of archival institutions is the preservation of records and materials, so that they may be used for research, public knowledge, and, to me, most importantly a remembrance of those who came before us. Walking through the vaults at the Rockefeller Archive Center, I was amazed by how many projects the Rockefellers and other foundations not only funded but helped create. These documents revealed to me the profoundness of philanthropic work, and that my desire for my change was not a dream but a possibility. By learning about the work of foundations, it gave me a roadmap for how institutions are built and what’s required to create change. Although the work of the Rockefellers was possible due to their substantial wealth, the purpose of the archive remains; a look into how past organizations, institutions, and foundations were able to create change not only in their area, but around the world.
By participating in the RAC 101s (an introductory series to our archival work), I’ve learned how to manage vaults, properly preserve materials, and organize materials. Creating an outline about the Near East Foundation for sixth grade students gave me the perspective of educating a generation. I tend to think of the big picture, and in the remote classroom I saw future leaders who are going to impact the world one day. In preparing the outline, I thought of how we can prepare these future leaders to think critically with a humanitarian heart, and how to take lessons from past atrocities to grow as a society. Creating a collage for website headers gave me an out of the box perspective on how we can share information. With increased access to information, it opens the creative outlet for information distribution. I wanted to think of a way to see the big picture but also break down the information, so it can be conceptualized. Overall, I had a great experience at the Rockefeller Archive Center. I feel more confident than before about my community project knowing I have the support of the Rockefeller Archive Center.