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The limitations of #mainstreaming “history”

In the realm of activist family archiving, the clash between #mainstreaming and alternative approaches to history preservation becomes apparent. While smaller, more agile organizations embrace the concept of living history, encompassing the entirety of family narratives and experiences, larger national institutions prioritize selective pieces of history that fit within their established narratives.

For smaller organizations, history is dynamic and ever-evolving, reflecting the lived experiences and diverse perspectives of individuals and families. These organizations recognize the value of preserving the “context”of histories, from the everyday to the extraordinary, as a means of capturing the richness and complexity of human life.

On the other hand, larger national institutions tend to favour a more static and curated approach to history, focusing on specific events or narratives that align with their predetermined agendas. This approach results in the omission or marginalization of certain voices and experiences, reinforcing established power structures and perpetuating a narrow understanding of history.

The tension between these two approaches highlights the broader struggle for control over historical narratives and the importance of preserving diverse perspectives within the historical record. By embracing the concept of living history and advocating for the inclusion of marginalized voices, archiving organizations can play a vital role in challenging #mainstreaming narratives and promoting a more inclusive and representative understanding of the past, and thus help to shape the future.


In the family archiving, we are starting to feel the limitations of #mainstreaming “history”.

The smaller, more nimble organizations will take the entire history. In this, history is something to be created, living history.

The larger, more national organizations only want the tiny parts that fill insignificant holes in their existing liberal narrative of history. In this history is establishment and fixed, This is dead history.

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