Future Projects and Possibilities

At the end of the final session of the fifth workshop of the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, the participants unanimously agreed that they wished to keep the network in existence beyond the end of its funded life (28 February 2015). This was partly because membership of the Network had proved to be so rewarding for all participants, and partly because the network partners were clear that there were many projects on which they would like to work collaboratively in the future.

Some of the potential future projects and work-programmes are listed here:

  • “Archives at risk”: new protocols for collaboration on endangered collections worldwide. The Network and its partners have made considerable progress in joint working on “archives at risk” since the topic emerged at the third Diasporic Literary Archives workshop, in Caen. It was the Network above all which identified the wide range of organisations engaged in aspects of this work. The Network has also brought UNESCO, PEN International, the International Council on Archives and the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme into a co-operative framework to take this important work forward. UNESCO is likely now to take the lead on this during 2016-17, with a programme entitled “Safeguarding Documentary Heritage in Danger”, and with several Network partners continuing to contribute.
  • The dispersal of literary papers through publishing and business archives. Several Network members with an interest in publishing archives will be seeking to develop further the work begun by the Network on literary papers within business archives. Potential partners in this work include SHARP (Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing), GLAM (Group for Literary Archives and Manuscripts) and individual repositories holding publishing archives (including the University of Reading, the British Library and the Bodleian Library).
  • Protocols for collaboration between repositories with “split collections”. The second workshop, in Pavia, demonstrated the many ways in which “split collections” are typical of the papers of literary authors.       There is a major opportunity for an international team to draw up protocols of best practice and partnership in the context of these collections, especially when they are split between institutions in richer and poorer countries.
  • Mapping split collections: a cartographic approach. The Network’s partners at the Institut des textes et manuscrits modernes (ITEM) have been especially active in looking at ways in which both “archives at risk” and “split collections” could be electronically mapped, using the most recent cartographic technology. Network members and partners are likely to be continuing this work in the years ahead.
  • The diaspora of digital literary archives: best practice and digital solutions. The fifth workshop of the Network, held at the Beinecke Library, Yale University, looked in particular at aspects of the diaspora of literary archives as they were emerging in the new field of digital archives. The political and financial imbalances which the Network had explored with traditional manuscript collections seem likely to be present in even more exaggerated form with digital archives. Network participants expressed enthusiasm for forms of co-operative future joint working with digital archives, and it will be important to find forums and networks in which this work can be continued.
  • The literary archives of Namibia: a case study and model. The inclusion of Namibia in the Network was decided principally because this is a country with a rich literary heritage (colonial and post-colonial), but with no tradition of collecting literary archives. Considerable progress in Namibian collection-building was reported at successive workshops. From 2015, Network members including the University of Toronto and University of Reading intend to work with the National Archives of Namibia to develop their collecting, accessioning and cataloguing skills. It is hoped that this work with Namibia might then provide a template for other countries with outstanding literary traditions but no tradition of collecting literary papers (Cameroon, Nigeria, Tanzania).
  • Caribbean archives in the Caribbean: a new future. The success of the Network in facilitating the acquisition of the papers of Monique Roffey by the University of the West Indies (St Augustine) was seen as important in itself but also important as a model and an inspiration for the future – inspiring Caribbean archivists to resume collection-building and Caribbean authors to look for Caribbean homes for their papers. The Reading team which managed the Diasporic Literary Archives Network, and especially Professor Alison Donnell, are committed to finding ways of sustaining and supporting this work into the future. The Network expects also to continue its solidarity work with archivists in Grenada in 2016 and beyond.
  • “Hidden archives”: the uncatalogued troves: locating uncatalogued collections and finding shared solutions. The Network’s fourth workshop drew particular attention to under-resourced repositories with established collections which remained uncatalogued decades after their accession, and which one speaker at the workshop described as “hidden archives”. This appears to be a particular issue for some Caribbean institutions. Network members would be interested in working with international grant-making bodies in the future, to explore this problem further and to propose the funding of possible solutions.
  • Guidance for authors who wish to dispose of their personal archives. The Network has taken the lead in the production of a document which has been created, edited and amended by Network members working with representatives of GLAM, the National Archives and the Society of Authors. A “final consultation draft” (February 2015) can be consulted here.