Investigating the Impact of the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

  • Wendy Duff
  • Jefferson Sporn
  • Emily Herron

Abstract

The Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada is an online resource for community engagement and historical awareness with a particular emphasis on empowering survivors of state-enforced sterilization. This article reports on a qualitative impact study that reflects on secondary literature and interviews with 14 project participants to assess the extent to which the Living Archives impacted its members (including scholars, students, community partners, and survivors) and fulfilled its own stated goals (knowledge mobilization, research, and disability activism). While some of these impacts initially appear limited, the article, using the lenses of community archives, social justice impact, ethic of care, and critical disability studies, explores how the Archives counters the symbolic annihilation attempted by eugenic discourses and programs by giving both voice and editorial autonomy to survivors of Alberta’s sterilization program. The Living Archives project also developed a strong network of academics, activists, community members, and survivors, who modelled ways in which archival pursuits can successfully draw on an ethics of care. This article suggests that the Living Archives project should serve as a model for other digital archival projects to emulate.

 

RÉSUMÉ
Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada est une ressource en ligne pour l’engagement communautaire et la sensibilisation historique qui met un accent particulier sur l’autonomisation des survivants aux stérilisations imposées par l’État. Cet article rend compte d’une étude d’impact qualitative qui offre des réflexions sur des sources secondaires et des entretiens avec 14 participants à un projet visant à évaluer l’étendue avec laquelle Living Archives a eu une incidence sur ses membres (parmi lesquels des chercheurs universitaires, étudiants, partenaires communautaires et survivants) et a rempli les objectifs fixés (connaissance, mobilisation, recherche et militantisme en faveur des droits des handicapés). Bien que ces retombés semblent de prime abord limitées, cet article, adoptant l’angle des archives communautaires, de l’incidence de la justice sociale, de l’éthique de la compassion et de l’étude critique de la situation des handicapés, explore comment Archives s’oppose à la tentative d’annihilation symbolique des discours et programmes eugénistes en donnant à la fois une voix et une autonomie éditoriale aux survivants du programme de stérilisation de l’Alberta. Le projet des Living Archives a également développé un réseau solide de chercheurs, d’activistes, de membres de la communauté et de survivants, offrant des modèles d’avenues pour un développement réussi des archives sur les bases de l’éthique de la compassion. Cet article avance que le projet Living Archives devrait servir de modèle pour les autres projets d’archives numériques.

Author Biographies

Wendy Duff

Wendy Duff is a professor and Dean of the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto, where she teaches courses in the areas of archival access and community archives. Her research and publications focus on archival access, archival users, the impact of archives, and archives and social justice.

Jefferson Sporn

Jefferson Sporn is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto’s Master of Information program, specializing in archives and records management. He holds a BA in anthropology from Emory University. He is passionate about politics, film, and the intersection of community archives and representation. He lives and works in Toronto.

Emily Herron

Emily Herron is currently the Archives Specialist at the Manulife Corporate Archives. She obtained her Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information in 2017. As research assistant to Wendy Duff, she joined the Living Archives study in the summer of 2016. At the 2017 ACA Conference, she presented initial findings of the Living Archives study on a panel discussing social justice in archival contexts.

Published
2019-11-14
How to Cite
Duff, Wendy, Jefferson Sporn, and Emily Herron. 2019. “Investigating the Impact of the Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada”. Archivaria 88 (November), 122-61. https://archivaria.ca/index.php/archivaria/article/view/13701.
Section
Articles