Searching for a Black Pacific: An Alternative Archive

What is an "alternative archive?"

What is an “alternative archive”?

An “alternative archive” is an archive built outside of institutional (often state-run) archives, to document and organize those sources and stories left out – whether by intent or accident – of official archival channels. These alternate modes of preservation can be initiated and organized by a single individual or a community or group, and can take on physical or digital forms – albeit, emergent platforms such as Scalar may render public access to digital archive building easier than physical models and requires only a wifi connection for viewing. In this case, the archive is digital; the physical documents belong to the personal collection (fonds) of artist david george morgan or my own copies.

Also termed “shadow,”[1] “counter,”[2] or even “rogue” archives,[3] the “alternative” archive exists as a space of subversive historical preservation, radically generalizing access to their content or presenting collections excluded, removed, or looked over by their institutional counter-parts. Alternative archives often exist for distinct audiences; they also broaden the capacity of access to them to non-academics and amateur researchers, archivists, or simply interested parties.

This research began in the institutional libraries and archives: UBC libraries, the City of Vancouver Archives, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s museum – while I found certain pieces of context such as Crawford Kilian’s Go Do Some Great Thing, a book documenting the lives of black pioneers,[4] there was next to nothing to be found about the documents you will find in this archive. Instead it was through conversations with community archivists, like david george morgan, and many others involved in the production of black art that brought pamphlet literature to light for me.

Who is our audience?

This archive is created primarily for the audiences of fellow history students, so that they can further the research I started, for contemporary black artists in Vancouver who lack access to the history of their profession, and for david george morgan, whose work of documentation and collection over the past thirty years offers new generations of academics, artists, activists, and others a robust archive of black art production in Vancouver from the late 1980s to present.
[1] Jean-Christophe Cloutier. Shadow Archives: The Lifecycles of African American Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. https://www-degruyter-
[2] Paula Amad. Counter-Archive: Film, the Everyday, and Albert Kahn’s Archives De La Planète. Film & Culture Series. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010.     AN=584648&scope=site.
[3] Abigail De Kosnik. Rogue Archives: Digital Cultural Memory and Media Fandom. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2016. Print.
[4] Kilian Crawford. Go Do Some Great Thing: The Black Pioneers of British Columbia.  Burnaby, BC: Commodore Books, 2008. Print.

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