By Isa Cardona
In 2019, The Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies at the University of Georgia Libraries and GALEO partnered to document and archive the contributions of Hispanic and Latino communities in Georgia’s political history.
The Russell Library is dedicated to politics and public policies specifically for the state of Georgia, with the goal of gathering the most complete picture of that political landscape, but they realized without the voices of the Latinx community, it would be incomplete.
Since the announcement of the partnership, the library has already begun gathering some collections and oral histories from GALEO. The pandemic posed a bit of an obstacle in getting out and documenting artifacts, but luckily the library and GALEO interns and staff were finally able to collaborate in person.
On Tuesday, October 17th, GALEO staff and a few interns were able to make the trip to the University of Georgia and receive a tour of the archives and personally hand over artifacts for preservation. When GALEO arrived at the Russell Library, they were graciously greeted by the staff and were given a personal tour of the facility and even the cool-temperature vault with some special artifacts like the writings of previous professors and other preserved paper items.
The latter half of the trip included a chance to personally try and archive some of GALEO and Georgia Latino history. With the help of the library staff, they were able to “become” archivists and look through the pieces and get insight into their significance.
Robert Lay is the head of arrangement construction at the Richard B. Russell Library and is the one in charge of all of the collections, including those in the archive. There are some misconceptions about what archiving entails and oftentimes people think that the work is only for preserving items, locking them away from the world. Lay wants people to know that archiving things is more than just saving them.
“We do that definitely, and we try to ensure that things are kept safe, so they’re not accidentally deleted or lost or destroyed,” Lay said. “But there’s an entire component of having to describe what it is that we’ve kept so that other people can access it later on and find what they’re looking for.”
GALEO’s archived items will not simply be put into a closet where no one’s going to see them, rather the library can now create an entire organizational history to explain to people 100 years from now, what the organization was, who they were working for, and what were their successes.
Since the partnership was announced, Lay has been particularly inspired by all of GALEO’s “Get Out The Vote” efforts and is looking forward to preserving some of those materials, both physically and digitally.
“I’m a fan of any kind of civic engagement,” said Lay. “That seems to be a big thrust for [GALEO], so any of your videos and your planning for your events. I think that’s going to be particularly valuable.”
The Russell Library wanted to partner with GALEO due to its identity as an organization that represents the voices of Latino people and works to get the community involved in politics in Georgia and exercise their civic power.
“We realized that this could actually be a major outreach effort for us to add a component to the historical record of Georgia that has unfortunately been ignored for many years,” Lay said.
In the future, the Russell Library and GALEO will continue to work together to record a wide net of histories with prominent people who have been working to increase the civic power of the Latino community or engaged in public policy in some way. This will include people who’ve held office and done a lot of advocacy work, activists, and other community leaders.
“We are very happy to be part of this partnership,” Lay said. “This is something that we’ve talked about internally for a long time, and we’re glad to have a partner like GALEO be our entry into this work.”