Developing and Administering Ethnic and Cultural Heritage Collections

Current Faculty: Tamar Evangelestia-Dougherty

This course will examine the principles and underlying practices of developing and administering rare and distinctive ethnic and cultural heritage collections within the framework of mainstream American libraries and museums. Emphasis will be placed on how to protect and advocate for historic and contemporary cultural heritage collections against multiple threats such as systematic racism, institutional bias, decreased funding, and increasing marginalization within predominately white institutions. 

Topics covered will include an assessment of the socio-cultural function of major ethnic heritage collecting institutions in America; a history of their development and collecting practices; and the principles and process of appraising, disseminating, and sustaining ethnic collections. The course will also consider social and ethical dimensions of racial agency (i.e. white privilege, historical trauma) that challenge ethnic diversity and inclusiveness within special collections curatorial practice, outreach, personnel, and budget planning. There will be a special class session on ethical and legal considerations faced by curatorial administrators when addressing cultural heritage restitution, collections of dubious provenance, and repatriation requests. While this course will have a strong focus on African American, Native American, Asian and Latinx collections, much of the course content is adaptable to any library professional responsible for the stewardship of collections representing alternative narratives of heritage (i.e. gendered and LGBTQ collections).

A significant portion of the student’s time will be engaged in lectures, class discussions, and fieldwork at local Los Angeles special collections repositories. Hands on activities include examining archival and rare book materials that illuminate opportunities and challenges administering ethnic heritage resources. 

Please note this is a seminar course and therefore, a forum for discussion that seeks to inform and advise participants who are addressing challenges and opportunities around cultural heritage collections in their current professional institutions, the instructor may modify the course topics to suit current events and expressed student interests, needs, and expertise. For example, special attention may be given to challenges faced by ethnic heritage institutions during the national pandemic. 

Years Taught: 2015, 2017, 2019, 2021

Previously taught under the titles: Developing & Administering Collections of African American Resources (alternative title: Building Research Collections of African American Materials in 2017)

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