Libraries and Cultural Preservation
More often than not, these victors do not come from low-income areas and instead they are members of the majority community. However, there are institutions in place that work to help support, document, archive, and restore historic and cultural histories of minority communities.
Libraries play a significant role in preserving knowledge and cultural heritage in society. There are massive collections of records, history, and other valuable reference materials that libraries collect in order to ensure that the stories of their communities are saved. They help ensure that the voices of all communities are represented.
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Cultural Heritage Preservation Institutes
There are a number of places in the United States that contribute to preserving intangible heritages. These include:
- Large research libraries (ex. Library of Congress’ American Folklife Center)
- Museum-affiliated libraries with interest in Native Americans (ex. Talbot Library & Museum)
- Tribal libraries (ex. The Center for the Study of Chickasaw History & Culture)
- University libraries (ex. The University of Texas at San Antonio Library)
- Local libraries
These locations serve as research centers for free resources covering various aspects of culture in America. They collect and document the traditional cultures of a variety of backgrounds. The American Folklife Center of The Library of Congress holds one of the largest archives of materials from all over the world. These collections include oral histories, audiovisual documentation and creative expressions from diverse communities.
Preserving The History of First Nations
The histories of First Nations is another area of culture in the States that has been severely overlooked. Many museum libraries and tribal libraries have been working to remedy this by specializing in historical and genealogical material of certain areas that Native Americans reside near. The Talbot Library and the Chickasaw Cultural Center are all located in Oklahoma where some of the last reservations in the country reside. These institutions have created archives of tales, cultures, language, and historical accounts passed throughout generations of people. They are dedicated to serving those with educational and historical interests of these minority cultures and traditions.
Preserving Minority Cultures and Histories
People living in the United States come from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. These cultures come with extensive histories, traditions, food, music, and languages. Many libraries have dedicated collections for preserving materials from specific cultures. The UTSA Libraries in San Antonio has made it a mission to contribute to the preservation and access of South Texas histories, many of which encompasses the thriving Hispanic community in the area. The Special Collections at the UTSA Libraries house rare cookbooks that document Mexiican cuisine and traditions. These include handwritten manuscripts like Cuaderno de Cosina written in 1789 by Doña Ignacita which features main courses, sides, and deserts. In addition to preservation efforts, the libraries have also worked on digitization projects to help make these traditional recipes more accessible to the general public. Over 2,000 titles are housed at the library and many of these will soon become searchable through the UTSA digital cookbook collection.
The Milner Library at Illinois State University hosted programming this past May to help people learn more about and celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander month. The library curated resources and archives for their virtual celebration that helped the public learn more about the histories and cultures of this community. In addition, they offered book recommendations that touched on many aspects of erasure and injustice. In light of the extensive influx of hate and race-motivated acts of violence the community has faced since the start of COVID-19, the library helped share important information to help educate the public.
Real-Time Preservation In Society Today
Librarians and libraries are working on a daily basis to capture all aspects of a community’s experience. An example of this can be seen most recently in COVID archives projects that have appeared around the country and around the world. The Queens Public Library supports a community archiving project called Queens Memory that engages residents and encourages them to contribute to a historic record of the community’s experiences. The United States Census shows that 50 percent of the demographic in Queens is composed of minority groups with almost half of the community population being foreign-born and over half of the population speaking a language other than English. In addition, over half of the population is in the civilian labor force and 11 percent living in poverty. Libraries and projects like this that are actively engaging their diverse communities are preserving the stories of the minority and low-income communities in areas like this.
Whether through managing large archives and collecting materials or educating their communities about cultural diversity, Libraries have been able to support multicultural communities in a variety of ways.