Steven Booth, Archivist for the Barack Obama Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Administration by Lamar Abrams

Editors Note

Welcome to the fifth issue of Acid Free, a quarterly online publication of the Los Angeles Archivists Collective. 

When LAAC created and launched Acid Free, it was with the intention to be a publication that reflects what it means to be to be an archivists collective. With each subsequent issue we publish, we consider, discuss, and strive to create space for representation, equality, diversity—terms that are also all too often invoked as a means to bypass the labor involved in delivering upon those promises in a material way, which prompts an addition to that list: the word accountability.

It was fitting then, that our first issue was on the theme of Labor. And it is similarly apt that our current issue revisits aspects of that initial theme.

ORGANIZE is a unifying concept to the work of archivists and any information professional, regardless of materials or systems utilized to do so. We anticipated, and are pleased to see come to fruition, an expansive interpretation of what it means to ORGANIZE amongst the articles published in this issue.


The varying interpretations of ORGANIZE have proven to be more permeable than we may have initially realized. While it is necessary to acknowledge and critique traditional classification and organizational systems that reinforce existing power structures, for many of us what is inspiring and at the heart of our work is how we might potentially forge, preserve, and strengthen connections through the systems, standards, and profession we work within, even as we fight to break down oppresive structures.

Dorothy Berry’s account of her work for Umbra Search African American History asserts that through digital collections and database organization it can be possible to bring to the fore voices that are not silent in the archives, but hidden. Connecting existing archival materials on Black life, rather than leaving them sequestered and scattered amidst collections of those whose historical privilege aligned with the archival institution’s, is a means to simultaneously utilize traditional archival skillsets whilst subverting the legacy upon which the profession is built.

The Redstockings Women’s Liberation Archive for Action demonstrates the power of representation in archives to affect future change. Yet another instance where organization of information allows activists to organize in formation against patriarchy. And of course, organizing in formation often takes the form of unionization. Erin Hurley asks what unionization might look like in an era where anti-union efforts might be as blatant as locking out your faculty, including librarians and archivists, or as insidious as a professional culture of limited term and part-time project positions.

We also hear from our archivist colleagues in Los Angeles highlighting collections about union organizations on the silver screen and in the sky, and about the labor involved in organizing archival collections and exhibitions.

For all the breadth of topics falling under the theme of ORGANIZE, this is an issue about connections among people.

Christine Hertzel interviewed and profiles archivist groups similar to LAAC, and Grace Danico had the pleasure of speaking with Obama archivist, Steven Booth. The archivist charged with the legacy of a community organizer turned president states that the greatest reward of the archival profession is relationships built with other archivists. We couldn’t agree more.



Hide and Seek:Organizing Hidden Collections

Dorothy Berry discusses the University of Minnesota’s African American Hidden Collections project, a part of the larger Umbra Search program.

Interview · Steven Booth

An interview with Steven Booth, Archivist at the Barack Obama Presidential Library, National Archives and Records Administration. 

Ninomiya Photo Studio Collection

Alexandra Arai Cauley and Christina Pappous discuss the Ninomiya Photo Studio Collection, which consists of 40 years worth the photographs from the family's Los Angeles business.

History as a Movement

The preservation of history and the struggle to change the course of history are intertwined in the work of activists and archivists, Annie Tummino and Carol Giardina of the Redstockings Women's Liberation Archive.

Reining in an Equine Exhibition

A methodical look at organizing an exhibition using materials in Cal Poly Pomona's W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Library.

Organizing the Skies

Early twentieth century women pilots band together to create the Ninety-Nines organization.

Hollywood Organizing

Valerie Yaros, archivist/historian for SAG-AFTRA, discusses the initial organization of the Screen Actors Guild.

Organizers, Unionize!

What happens when people who organize for a living unionize, and why it is so vital for archivists right now.

Archives Party!

Other archives-related groups from around the country tell us about their organizations.

Acid Free Archive

Issue 1: Labor