MARA 284-11 (2-units)
Seminar in Archives & Records Management
Topic: Community Archives
Summer 2021 Syllabus

Ben Alexander
Office Location: Virtual
Office Hours: By appointment

Syllabus Links
Canvas Login and Tutorials
iSchool eBookstore

Canvas Information: Courses will be available beginning June 1, 2021, at 6 am PT unless you are taking an intensive or a one-unit or two-unit class that starts on a different day. In that case, the class will open on the first day that the class meets.

This course 2-unit course runs from June 1st - July 27th. It will be available on Canvas on June 1.

You will be enrolled in the Canvas site automatically.

Course Description

“Community Archives” has become a subject of keen interest across the past decade. The reason for this interest, in part, rests on: evolving appreciation for the archive as agents of political action and social justice; interactions between 21 st century technologies, the “archive” and the formation of new community formations; and, interactions between 21 st technologies and new opportunities to (re)remember historical trauma and historical absence.

Course Requirements

Our first weeks are dedicated to establishing a critical framework for what an archive is and how the archive both creates and complicates the historical record.  We will read a variety of critical articles and (excerpts from) texts that provide various perspectives on the archive and that begin to introduce the connections between the archive and community.  And, we will read and discuss one critical strategy for shaping community memory/archive – oral history. We will also focus attention on the history of one particular community: Silicon Valley.  The later part of the semester will be dedicated to advancing our own community archive projects – you will hear much more on this shortly – and while you will have license to explore your own project, I am hopeful that many of you will choose to focus on Silicon Valley.  Each of you will participate in the development of a project that you can either take with you and advance or can serve as template for a future project.


Every week I list various ‘prompts.’  These are intended to provide the basis for weekly discussion posts and serve as a broad selection of essay topics.

  1. Weekly Discussion Posts AND Comments (CLOs 1, 2)
    • Your post is expected to demonstrate a personal and reflective thought on the prompt at hand.  In addition to your post, however, you are required to post two additional comments on posts from other students.  This is an effort to create a seminar-like process of exchange and reflection.
    • All posts and comments are expected by Monday of each week. 
  2. A Community Archive Practicum. (CLO 3)
    This assignment is intended to facilitate practical consideration of the various steps involved in establishing and cultivating a community archives project.  The intent is that this assignment can serve as a template for a project you might propose or that you might develop as part of your future work in archives.  Parts of this assignment might feel a little uncomfortable.  By design, this assignment allows for your own creativity.  How your project (your community) might manifest as an archival/memory/documentation project is probably closely related to the nature of the community you propose to engage.  There is no (nor should there be a) template for creating a community archive.  By definition every community is unique.

    That said, I am hopeful that many of you might pursue a project in Silicon Valley – for reasons discussed in the first lecture.

    This assignment can be done individually or in small groups but the deliverables are the same: of up to In terms of selecting a community project you have the option to:

    • A 10 page (minimum) document that includes:
      • Description of the community you propose to engage
      • Strategy for community engagement:
        • Are there institutional/cultural centers you may approach?
        • Are there community leaders who might prove helpful?
        • How do you plan to propose a process that assures sensitive/ethical concerns for the community and assures the community remains a stakeholder throughout the documentation process?
      • Initial Action Plan
        • How to initiate your project
        • Strategies of documentation:
          • Oral History (or some variation)?
          • Preservation of objects?
          • Documentation of cultural events?
        • What materials/technologies do you need to begin the process
          • Compile a prospective cost-sheet
          • Research prospective funding sources
            • List at least three prospective sources
              • Grants
              • Local support?
        • Will you use volunteers?
          • How to recruit?
          • How to train?
          • What are your plans for access strategies?
            • The Presentation
              • A ten-minute (per person if you choose to work in a small group) that introduces your intended community archives project.  Each presentation must include at least 15 slides.

    Like all written assignments please conform to the APA style manual.  It is expected that this document is well-written and well-researched.  As with any project proposal, your reader will expect references to related research, publications and probably examples of projects you believe to be successful.

    • The Project / Prototype
      • Here you have tremendous license.  You can create a digital space and actually shape a template for your project.  You can create a PPT.  The form is up to you.  But your template must include examples of:
        • Recorded sound/oral history (or a variation of)
        • Moving image media
        • Photos
        • Documentation of a local/cultural event


Very simply.  Weekly discussion posts 20%. Due Monday of each week.  

Practicum 80%. Due the last day of class, July 27th.

Course Workload Expectations

Success in this course is based on the expectation that students will spend, for each unit of credit, a minimum of forty-five hours over the length of the course (normally 3 hours per unit per week with 1 of the hours used for lecture) for instruction or preparation/studying or course related activities including but not limited to internships, labs, clinical practica. Other course structures will have equivalent workload expectations as described in the syllabus.

Instructional time may include but is not limited to:
Working on posted modules or lessons prepared by the instructor; discussion forum interactions with the instructor and/or other students; making presentations and getting feedback from the instructor; attending office hours or other synchronous sessions with the instructor.

Student time outside of class:
In any seven-day period, a student is expected to be academically engaged through submitting an academic assignment; taking an exam or an interactive tutorial, or computer-assisted instruction; building websites, blogs, databases, social media presentations; attending a study group;contributing to an academic online discussion; writing papers; reading articles; conducting research; engaging in small group work.

Course Prerequisites

MARA 284 - Community Archives (2 units) has no prerequisite requirements. 

Course Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the professional discourses relating to community archives.
  2. Conceptualize didactic texts that can serve as practicum guides to engaging community, facilitating establishment of community archives, and precedents for the advance of community memory into political agency.
  3. Conceptualize projects for the successful engagement of under-documented communities, and the facilitation of archival proactive information community-directed memory projects.

Core Competencies (Program Learning Outcomes)

MARA 284 supports the following core competencies:

  1. B Explain the social, cultural, and economic dimensions of data, records, and information use.
  2. D Apply basic concepts and principles to identify, evaluate, select, organize, maintain, and provide access to physical and digital information assets.
  3. I Demonstrate an understanding of research design and research methods and the analytical, written, and oral communication skills necessary to synthesize and disseminate research findings.


Required Textbooks:

  • Bastian, J., & Flynn, A. (Eds.). (2019). Community archives, community spaces: Heritage, memory and identity. FACET Publishers. Available through Amazon: 1783303506arrow gif indicating link outside sjsu domain

Grading Scale

The standard SJSU School of Information Grading Scale is utilized for all iSchool courses:

97 to 100 A
94 to 96 A minus
91 to 93 B plus
88 to 90 B
85 to 87 B minus
82 to 84 C plus
79 to 81 C
76 to 78 C minus
73 to 75 D plus
70 to 72 D
67 to 69 D minus
Below 67 F


In order to provide consistent guidelines for assessment for graduate level work in the School, these terms are applied to letter grades:

  • C represents Adequate work; a grade of "C" counts for credit for the course;
  • B represents Good work; a grade of "B" clearly meets the standards for graduate level work or undergraduate (for BS-ISDA);
    For core courses in the MLIS program (not MARA, Informatics, BS-ISDA) — INFO 200, INFO 202, INFO 204 — the iSchool requires that students earn a B in the course. If the grade is less than B (B- or lower) after the first attempt you will be placed on administrative probation. You must repeat the class if you wish to stay in the program. If - on the second attempt - you do not pass the class with a grade of B or better (not B- but B) you will be disqualified.
  • A represents Exceptional work; a grade of "A" will be assigned for outstanding work only.

Graduate Students are advised that it is their responsibility to maintain a 3.0 Grade Point Average (GPA). Undergraduates must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

University Policies

Per University Policy S16-9, university-wide policy information relevant to all courses, such as academic integrity, accommodations, etc. will be available on Office of Graduate and Undergraduate Programs' Syllabus Information web page at: Make sure to visit this page, review and be familiar with these university policies and resources.

In order to request an accommodation in a class please contact the Accessible Education Center and register via the MyAEC portal.

icon showing link leads to the PDF file viewer known as Acrobat Reader Download Adobe Acrobat Reader to access PDF files.

More accessibility resources.