December 2016

December 2016

Updated by
Abdi Roble

In June 2016, I was invited to speak at the University of Minnesota in an event sponsored by Immigration History Center (IHRC) about the work I have been doing with Somali refugees and migrants around the world over the past decade.

In July 2016, I attended a two-day archival workshop called "From Theory to Action: A Pragmatic Approach to Digital Preservation Strategies and Tools," a digital POWRR Workshop, at Macalester College. Some of the highlights of this workshop included introduction to basic digital preservation tools and how they can be used within an individual/institution’s workflow. We also learned about processes and how to perform different functions within the digital curation lifecycle as well as leadership and preservation management. Most importantly, some of the speakers presented on the importance of community-based archives and how to engage the community in basic archival literacy.

This workshop opened a lot of doors for me, connecting to other leaders who run archival institutions in their communities. I was also able to connect with twin cities area academics and curators of museums and archival centers with various backgrounds and expertise regarding the relationships between archiving historical documents and community engagement.

Also in July 2016, I was I set up an on-site studio to photograph members of the community, and used the opportunity to mentor young photographers from the Twin Cities/surroundings as part of community engagement on the importance of archives. I was able to teach mentees about:


  1. How to handle difficult conversation relating to photographing community members.
  2. Explain why would one want to photograph them?
  3. Why it is important to archive own community?


As part of this exercise, I learned that:

  • It is easier to teach photography to mentees through hands-on learning once you explain the link between the photographic documentation that is being done now to future archives.
  • Community documentation and archiving materials require hands-on approach.
  • Engaging the community about the need to document them, and teaching young people to be better photographers and explaining to the community how the work that I do now fits into the archive goes hand in hand.

Essentially, practical aspects of community building are directly tied to the archive process.

In August 2016, I was able to collaborate with the Liberal Arts Technology and Innovation Services at the University of Minnesota where I was given access to use and training on Elevator, a cloud based, open source platform for digital asset storage, organization, and display. This access has allowed me to get hands training on all aspects of the software. This web application for cataloging, searching, and distributing digital assets and metadata is designed to be flexible and scalable, from individual users to archival institutions and universities.

Using technology to make the archive available to stakeholders and the community at large will fulfill my vision for the future of making my work accessible to the community as envisaged in my Bush Fellowship proposal. In fact, as I continue to utilize this powerful to digitize photographic materials from my own collection, that vision is slowly becoming a reality. So far, I have uploaded hundreds of such scanned photographs into Elevator.

In September 2016, I attended three-day conference Northeast Document Conservation Center in Denver, Colorado. The conference was on archival leadership and management. Some of the topics covered included the following:

  • Assessing risks to digital collections and understanding rights & responsibilities
  • Digital project planning & selection for digitization of audiovisual, digital-born collections as well as storage.

As a result of attending this conference, I have acquired a wider network in the profession, and met people from leadership positions. Also, I have identified and exchanged contact with key attendees who I feel would best help me navigate best archival practices.

In October 2016, I was invited to London, UK to attend The Somali Week Festival 2016 (SWF) to give a lecture titled, “Recording the Past: Decolonizing Somali Archives”. I spoke about the importance of documenting Somali community in the Diaspora. Thus far, participating in this annual festival was the highlight of my Bush Fellowship activities. The Festival brought together artists and activists who are researching, recording, and writing about Somalia’s past and present. Essentially, I have had an opportunity to connect with network of professionals from academic institutions, researchers and artists who presented their current projects including plays, books and other performances.