Preserving Black History: Community Scanning Day

Written by Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, Dana Bronson

In the Inland Northwest Special Collections, we try to practice what Rachel Vagts, an archivist at the Denver Public Library, coined as “radical welcome.” This challenges staff to design our policies and procedures through the lens of “how can we make people feel they are welcome here?” Visiting the Archives and Special Collections can be an intimidating experience, and many people feel like they need to be a “serious researcher” to see some of our most valuable and precious materials. But in the Inland Northwest Special Collections we celebrate people coming in simply because they want to feel inspired by our collections.

However, when you can’t see your own history and community reflected in these collections, we are failing as archivists to achieve our goal of providing a radical welcome. While the Black community in Spokane has been here for over 140 years and has made rich and meaningful contributions to the region, it can be challenging to find those stories across the archives and museums in town. Having representation in archives is one way to help honor and understand the past, and to have your community be visible, represented, known, and celebrated. This fall the Inland Northwest Special Collections is partnering with the Carl Maxey Center on a project to help promote and preserve these stories.

On October 14 we invite community members to bring their photographs, letters, printed materials, and small objects related to Black history in Spokane to the Carl Maxey Center so we can capture them for a digital archive. “One of the primary goals of the Carl Maxey Center,” says Jillisa Winkler, Interim Operations Manager and Program Coordinator at the Carl Maxey Center, “is to uplift and empower Spokane’s Black Community, through cultural outreach, economic development, equity and justice. An important part of building is knowing where you’ve come from and the histories of people before you. We are excited to build an archive to begin telling the stories of the rich Black History in Spokane, to showcase all of the amazing people that have come before us who have helped to establish and improve the lives of African Americans in the Inland Northwest.”

With support from staff and students at the Museum of Art and Culture, Eastern Washington University, and the Spokane Historic Preservation Office, we will scan or photograph your items on the spot, so you don’t have to part with them. Materials do not have to be old to be part of history, so whether the items are from last year or one hundred years ago we would love to see them. History is more than just the stories of famous and prominent people, and we want to emphasize that every story matters and would be a valued contribution to the digital archive. Whether you have casual family snapshots, postcards, or items related to Black-owned businesses, we hope you will join us. Help us bring this history out of family attics, basements, and boxes so it can be shared and celebrated!

Join us on October 14 from 10:00-4:00 at the Carl Maxey Center located at 3114 E. 5th Avenue.

If you have any questions about the event, please get in touch at