The Human Rights Archive's collecting policy is geared towards developing a collection that contains original, valuable, and accessible documentation, in a broad variety of media and formats. Such a collection is an invaluable resource to scholars interested in primary sources that document human rights abuses, human rights strategies, and the on-going historical elaboration of human rights thought and action. Just as importantly, the archive endeavors to serve the human rights community by providing essential materials for training and educating human rights activists and practitioners, by providing a platform for discussions and meaningful interactions between academics and activists, and for nurturing a broad culture of human rights in our communities. The Human Rights Archive is thus propitiously situated at the cross-roads of thought and action, scholarship and practice.
The Rubenstein Library has a long history of collecting material that documents activities focusing on social advocacy and social change. In some cases, such as the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War, these activities have had a direct impact on the human rights movement. Other collecting areas - labor movement, women’s rights, and LGBT material - have only more recently established ideological and strategic connections with human rights activity and have adopted human rights related strategies. Duke initiated collecting in the human rights area in 2003 with the strong support of the Duke Human Rights Initiative which became established as the Duke Human Rights Center in 2007. Acquisitions thus far have included the Marshall T. Meyer Papers, the Center for International Policy Records, the Peter Storey Papers, the Center for Death Penalty Litigation records, the Student Action with Farmworkers records, and the Global Rights records . These collections have set a precedent for collecting on an international level, as well as acquiring both personal papers and organizational records.
Due to the dynamic nature of human rights organizing and activism and the strategic embrace of communications technology to further human rights work, the Human Rights Archive collects material in a wide variety of formats. Besides traditional paper based records and documents the archive also collects ephemera, photography, moving image (both analog and digital), audio material, digital media (digital files, databases) and world-wide-web documents (web-sites and blogs).
Activities and Functions
Records are produced in the course of carrying out the functions and activities that fulfill an organization’s mission. Thus, the Human Rights Archive gives careful consideration to the types of activity that organizations and individuals engage in to further human rights work. The archive has identified four types of activities that it seeks to document. These functions are not mutually exclusive, and thus organizational records may be produced as a result of more than one of these activities.
Documentation: activity dedicated to documenting human rights issues. Documentation can involve filming or video- or audio-recording of actual abuses, recording of testimony or witnessing (in any format), the production and collection of field notes or field reports, or other such activity that results in a record of human rights abuses or human rights related events (e.g. demonstrations, judicial hearings, or trials).
Advocacy: activity geared towards the creation, promulgation or enforcement of human rights. Advocacy can include litigation, lobbying, protesting and demonstrating, and policy and program development and monitoring.
Information Dissemination: activity fostering awareness, knowledge, discussion, and debate over human rights. Publishing (paper and digital), performing, broadcasting, and film or video production are all forms of information dissemination.
Community Development: activity contributing to the growth of the human rights community. Examples of such activity include building coalitions, organizing grass-roots or local human rights infrastructure, planning workshops and conferences, and training activists.
Broadly imagined, human rights encompasses an arena of international action that crystallized around the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has since continued to evolve, define, and re-define itself. Additionally, human rights discourse and activity has spread across the globe and is highly international and transnational in nature. The Human Rights Archive collection policy focuses on those sub-areas and geographic regions which have strong representation in Duke’s existing academic programs. There is also a strong impetus to collect documentation that illustrates the exchange of ideas, strategies, and resources across borders and frontiers, and between local and international arenas of action.
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