Archivist Spotlight: Béatrice Colastin Skokan, Manuscripts, Archives & Outreach Librarian at the University of Miami Libraries — Special Collections (Coral Gables, FL)


1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you decided you wanted to become an archivist.

I am Haitian-American and the Manuscripts, Archives and Outreach Librarian at the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collection. I love working in Special Collections in general but am particularly drawn to the archives because of the immediacy of access to the historical documents. In 2006, I accepted a position as archives assistant and processed the Seymour Samet Papers which pertain to civil rights activism in South Florida in the 1960s. I enjoyed the research and preservation process so much that I decided that I wanted to specialize in archives. I see archives as unmitigated and creative spaces of intellectual activity.

2. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work? The most challenging?

As a professional archivist, I have been actively involved in civic and community engagement by collecting the records of various grassroots organizations and supporting projects in local history. From 2012-2014, I served as co-chair of the Society of American Archivists Human Rights Roundtable because of a longstanding interest and belief in the effectiveness of grassroots advocacy. In the past five years, in my capacity as the Manuscripts Librarian, I have engaged in outreach activities to remedy the absence of African diaspora communities by helping to establish the Collaborative Archive from the African diaspora (CAAD) project and concurrently collecting the papers of various activists groups focused on social justice, immigration, labor, and migrant workers in South Florida.

Filling the silences of established institutional narratives can sometimes be challenging but trust building can occur with patience and respect.

3. Where do you see the role of the archivist in society today and in the future?

I like to think of my fellow archivists as curators of stories. We are trying to preserve and give voice to as many perspectives as possible regardless of provenance and format. The methods will most likely change but the profession’s objectives will remain.

4. What advice and words of wisdom would you give to new and aspiring archivists?

Never get tired of making the connection between archives and communities. In my experience, the general public may not always understand our titles but is genuinely interested in our work.


If you’d like more information about the CAAD project or about the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collections, please contact Béatrice at or check out their newsletter, Mosaic.


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