Archivist Spotlight: Rachel E. Winston, Black Diaspora Archivist at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections (University of Texas at Austin)


Please give a brief introduction of yourself and your interests in Latin American and Caribbean cultural heritage archives.

My name is Rachel E. Winston—I am a graduate of Davidson College (Anthropology and French), the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and The University of Texas at Austin (MSIS). Throughout my educational and professional career, I’ve been passionate about representation and access within cultural institutions and in community programming initiatives. As an archivist, I’m interested in the ways in which people of color are represented, described and preserved in our institutions, and further, dismantling imposed barriers to access for these kinds of materials.

You recently started in the newly created Black Diaspora Archivist position at the LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections at the University of Texas at Austin. Tell us a little bit about the new role and your goals for collecting and establishing the Black Diaspora archive.

The Black Diaspora Archive is a collaborative initiative between UT Libraries, Black Studies and LLILAS Benson. In my role as Black Diaspora Archivist, I’m leading the university’s effort in developing a special collection that documents the Black experience throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.  One of the things I’m most excited about is being able to highlight the experiences and works of people of color as told/documented by they themselves—there’s a huge void in this space.  I’m especially grateful to be doing this work at LLILAS Benson where there is real concern for ethical collecting, social justice and post-custodial archival practice.

What has been the most rewarding part of your career? Any advice to fellow new professionals?

Getting this job! In a lot of ways, I was preparing myself for this position before it even existed and I’m looking forward the achievements the Black Diaspora Archive will make in the years to come. To those who are committed to countering or changing the narrative and creating space for others in our field—stay encouraged and don’t be afraid to ask for help.


More on the New Archives Law in Mexico

by Margarita Vargas

As a consequence of the activism of historians and library science professionals, the law will not be presented to the Mexican Senate during the next period of sessions. This gives time for more work, analysis, and proposals. The objective is to have a law that allows transparency and unrestricted access to archives. This way, the law will give way to an inclusive and plural historic memory. To achieve this, the Board of the Mexican Committee of Historic Sciences asks historians to continue the activism against the current initiative:

Por el Derecho a la Memoria (For the Right of Historic Memory)

Margarita Vargas-Betancourt, International Archives Affairs Section

In past weeks, Mexican scholars, archivists, and LIS professionals have organized forums and issued declarations to make known their discontent with the new General Law of Archives that was presented to the Mexican Senate on November 17, 2016. This new law would supersede the Federal Archives Law which has been in place since 2012. Why is this new law troublesome?

The new law proposes the creation of a Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The Council would be under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. The law also states that the president of the country would designate the Director of Mexico’s National Archives. These provisions take away the technical and administrative autonomy of the National Archives and the National System of Archives, and thus eliminate the checks and balances that such institutions should provide.

Although this law is supposed to guarantee transparency, it does not guarantee access to public and historic records. For this reason, scholars and LIS professionals request that the new law sets standards to regulate the transfer of government records to the National Archives and to prevent the restriction of access, the deaccession, or the destruction of such records.

Enrique Chmelnik, President of the Association of Mexican Private Archives and Libraries (AMABPAC) and Director of the Center of Documentation and Research of the Jewish Communities in Mexico (CDIJUM) participated at the SAA’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Atlanta. There he explained two concerns that Mexican private LIS institutions have about the new law. The first is that the new law did not set up a democratic procedure to select the representative of private archives and libraries to the Ruling Council of the National Archives System. The second is that the new law gives the Mexican state the power to expropriate private archives, but does not set up a transparent and accountable way to exert such power, such as the creation of interdisciplinary and autonomous councils that might supervise and advise on the expropriation.

On November 28, 2016, scholars and LIS professionals met with the Mexican senate to discuss the new law. They demanded that the new law be modified to meet the needs for transparency, access to information, and accountability. These needs are especially urgent because in the last years, human rights have been constantly violated in Mexico.

For the petition by scholars and LIS professionals see:

For a summary of the meeting see:

For Enrique Chmelnik’s petition to the Mexican senate see: