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Building Better Models:

Responding to Community Needs for Preserving Cultural Heritage Materials


Thursday, May 2, 2024
1 – 2 p.m. CDT
Cost: Free

In this panel, three speakers will discuss their experiences preserving cultural heritage material in their communities when they saw a need that was not being met. The panelists are engaged in building better models for preservation, responding to the ways that existing standards and best practices create barriers for their communities and promote extractive practices. Their work highlights the importance of meaningful relationships for rethinking preservation work in ways that address community needs. The panel will further address the overarching issues of the lack of diversity among preservation professionals and lack of representation in the archives field.

The focus of the webinar content will be the stories of the speakers and their conversation with each other. The speakers will briefly present their work on Disability Archives Lab (Gracen Brilmyer), Memorialize the Movement (Leesa Kelly), and Indigitization (Gerry Lawson). Presentations will be followed by a panel discussion around audience questions. The panel will be moderated by Ann Kearney, Rare Books Conservator at University at Albany.

Note: An ASL Interpreter and Certified Deaf Interpreter will be present for this webinar.

Learning Outcomes

  • Encouraging people to think about the systems in which preservation work is performed and radicalizing and empowering them to disrupt those systems’ failures to support preservation efforts.
  • Building connections among individuals working to serve their communities through preservation.

Who Should Attend

  • Black and Brown people, Indigenous people, and Disabled people.
  • People interested in diverse archives, creating diverse archives, and diversifying archives.
  • People interested in building better models for preserving cultural heritage.


Gracen Brilmyer (they/them) is a Disabled researcher whose work investigates the ways that disabled people use, experience, and understand themselves through archives as well as how to tell histories of disability when there is little or no archival evidence. They are the director of the Disability Archives Lab, collaborative space for disabled people to think about the ways that archives and the materials they hold document, shape, and impact disabled people, and an assistant professor at McGill University. For more: disabilityarchiveslab.com or follow them on Instagram @DisabilityArchivesLab

Leesa Kelly is an activist, writer, public speaker, and curator. Leesa is the Founder and Executive Director of Memorialize the Movement (MTM), a living archive located in Minneapolis dedicated to the preservation and activation of over 1,000 plywood murals that emerged following George Floyd’s murder and the Minneapolis uprising in 2020. Through her work with Memorialize the Movement, Leesa has spoken at over 20 conferences and universities, organized large-scale exhibitions in the Twin Cities and New York, and has led workshops on cultivating BIPOC representation and visibility in the museum and conservation industry. She believes in dismantling oppressive systems and rebuilding new systems that work for ALL people.
Leesa’s passion for social justice and activism was formed during her college years at her alma mater, Western Michigan University. After graduating, Leesa worked as a political organizer for the campaign of Hennepin County Commissioner, Irene Fernando. In the winter of 2022, she became a McWatt Fellow, where she worked to strengthen Black history research & community engagement with the Ramsey County Historical Society, Hennepin History Museum, Anoka County Historical Society, and the Dakota County Historical Society. When Leesa is not planning MTM’s next exhibition or facilitating a workshop, she can be found snuggling with her dog, traveling, or practicing self care. Follow her work on Instagram: @MemorializeTheMovement

Ma̓la̓gius, Gerry Lawson is from the Heiltsuk Nation and currently manages the Oral History and Language Lab at the UBC Museum of Anthropology. With over 20 years in the field of Information Management and Heritage Digitization, he works to develop practical, scalable resources for Indigenous cultural heritage preservation, and to decolonize information practices. Gerry also acts as the Technology Lead for the UBC Indigitization Program and sits on the Board of Directors for the First Peoples’ Cultural Council and the Indigenous Heritage Circle. Follow his work on Instagram: @In.Digitization

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