Krystal Appiah, Candidate for Council

Krystal Appiah

Curator for State and Local Collections
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) is not an initiative that a single working group or a few SAA sections undertake; it is an ethos that must infuse all of our work.



Krystal is a curator for state and local collections at the University of Virginia’s Small Special Collections Library. Previous positions include instruction librarian at the Small Special Collections Library, curator of African American history/reference librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and research archivist at the Maryland State Archives. Her experience at a wide range of archival institutions has helped her understand the unique challenges and opportunities that these different organizations face. Her passion is connecting and empowering people with archival materials, so her career has focused on various aspects of public services, including reference, instruction, and outreach.

Since joining SAA in 2008, Krystal has found it to be a wonderful way to connect to a strong community of support about archival issues and professional development. Krystal has been an active member of SAA. She served as the chair of the Nominating Committee, 2015–2016; SAA Appointments Committee, 2019; SAA Task Force on Accessibility in Archives; SAA Mosaic Awards Subcommittee, 2012–2015 (chair, 2014–2015); Awards Nomination Committee, Archivists and Archives of Color Roundtable, 2012–2013. Krystal also served on MARAC’s Spring 2016 Program Committee and Fall 2013 Local Arrangements Committee. She has been a grant reviewer for a number of IMLS and NEH grants. From 2015–2021, she served on the editorial board of Provenance: Journal of the Society of Georgia Archivists.

Krystal holds an MLIS with a specialization in archival studies from UCLA and a master’s degree in public humanities from Brown University.



Each candidate prepared a diversity statement according to SAA guidelines.

I come to this profession as a straight, able-bodied, Black American woman from a middle-class background. Because of my background and education, I recognize that I am better versed on issues of anti-Black racism, but I am constantly listening and learning more about supporting groups subject to other types of marginalization. One way I’ve accomplished this is by co-facilitating a discussion group at work about various DEIA issues, ranging from racism and ableism to transphobia and ageism. In addition to having readings and discussions, we also brainstorm action items to work on both at the individual and institutional levels. One example is that, following the ableism discussion, several staff members formed a working group on accessibility for our library building. After meetings with people with different types of disabilities and others, the group has prioritized a list of accessibility improvements and is seeking funding inside and outside the library for implementation. This discussion group has been a good model for how reflection, learning, and action can create change on the individual and systemic levels.

One of the reasons I am so passionate about archives, is that I’ve found them to be a powerful tool for me to learn about my own biases and to hold powerful institutions and people accountable. I have learned so much about people and experiences different from me through archival records, which is why it is so important to me to help collect, preserve, and make accessible the records of marginalized groups.

The term “representational belonging”—conceptualized by Michelle Caswell, Marika Cifor, and Mario Ramirez—articulates my approach to archival work. Representational belonging recognizes the potential for archives—through their creation, description, preservation, and use—to empower groups that have traditionally been marginalized in society and mainstream memory institutions. Although Caswell, Cifor, and Ramirez situate representational belonging in community archives, I believe there is also space to do a version of this liberatory work in a mainstream archives. This includes incorporating trauma-informed practices to help researchers and staff recognize and process secondary trauma they might experience from the violence and erasure documented in historical records.

Our profession needs to make systemic changes to reimagine how the full spectrum of our work, from donor relations and description to access policies and staff recruitment, can be equitable and inclusive. I’ve seen the inadequacy of diversity initiatives which just toss people and collections from marginalized groups into the mix without understanding or caring about their epistemological origins or histories of oppression. To be a truly equitable and inclusive profession, we need to acknowledge that some traditional archival practices can cause harm.



The tragic and thought-provoking events of the past year and a half have indelibly impacted the world and our profession, and carved out a space for projects and initiatives that challenge and amplify the historical record, and foreground the urgency of equity and inclusion. How would you bring this growing investment in social justice to bear as a Council member and support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within SAA, the Council, and among the general membership? How would you help promote and implement the SAA Work Plan on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility?


I want to acknowledge that the recent calls for more diverse archival communities and inclusive archival practices were seeded by decades of work by archival practitioners, activists, and educators and not just spurred by the events of the past two years. However, I am encouraged by the growing number of SAA members who are vocally and actively invested in social justice practices. The SAA Work Plan on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility is a great blueprint with concrete, measurable actions that will help create a more equitable profession.

Many of the elements of the Work Plan exist because of the yearslong advocacy of members and groups like the Native American Archives Section, Archivists and Archives of Color Section, Diverse Sexuality and Gender Section, and Students and New Archives Professionals Section. Data from the A*CENSUS II Working Group will aid us in setting goalposts for the Work Plan’s action items. A new crop of archival educators is also reimagining archival practice and providing us with the tools and vocabulary to create new methods and processes.

As a member of Council, I would work with these and other SAA groups to implement the vision presented in the Work Plan. Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) is not an initiative that a single working group or a few SAA sections undertake; it is an ethos that must infuse all of our work. I believe that change is possible when people work collectively. The Joint Archives Management/Records Management Roundtables Working Group on Accessibility in Archives and Records Management is a good example of how collaborative DEIA work is not a distraction from but is integral to archival work. Statements, policies, and best practices endorsed by a national professional association such as SAA can help archivists on the ground with the standing to implement change at their institutions.

Throughout this, we have to remember that DEIA is an iterative process. One of the most important lessons from the past year and a half is that those of us doing social justice and DEIA work must remain energized, focused, and community-oriented despite oppressive backlashes. As such, the Work Plan needs to be a living document. It’s important to develop milestones for each task, but the various actions and best practices will need to be revisited regularly with SAA membership to ensure those actions continue to put us on the path to equity and inclusion.

Finally, achieving the Work Plan’s action items will require a variety of financial and personnel resources. The past two years have shown us that we can use a number of online collaborative tools to lessen the financial burden and geographic disadvantages of members who would like to work on the Work Plan’s implementation. Additionally, as a member of Council, I would work other Council members, SAA staff, membership, and the SAA Foundation to locate and allocate the funding needed to accomplish these goals without placing the burden of the work on the unpaid emotional and professional labor of archival workers from marginalized groups.



Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2022 election:

Vice President/President-Elect


Nominating Committee