UMD Center for Archival Futures (CAFe) is Shaping Archives and Preservation

INFO Staff - October 10, 2023

CAFe aims to create access to cultural memory at previously unprecedented scales

Photo of CAFe members and volunteers at the 2023 Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon

CAFe members and volunteers at the 2023 Douglass Day Transcribe-a-thon (Photo Credit: Sarah Grun)

The University of Maryland (UMD) Center for Archival Futures (CAFe) was established in January 2021 by a group of interdisciplinary faculty and students at the UMD College of Information Studies (INFO) who are passionate about archives and digital curation. Working hand-in-hand with cultural heritage practitioners and communities represented in archives, CAFe has become known for developing human-centered approaches to understanding the use and care of digital archives over time—as well as creating systems to enhance access to archives and the connection between archives.

CAFe takes a holistic view of digital curation as a research area, education domain, and growing profession that transcends disciplines and organizational contexts. They endeavor to advance cultural equity and accessibility, ultimately ensuring the preservation of our shared cultural heritage for future generations.

Led by director Victoria Van Hyning (INFO Assistant Professor)—CAFe pursues its mission through innovative research, partnership building, education, and facilitating discourse.

Research projects at CAFe center on three key areas:

  • Data in communities – how digital collections and data support communities.
  • Digital life-cycles – the management, use, and impact of data and digital objects from creation→analysis→preservation→reuse in new contexts.
  • Data in knowledge ecosystems – data models and infrastructures to support future knowledge ecosystems and interdisciplinary synthesis.

Partnerships with the National Park Service, National Agricultural Library, David C. Driskell Center, Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, Library of Congress, and Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) enhance research opportunities and capabilities in these areas. In one IMLS-funded project of note, CAFe researchers are leading the Indigenize SNAC project—through which they are training Indigenous information studies scholars, Tribal project archivists, and Indigenous library science students on how to use SNAC (a platform for searching across all archives in the US) as a tool for helping Native and Indigenous researchers to locate their community’s materials. Click here to learn more about this project.

CAFe also creates and leverages partnerships with local communities to bring experiential learning opportunities to INFO students. Notably, partnerships with members of the local Piscataway tribe and with the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association has allowed CAFe to bring hands-on learning into master’s courses on archival practices.

CAFe hosts public discussions with speakers who are at the cutting edge of archives and digital curation research and practice from a wide variety of institutions and communities. They have strong areas of focus on queer communities and archival practice, indigenous communities and knowledge practices, and Black communities and knowledge practices. Additionally, they have strong connections with large federal repositories such as NARA and the Smithsonian—and an international reach with previous speakers hailing from Australia, the UK, Europe, and Kyrgyzstan. These events bring together top researchers, practitioners, and students of archives and preservation to discuss and advance thought in the field.

View past discussion events:

To join the CAFe mailing list to hear about public events, please email and reply to this address: If you would like to talk about a partnership, opportunity, or joining CAFe, please email: