Architecting Sustainable Futures

Architecting Sustainable Futures

Designing prosperity for small museums and community-based archives


On September 21st and 22nd, 2018, Shift Design, Inc, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, hosted Architecting Sustainable Futures: Exploring Funding Models in Community-Based Archives in New Orleans, LA. The symposium was an opportunity to help equip community-based archives with tools to address one of their most pressing needs for self-sufficiency: sustainable funding.


How can we keep doing this work?

Community-based archives hold some of the most valuable materials documenting the lives of marginalized people in the United States, and they mostly reside in spaces outside of traditional academic and government-run cultural heritage institutions. But while community-based archives continue to collect and preserve histories of marginalized people, many of them face difficulties growing their operations, keeping their doors open, and enhancing their programming and collections activities because of a lack of access to funding.

what does equity look like?

Architecting Sustainable Futures helped equip community-based archives with tools to address sustainable funding. The five main objectives of the symposium were to map the broad field of Community-Based Archives, their diversity of scope, intent and capacity; to define current funding models in Community-Based Archive; to map the funding landscape for Community-Based Archives; to identify gaps and opportunities to support and build capacity in Community-Based Archives; and to make recommendations for different ways Community-Based Archives can be funded given their capacity.


voices from the field

Part of the Architecting Sustainable Futures project called for essays from community-based archives participants as a way to guide the conversation at the symposium. We commissioned five essays as part of this process. Because the submissions were so rich in how they demonstrated the value of community-based archives and some of the issues they face, we decided to make them the foundation for a blog. Sustainable Futures is a first of its kind blog where community-based archives founders and practitioners write about the value of their work and the impact of their archives.


The other stuff we do


ASF Local

See Abstract

Assisting small museums and community-based archives advocate for funding on the local and regional scale by developing dynamic local reports using open-source data.

The Blog

See Blog

The Medium publication channel focused on community-based archives. If you would like to contribute, please contact us.

Culture Lab Cooperative

See Retreat

A weekend-long design-centered peer learning retreat about equitable and community-centered museums, in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, New Orleans May 17-19.


The Architecting Sustainable Futures Symposium had an immediate impact on the participants and the work to build capacity and to grow sustainability in community-based archives.




Architecting Sustainable Futures is a project of Shift, a non-profit organization based in New Orleans and London that builds programs and services for social change. We address issues of equality and social justice though human-centered design thinking. We work primarily in the cultural heritage space to amplify the unheard and untold stories of marginalized people. Want to know more about this work or how we can help your organization? Feel free to email Bergis Jules, Director of Equity Initiatives at Shift.