Factories of Change: Anthropology and Southern Historical Collection project explores repurposing of former industrial spaces

The Factories of Change project team in Ecuador. (photo courtesy of InHerit)

Led by Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, an anthropology professor and the senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, the “Factories of Change” project brings together an unlikely cohort. It includes anthropologists and an archivist from UNC-Chapel Hill, an anthropologist from Puebla, Mexico, social studies teachers from Rocky Mount, N.C., and business and municipal leaders from Ecuador.

The goal:  to explore how industrial spaces (primarily textile mills or factories) have been repurposed and their role in the communities they inhabit. InHerit Program Director Gabrielle Vail joined the project team for an inside look at repurposed textile mills in a variety of communities in North Carolina (including Greensboro, Rocky Mount, Saxapahaw and Star) in late May.

These were of interest to Ecuadorian visitors Mauricio Ayala, Richard Calderon and Fernando Jara in light of their connection to the Fábrica Imbabura, a former textile factory in Atuntaqui, Ecuador, that was converted into a state-of-the art museum. Through collaboration and consultation with archivists and museum professionals in the United States, the Ecuadoran delegation hopes to find solutions to some of the most pressing issues of Ecuadoran industrial heritage: cataloguing, preserving and digitizing hundreds of boxes of archival materials relating to the factory and also finding ways to increase traffic to the museum. A solution for increasing visitation was presented by a visit to the Tsongas Industrial History Center, an educational facility in Lowell, Massachusetts, that was built within an original textile factory and is visited by 40,000 school children each year.

Sculpture built for the textile factory museum in Atuntaqui. (photo courtesy of InHerit)

The U.S. team’s visit to Ecuador in late June allowed project members to tour the former factory. They also talked with representatives of groups in Imbabura Province concerned with cultural heritage, including school teachers, mayors, university professors, artisans and leaders of indigenous communities. These meetings resulted in several calls to action — to help the Fábrica Imbabura develop resources (including its archive) that will make it a true center of community life for the residents of Atuntaqui and surrounding regions, and to work with residents of the indigenous community of Natabuela to develop strategies for heritage conservation and to dialogue more widely about issues of cultural survival.

Story courtesy of the InHerit Program