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Meet Our Founder

Jessica C. Neal (Jes) — she/they — is a millennial creative, archivist, and Black memory worker based in Mobile, AL.  Informed by the frameworks of Black studies, Black feminist theory, decolonial theory, and critical archival studies, her work seeks to investigate, interrogate, imagine and document practices of liberation, heritage, and culture. 


As a person and professional, Jes is deeply invested in serving as an ally and collaborator within global marginalized communities to create more equity in who gets historicized and to implement post-custodial archival models. Recognizing storytelling and the resources to self-document are crucial to intergenerational communication, evidence of existence, and authentic legacy-making, her long-term focus is her work in community, personal, family, and organizational archives that document Black cultural production–-especially in the arts, literary, and social movements.


Through Vanguard, her current project roster includes serving as archival consultant for the Diaspora Solidarities Lab, Cave Canem, Kundiman, the Hoboken’s History of Gentrification and Arson for Profit project and Carnegie Museum of Art. Most recently Jes wrapped up her role as the project scholar for the Western Pennsylvania Disability History & Action Consortium's Mellon-funded Intersection of Race and Disability Project, and has led a host of archival projects for private clients. Outside her Vanguard work, Jes is also project archivist for the National Historical Publications and Records Commission funded Company 1433 Project. Through community partnerships and archival research, Jes’s efforts to document the all-Black unit of the Civilian Conservation Corp that helped to develop the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge will result in a digital archive to be housed within the Digital Library of Georgia system. 


Jes recently completed her tenure as Records Management Project Manager at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she had supported operations and spearheaded new RIM policy development since 2020. Previously, they served as curator and archivist for the Sterling A. Brown collection at Williams College, and, as a result, curated the REVELATIONS exhibition in fall 2022, alongside the symposium, “The Life and Lore of Sterling A. Brown: Celebrating Poetry, Prose, and Music.” She has partnered with The Gates Preserve as an archivist and oral history consultant. Through this partnership, she contributed to the Lo Life digital archive project, which debuted summer 2022. In 2021, Jes collaboratively curated the exhibition, “Uncommon Threads: The Works of Ruth E. Carter” at New Bedford Art Museum, highling the Oscar award winning costume designer’s work spanning her career from Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing to Ryan Coogler’s first Black Panther movie.


Jes is a board member of the Black Oral History Network, where she serves as the Director of Membership. She is also a multi-term board member for the Sexual Minorities Archives, based in Holyoke, Massachusetts. She has a long history of professional service, including serving as conference chair for Digital Preservation Conference in 2022, the National Digital Stewardship Coordinating Committee from 2020-2023, and the Society of American Archivists Nominating Committee in 2023. Her professional scholarship includes, “Fleckner Revisited: Reflections on Being an Archivist, Then and Now,” published in the American Archivist, and her co-authored piece “Assessing Power Dynamics in Multigenerational Archive,” published in Archival Outlook. 

Learn more about Vanguard Archives Consulting here.

Jessica C. Neal, MLIS

Founder and Lead Archivist

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