February 16, 2018

Manuel Escamilla | Movers & Shakers 2015 — Educators

Manuel Escamilla


Archivist, Santa Ana Public Library, CA

MLIS, University of California, Los Angeles, 2014

@Manny_Esc; instagram.com/full_metal_archivist; ci.santa-ana.ca.us/library; santanerozine.com; orangecountyhistory.org

Photo by Dominic De La Riva

History Hoarder

“I’m a certified professional hoarder for local history,” is how Manuel Escamilla, archivist at Santa Ana Public Library (SAPL), describes himself. “We can save it all first, organize it later.”

Escamilla combines his love of history with his interest in and commitment to working with youth. An avid grant-getter, he teaches young people how to collect oral history in their neighborhoods. One of his early grants was for the Raitt Street Chronicles. The neighborhood, one of the most challenged in Santa Ana, is where Escamilla grew up. Young historians interviewed other youths and adults who had witnessed violence about the impact it had on them and their community.

His work has led to a three-year award to SAPL from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for Memories of Migration, a project built on Escamilla’s model, in which teens and others in the community document the immigrant experience. A kit will be created to help libraries nationwide develop their own neighborhood digital archives.

Escamilla, who started off as a library volunteer himself, trains and mentors volunteering youth, age 14–24. He says the program has a circle of mentoring approach—even the youngest participants mentor elementary school students.

At first, the volunteers work on their own family histories, even filming family members. “It’s an opportunity to sit down and relate to someone whom you would never have related to before,” explains Escamilla. “It’s about figuring out how people navigated the system. You get a lot of that in this immigrant community, where you’re looking for examples of people you admire and who can inspire you.” Escamilla sat in when someone interviewed his own father about his immigrant experience. “I learned more in that half-hour interview than ever before,” he recalls.

Despite his focus on the past, Escamilla is big on forward-looking technology, too. He brought Project Gado’s open source robotic scanner into the Santa Ana History Room, where teens are including it in their history project. Escamilla firmly believes that “if you approach history creatively, and you bring it out into the real world, more people will appreciate it.”

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.



  1. True………..