Coming Soon!
Stories on Skin
A Librarian's Guide to Tattoos as Personal Archives
by Terry Baxter and Libby Coyner
July 2024, 140pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Libraries Unlimited

Paperback: 978-1-4408-7764-3
$60, £47, 53€, A83
Available for purchase 30 days prior to publication.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-7765-0
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Provides a tactile way for libraries and archives to capture ephemeral stories from people’s lives that would otherwise be lost to history.

Tattoos provide a way to explore and archive how people inscribe stories on their skin; this book grapples with how these inked stories invite conversations, connections, and sometimes controversy.

Tattoos are not merely decorative; they contain deep meaning for individuals and communities. They document their wearers’ personal histories and position in families or society, and they engage with a communal understanding of symbols.

This unique book makes the case that archivists who want to preserve as full a human story as possible must recognize the rich documentation provided by tattoos. It also argues, in a broader sense, that traditional archives are not representative of the ways human beings transmit information through time and that they must be augmented by other types of storytelling to provide a more complete record of our species.

Authors Baxter and Coyner touch on such timely topics as historical narratives, storytelling, cultural traditions, the body as a text, social control, and memorialization by considering tattoos as a personal and community archive. Discussing tattoos as a storytelling tool, the authors also challenge how history is kept and who gets included. Stories on Skin is committed to the rights of communities to tell their stories in their own way and to the power that right brings.


  • Offers a useful methodology for the development of community archival projects
  • Helps to develop a more inclusive human record
  • Teaches the history of the tattoo as a historical narrative
Terry Baxter has been an archivist for almost 40 years, the last 25 with the Multnomah County (OR) Archives. He helped establish the County Archives in 2001 and continues seeking ways to use it to assist information seekers of all sorts. Baxter is a member of and has served in a variety of leadership positions in Northwest Archivists; Society of American Archivists; Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums; Archives Leadership Institute; and The Academy of Certified Archivists.

Libby Coyner-Tsosie (she/they) is an archivist at Elon University. Prior to moving to the U.S. South, she worked as an archivist at the Arizona State Archives. Coyner-Tsosie was trained in archival studies and library science at the University of British Columbia. She is a member of the 2016 cohort of Archives Leadership Institute at Berea College and is proud to have been held in love and community with a group of tremendous archivists and the late bell hooks.
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