During April 4-5, Touch This Page! A Symposium on Ability, Access, and the Archive was held at Northeastern and Harvard. Multiple members of the IASC attended and Emilie Hardman, interim head of IASC, presented at the symposium.
The day-and-a-half Touch This Page symposium addressed many topics over the duration, from the history of creating accessible materials, to the creation of 3-D surrogates of Boston Line Type (a raised typeface that was a precursor to Braille), to rethinking ways of describing materials for those that may not be able to interact with books or texts in person, to the ways in which the brain “reads.”
In learning more about the history of accessibility, I realized that the IASC has a small example of Boston Line Type within its collections. This form of raised lettering could be read using either sight or touch.
This copy of The Weekly News is located in the papers of Jonathan Allen (MC-0557). Allen, 1934-2000, was a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He was director of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics, 1981-2000, and a principal investigator in the Circuits and Systems and the Speech Communications research groups in the laboratory. His research centered on speech processing, computational linguistics, computer architecture, and VLSI circuit design.
One of the projects worked on by Allen was the creation of automatic transcription of text to Braille. At MIT, the program DOTSYS (begun by Robert Mann) translated the text, while the MIT Braillemboss machine was created to print out the Braille text in raised dots.
— Chris Tanguay
On Friday, July 20th, I attended the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium at Simmons University. It was an amazing opportunity to hear about and discuss some very important and often unspoken topics around gender and sexuality in the workplace. It was a limited group of attendees; I was on the waiting list until a couple days before when a spot opened up. Because the topics were so personal I could see the reason to keep the attendance limited, but I think these topics would be of interest to a much larger audience, and I would love to see more topics like these at ALA, SAA, and other national organizations’ meetings.
The first session I attended was the “Writing Ourselves Into Our Future: Dismantling & Envisioning Alternative Models of Library Leadership Workshop” led by Sofia Leung from MIT Libraries and Jenny Ferretti from the Maryland Institute College of Art. This workshop consisted of a discussion between Leung and Ferretti and then two writing exercises. Some of the questions discussed were: What are the models of leadership in libraries and are they inclusive? What does feminist leadership look like? And If there were more women of color in power, what would that look like?
One of the writing exercises we did as part of this session was to fill in a Venn diagram with qualities we want in a supervisor and qualities we look for in a supervisee. I thought it was a good exercise that makes you see both sides of the relationship. It made me assess my own qualities as much as think about what qualities I look for in people I work with.
The second session I attended was “(Re)productive Labor and Information Work” with presentations by Gina Schlesselman-Tarango, Alanna Aiko Moore, Chiméne Tucker, and Carrie Wade. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have heard this panel. There was so much sharing and openness about having kids or not having kids, and how that is sometimes something you have control over and sometimes it is out of your control. One of the things that stuck with me was Gina Schlesselman-Tarango‘s powerful story about infertility and how she had an archive of “reproductive failure” for that part of her life. Even though it was difficult to hear, as an archivist I appreciated the discussion around documenting “failures”. Most of the panelists mentioned the idea of failure in some way and how failure is often considered a negative and inappropriate for conversations or for inclusion in archives.
Book recommendations from this panel:
Throughout the afternoon there were other mentions of collection development, especially around documenting trauma.
During the lightning session Joyce Gabiola talked about research underway that looks at community voices and their contributions to archives. There is an idea that the history of a community should be told and shared, but individuals often feel tentative about sharing their own part of that history. How do we balance protecting a community through narrative and understanding that institutional silence can equal structural violence, while also acknowledging that community silence can equal survival. There was a lot of discussion about the negotiation of self, power, silence, and the right to be forgotten.
Another interesting lightning talk was about the project LAOUTLOUD which collects stories and shares them online. From the website:
LAOUTLOUD conducts oral histories and interviews and produces local storytelling workshops. Similar to the old consciousness raising sessions of the 1960s and 70s, our work breaks the silence created by oppressive narratives and helps women and men bring to voice their experiences. Our stories contextualize everyday experiences, rewrite abusive narratives and shift the gaze back where it belongs: toward marginalizing constructions of our world and inhumane legislative policies.
The final panel presentation I attended was “Collection Development as Emotional Labor: Trauma, Sentimentality, Solidarity, and Care” with Leah Richardson, Dolsy Smith, and Elizabeth Settoducato. This panel created a space for critical reflection around what archivists collect, how transparent the work of archivists should be, the trauma of collecting and how radical empathy is needed for collectors, donors, and staff, and how we, as a profession, need to interrogate our failings. There was also a lot of creativity on display in this panel with Settoducato and Smith reading wonderfully inventive papers situating libraries among ghosts and Disneyland and then Hurricane Katrina and apocalyptic times.
Some recommended reading from this panel:
- Locating the Library in Institutional Oppression by nina de jesus
- Dispossed Lives: Enslaved Women, Violence, and the Archive by Marisa J. Fuentes
- Michelle Caswell
- M Archive: After the end of the world by Alexis Pauline Gumbs
I loved that this panel grew out of a reading group of library colleagues at George Washington University.
Overall there was so much info shared over the course of this day, and so many good ideas and resources. I am very glad that I got the opportunity to go. For more on the colloquium visit the live notes and the website.
On May 3, 2018, I attended the ArchivesSpace Regional Forum at Tufts University. The intent of this event was to bring archivists, librarians, and developers from the Boston area together to talk about their local practice using ArchivesSpace (an archival content management tool, more information on their website) and to learn from each other. Additional forums will be happening in different regions of the United States in the coming months in the hope that the attendees will build sustainable local communities of practice around this software. I served on the program committee for this event and am pleased to say the day went off without a hitch!
The day started with two longer presentations. The first was from Lynn Moulton, Boston College; Johanna Carl, Harvard University; and Betsy Baldwin, MIT. This trio was a subset of the ArchivesSpace Staff Interface Enhancement Working Group (SIEWG) and presented on the findings such as usability issues and making it easier for staff to get to certain often used parts of the platform. The group’s full report can be found on their working group page.
Next up were two developers, Bobbi Fox and Dave Mayo, both from Harvard University. They discussed their experience collaborating with archivists to develop tools making archival processes easier, migrating data, and creating user interfaces. They provided some advice on how archivists and programmers can work together, one being that as each group often over commits to too many projects and that it’s essential that the two groups set aside time to meet and understand what their needs are.
Following these longer talks were the lightning round presentations. Some of the most interesting were the ones on the public user interface. Both Harvard and Yale discussed usability testing customization with their user interfaces. One similar and humorous take-away from each was that some users didn’t realize that the page they were on was the finding aid, having expected to download some external document to access it.
Margaret Peachy from Tufts University talked about their digital objects plug-in, which looked very useful for batch creating digital objects and updating links to digital surrogates in ArchivesSpace. Dave Mayo presented again, this time on the Python library he’s developing called ArchivesSnake (available on Github), with Python scripts created by various developers, archivists, and librarians across the country to work with the ArchivesSpace API. This centralizing effort will help reduce some of the duplicate work done by institutions writing scripts to do mostly the same things and raise awareness of those already out there.
(@ArchivesSpace) May 03, 2018
The final portion of the day was a workshop on writing plug-ins to use in ArchivesSpace. This workshop covered both how to create them and how to install them (an easier process). The workshop leaders also discussed multiple non-technical suggestions, like when a plug-in is needed versus when it is not, how to discuss the need for plug-ins with IT or developers at your institution, and the usefulness of project management in the creation of the plug-ins.
The complete schedule, slides, notes, and photographs of the day are available on the ArchivesSpace wiki.
The Spring 2018 Joint Meeting of the New England Archivists (NEA) and the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York (A.R.T.) was held in New Haven, Connecticut, from March 22 to March 24, 2018. Allison Blanning, Katherine Crowe, and Chris Tanguay of MIT’s Institute Archives and Special Collections (IASC) attended. Session reports for each panel will be published in the June edition of the NEA Newsletter. Tweets from the event can be found under the hashtag #NEAARTsp18.
All-Attendee Reception: A Quick Look
The All-Attendee Reception for the conference was held at Yale’s Beinecke Library. The Library is stunning and imposing. The center of the building is a glass box housing the library’s closed stacks, and the windowless walls feature thin stone slabs that let some light filter through. The Library has an MIT connection, too. It’s designer, Gordon Bunshaft received both the B.Arch, 1933, the M.Arch, 1935, from MIT.
— Chris Tanguay
NEA Impressions from a First-Time Attendee
I attended my first ever professional archives conference at the New England Archivists (NEA) Spring Meeting at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The time I spent at NEA was extremely valuable due to the eye-opening sessions and the connections that I made with archival professionals from around New England. The theme of the conference was “Rise Up” and, as such, remarks from presentations and speakers centered on the emerging opportunities that exist for archivists to promote greater accessibility and diversity of collections. Each morning began with a plenary and keynote address that posed questions for conference goers to think about as they attended sessions throughout the day and chatted with professional colleagues.
Although there were many sessions I wanted to attend, I spent Friday listening to lectures that explored the steps archivists are taking to archive the web and ensure that doing so involves eco-friendly and economical practices. In one session, titled “Many Hands, Whose Hands? Archiving the Web,” the presenters explained the process of web archiving in easy to understand parts, and discussed how they utilize tools such as the Internet Archive and Web Crawler to preserve historically valuable pages on the Internet. Archivists also explored how collaborations between institutions for web archiving have been successful but admitted that doing so can create challenges such as equitable division of labor and a lack of agility among the digital preservation tools utilized. Another fascinating session examined the ecological impacts of digital preservation, particularly how data centers utilize suprisingly high amounts of water and electricity to deliver services to archives. Presenters provided recommendations and tools that archivists could use to minimize their environmental impact. Friday concluded with a reception inside Yale University’s renowned Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where I mingled with other archivists amidst the towering stacks of the repository.
The sessions I attended on Saturday were more varied but still centered on the conference theme of utilizing archives to advance causes of social justice. A presentation titled “Radical Empathy” suggested ways in which both archival graduate programs and the archival workplace could become more sympathetic to the unique challenges that both visitors and archivists can face. I also sat in on a presentation that featured Kathy Wisser, my adviser at Simmons School of Library and Information Science. Along with her fellow presenters, Kathy examined ways in which EAD (Encoded Archival Description) standards could be altered to better accommodate demographic metadata.
— Allison Blanning
Sessions: What We Learned
Friday Plenary: Matthew Connelly, “Secrecy in the Archive, History and the Future”
Friday morning started with a plenary by Matthew Connelly, a professor of history from Columbia University, on the topic of secrets and government records. He began by discussing historical uses of classifications, clearances, and the leaking of government secrets. He moved on to discuss the difficulty of appraising electronic records, and that random sampling may lead to materials mistakenly being declassified or destroyed. As such, he said that we should preserve materials until we have better methods of evaluation.
- Less than 1% of money spent on secrecy is about declassifying materials.
- Keyword searching is only about 20% effective.
- Connolly believes that FAQs will replace finding aids for electronic records.
Many Hands/Whose Hands? Archiving the Web Collaboratively
This session began with a discussion by Karl Rainer-Blumenthal about the Internet Archive and its Archive-It partnerships. Next came a discussion of collecting that the University of Maryland, College Park, was undertaking to document the aftermath of a hate crime on campus. Archivists used Archive-It and Webrecorder to collect materials using certain hashtags or mentioning the crime. Questions regarding the use of these materials remain, as no consent was obtained by the groups whose communications were collected. The session ended with a discussion of the Ivy Plus Libraries Archive-It instance. The Ivy Plus Libraries, with the exception of MIT and Stanford, use it to collect websites in certain topical areas.
- The Internet Archive also collects software, including old games! (Play one of my favorites)
- Contacts regarding harvesting websites sometimes lead to donations of physical materials.
Advocacy and Sustainability: Current Issues in Digital Preservation
This session began with a case study of using sampling to review the 2 to 3 terabytes of material received by an academic archive each year from their in-house photographers. A Python script was used to select each 10th image, and photographs from the beginning and the end of the shoot. Database preservation and metadata for research data were also discussed. The panel ended with Brandeis and the MIT Energy Initiative (MITei) representatives discussing the carbon footprint of digital preservation and data centers.
- Working with offices can help create more useful organization before materials are received.
- Lower your carbon footprint by sourcing your storage, optimizing outreach, keeping good metadata, and knowing your files.
- Good, clean metadata prevents duplication of efforts and speeds up finding and accessing materials.
- The Internet is responsible for emitting 300 million tons of CO2 per year.
This tweet produced .02 grams of carbon dioxide. The internet is responsible for massive amounts of carbon emission. #neaartsp18—
Chris Tanguay (@chris_tanguay) March 23, 2018
Holding the Line: Self-Care as an Act of Resistance
This session discussed aspects of self care and self-advocacy in the profession. The panel began with a discussion of divisiveness, societal stresses, and potential self-care solutions. Major themes involved re-evaluating your default settings, saying “no” from time to time, recognizing that there is validity in small actions and successes, and doing nice things for yourself. Next came a discussion of consulting work and the types of advocacy and self-care lessons learned. A discussion of imposter syndrome focused on undervaluing your worth, and stressed the importance of paying and mentoring interns. The session ended with the audience breaking into groups to discuss solutions to certain issues such as work/life balance, office culture, and how to say “no.”
- Normalize talking about mental health.
- Stand on principle, but pick your battles.
- Impostor syndrome is experienced more often by women and people of color. It can manifest itself in taking on too much as a way of proving yourself.
- “Internships as free labor devalue the profession.”
- AAUW Work Smart Salary Negotiation Workshops are a useful tool in fighting the salary gap.
Saturday Plenary: Emily Drabinski, “Rise-Up How Tos: Practical Strategies for Changing Worlds”
On Saturday the day started off with a plenary talk byEmily Drabinski, the Coordinator of Library Instruction at Long Island University, Brooklyn. Emily is also the secretary of the faculty union, the Long Island University Faculty Federation. Emily’s talk focused on her experience during the lockout of faculty during contract negotiations last fall and her views/advice on labor organizing.
- Bargaining is always adversarial, but not necessarily hostile.
- When organizing people for a cause (whether in terms of labor and unions or other situations) the four questions you have to be able to answer are:
- Who are we?
- Who are we talking to?
- What do we want and how are we going to get it?
- What else can we do with the power that we are building?
- Another set of questions to consider are: How does power work in this organization, how does it work in this situation, and how is it working for us now?
Radical Empathy in Archival Practice
NEA Session Description | Mini-zine handout
Katherine Crowe (@katherine_crowe) March 24, 2018
This session served as a “forum for discussing the ways in which our profession can ‘center radical empathy and obligations of care.'” Radical empathy was defined in the session as an openness and willingness to be affected, to be shaped by another’s experiences without blurring lines between the self and the other. We discussed the different affective responsibilities of an archivist: between the archivist and the record creator, the subject of the records, the user, the community, and other archivists. A discussion by Molly Brown posited that concepts should be introduced in archival education, including anti-racist training, learning to deal with disappointing patrons in reference interactions, and considering the ethics of technology.
- Extend empathetic relationship to the people who don’t interact directly with the archives. This group can be easily forgotten about, but they can also be affected by the actions of the archives, the communications we are posting online, etc.
- Be mindful of the effects of presentation on interpretation.
- Think about the ethics of technology and description. What should we do about triggering materials online? “What do you rob when you don’t caption a photograph?”
- Archivists should be thought of as caregivers.
- “Our world is abundant, let’s work together to figure out ways to share that abundance.”
NEA Business Meeting
The results of NEA’s 2016 survey on contingent employment were presented during the business meeting. The presentation itself echoed many themes of the conference: the need for advocacy, the problem of maintaining self-care, and structural inequities. Raw data from the survey will be available in the future.
Enhancing Underrepresented Collections and Reaching New Users
In this session, speakers presented on their institution’s efforts to improve collection access for underrepresented communities and to highlight collections that document those communities. A case study from UMass Boston touched on issues of creator versus co-creator versus archivist. While description added by archives staff was noted by brackets, it is left up to the patron to distinguish the creator and co-creator’s marks. Staff of the Boston College archives discussed reprocessing a series of children’s stories of Anansi in the papers of Joseph Williams. They found that adding description helped to highlight the different regions of Jamaica where the stories were gathered, and documentation of the arrangement prior to re-processing is available for patrons. Finally, we heard about the Lawrence History Center, and how they reach out to immigrant communities by translating their outreach materials in order to engage new immigrants with the history of their city.
- Transparency is especially important, i.e., noting when the description of an object is from the record creator or from the archivist.
- “[The] strength of the archive is in the relationship you develop, maintain, and support”
- Sometimes “More Product, Less Process” is impossible or its use erases important context.
— Katherine Crowe, Chris Tanguay
Myles Crowley (@mcarchivist) September 23, 2017
The Institute Archives and Special Collections hosted the Fall 2017 Meeting of the New England Archivists (NEA) on September 23, 2017. The half-day symposium was an opportunity for members to reflect about archives and the work of archivists under the theme “Infinite Conversations” through a series of facilitated conversations. Over 100 people attended the meeting, which was held in buildings 14, 6, and 2.
IASC staff serving on the Program Committee were Liz Andrews, Myles Crowley, Nora Murphy, and Chris Tanguay. The idea for the theme was inspired by Sherry Turkle’s book Reclaiming Conversations. Jonathan Franzen in the New York Times describes the book as,
…a call to arms: Our rapturous submission to digital technology has led to an atrophying of human capacities like empathy and self-reflection, and the time has come to reassert ourselves, behave like adults and put technology in its place.
Attendees seemed to take the theme to heart as evidenced through low social media output and the distinctive hum of continuing conversations that could be heard through the halls of MIT. For those that couldn’t attend the tweets featured here do give some idea of what the meeting was like.
Myles Crowley (@mcarchivist) September 23, 2017
They are opening with a skit. I have found my people. #NEAFall17—
Rebecca (@DerangeDescribe) September 23, 2017
In preparation for the meeting, a call for conversation topics and facilitators was put out to the NEA community instead of the traditional call for presentations. Sessions included:
- Archival Advocacy at Work
- Archivists Working with Activists: Considerations for Success
- Commemoration of Historical Anniversaries in Archives
- Documenting Digital Student Life: Outreach and Relationship-building for Practical Collecting
- Ethical Dilemmas in the Archives
- Intermediate Topics in Records Management: After the Retention Schedule
- Laboring in the Archives: A Conversation about Ourselves as Workers
- Make an Impact: Marketing and Communications for Archives
- Presenting Archival Collections to the Public
- Whose History? Community Outreach and Partnerships to Cultivate Representation and Diversity in Our Collections
Facilitators for each session provided questions for the audience and helped guide the conversation. While there was a room designated for impromptu popup sessions, the space was not utilized.
To view the program online, visit NEA’s Fall 2017 Meeting website. Session reports should be available in the January 2018 issue of the NEA Newsletter.
On Tuesday, May 30th, I attended the annual BLC meeting at Brandeis University. It was my first time attending a BLC event and even though MIT is now an affiliate member, there was some MIT representation there, not least of which was David Ferriero, the keynote speaker who referenced his time at MIT and MIT in general multiple times. Here are some notes I took from the keynote and the lighting round presentations.
Keynote – David Ferriero (DF), “Building our future through our staff: rethinking, recruiting, and retaining the workforce in the 2020s”
For this keynote DF emphasized that librarians are and need to be disruptors in relation to challenging the status quo, looking towards the future, and changing practices and offerings to benefit users. In order to have new disruptors entering the field he mentioned that we need to focus on what is being taught in MLS programs. He also talked a bit about his own career as well as where he looks for inspiration about future trends. There was a lively discussion session after he spoke. Here are some key points:
- MIT should be a member of BLC because it’s important in terms of resource sharing
- Thinking about disruption and how it affects our work – we are disruptors and we should celebrate it, “disruption factor”
- DF at MIT for 31 years, saw the evolution of user searching, mediated searching, users weren’t trusted, getting librarian out of the way was a disruption but real service to the user
- Humanities librarian, at Hayden, integrated collections – big disruption
- At Duke, migrated to new system, switch from Dewey to LC – big disruptions for users ease
- For future of the workforce DF looks at trends outside library lit –
- MIT Tech review – looks at tech and how it can be exploited for our work
- Gartner group – “surviving the storm winds of digital disruptions”
- Digital engagement will bring us to non stop virtual interactions
- Business innovation will make big changes for mundane concepts (the library is full of those!)
- Conversation based interaction – Alexa – big trend
- Secondary effects – ripples of change from digital disruptions – it will be a consistent stream of change – digital changes are coming fast – and changes will be based on discredited research – no time to audit or fact check
- Augmented reality
- Voice first web browsing
- Shrinking market for apps – apps are not the future
- Algorithms will have more effects on how we search – context, persuasion, will influence behavior – recommends the Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser – we need to consume sources we aren’t comfortable with
- Skills of future workforce
- How to create new worlds – virtual worlds
- Think holistically – collaboration vs. competition
- Change yourself mentally and physically to respond to challenges
- Work w/out direct leadership – work independently
- Mind/machine relationships to compete w/ machines – AI
- DF skills looking for
- Tech savvy – a given, but also thinking how to apply new and emerging technologies to library work – creative and innovative
- Highly adaptable
- Able to tolerate ambiguity
- Plays well with others – able to collaborate
- Passion for working w/ people – customers
- May 22nd Chris Bourg tweet about panel at Simmons what you are looking for in staff – social justice mindset, creativity, curiosity
- DF wants disruptors in the work force – Questions for the audience: how do we train them? How do we retain them?
Can librarians handle the job? Sometimes seems they can’t which is not good. – examples of non-librarians in head positions
How do you teach a tolerance for ambiguity? Teach problem solving skills. Everyday acts with staff, consistency, building trust
Risk tolerance is important – “sparkle” – to mean combo of risk taking, creativity, innovation
Shirley Baker – “tolerance for ambiguity” came up with it at MIT during strategic planning
Do we need a tolerance for ambiguity or need to embrace ambiguity? – take it further – this is more prevalent already in tech fields
Jill Lepore – disruption article – “disruption” may be problematic
Amanda Rust – as a DH librarian has found that the traditional characteristics of libraries – ethical (public commons), sustainability, preservation, sharing collaboratively w/out money – are things faculty are looking for. Disruption often means new issues of labor – working w/ faculty on metadata is more work for metadata folks
DF – fan of Wikipedia because it expands audience in a way that nothing else can
Each lightning round session was about 10 minutes. These are just a few highlights / things I found interesting.
UMass patent and trademark resource center (PTRC) – Paulina Borrego
- BPL became one in 1870 – those are the two in MA
- Resource center teaches people about patents and trademarks
Designing for Complexity & Goodness – Dianne Brown
- Dan Ward’s The Simplicity Cycle (airforce design guy)
- Intersection of complexity and goodness
- Iterative process
Art + Artifact Displays – Kara Jackman
- BU archivist
- How to grow exhibit program? How do you get public and patrons interested?
- 4Cs – content, catchy, creative title, connect w/ alumni and development
- Relatable artifacts – informs curriculum, collection, school, institution, town’s theme, mission
- People have ideas – let them have them – let them come to you to figure out logistics
- Marketing super important
- Announce on all campus and local calendars – post early to be first on the calendar, if you google “free calendars” you can find them around Boston
- Pamphlets and brochures about exhibit
- QR codes that direct to Pinterest board or website
- Put images of exhibit on Flickr
- YouTube videos of exhibit
The VIVA Last Copy Project – Laura Jenemann
- Interested in doing a similar project with BLC
- Looking at VHS items across institutions to see how many unique items
- [There was some interest in doing this]
Students Who Love the Library – Creating and Supporting a Student-Run Organization
- Students did a lot of programming / fundraising for the libraries – hosted a run, speed dating
- Homies Student Friends of the Homer Babbidge Library
I wanted to check out the Rose Art Museum during the lunch break, but it is closed Monday and Tuesdays. 😦 I did get to see Chris Burden’s Light of Reason though which is pretty spectacular.
From the Rose website – “Chris Burden’s Light of Reason is a permanent sculpture commissioned specifically for the Rose Art Museum and Brandeis University. The structure of the sculpture was inspired by the three torches, three hills and three Hebrew letters in the Brandeis University seal, while the work’s title borrows from a well-known quote by the university’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Louis Dembitz Brandeis: “If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold.” Antique Victorian lampposts and concrete benches form three branches that fan out from the museum’s entrance. Planned as an integral part of the image of the Rose and the university, the sculpture will serve as an inviting gateway to the museum and a dynamic outdoor space for the Brandeis community.”
Lastly…a familiar face!
-Greta Kuriger Suiter
For the past two years I’ve been working with an amazing group of women (Amy Carleton, Cecelia Musselman, Amanda Rust, and Rebecca Thorndike-Breeze). Together we comprise an interdisciplinary group from MIT and Northeastern who use Wikipedia assignments in their classes and at events. They also work with us in the libraries to organize Wikipedia edit-a-thons.
These women introduced me to the 4Cs — the Conference on College Composition and Communication. Last year we did a day long pre-conference workshop about working with Wikipedia in classes. I presented on using archival sources at Wikipedia edit-a-thons.
This year we presented a panel round table — each taking about 10 minutes to describe how we work with Wikipedia and then moved into a discussion with the audience. I was pleasantly surprised at how much interest there was in using Wikipedia for teaching, and how many teachers are already doing it. I was surprised when one educator was skeptical if it would work for younger students — 1st year writing — especially with the archives addition. I think it is feasible to get students into the archives at a much younger age, and actually working with Wikipedia could make that experience more meaningful.
In addition to having a great experience presenting with this team (this year Rust was away and David Cregar, from NYU, joined us), I also attended a few other sessions that inspired me with new ideas to work on in the future. Here are some notes about three archive-centric panels I attended. There were many archives related sessions to go to, see the program here.
A.36 Alt/Histories of Composition: Early Writing Textbooks, the “Other” Dartmouth, and MLA Job Lists
In this session I learned how researchers might use old textbooks and job ads — that was pretty interesting in itself.
I also learned about two major events in the history of writing studies — The Dartmouth Seminar — and the New London Group. And what I found most fascinating was that neither of these events has a Wikipedia page! Future project / edit-a-thon theme? Dartmouth road trip? I’m also interested to see Annette Vee’s upcoming book Coding Literacy: How Computer Programming is Changing Writing from MIT Press.
H.45 Cultivation of a Research Culture That Challenges Hegemony at an HBCU
This session featured panelists from Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, TX. The presentations were about oral histories, archives and counterhistory, the history of writing studies at HT, and female figures in the Civil Rights movement. I thought all the presentations were very interesting, my favorite was Ryan Sharp’s about Black American persona poetry and seeing that as a way to fill in gaps found in archives. Here is a list of resources from Sharp:
- Alexander, Elizabeth. The Black Interior. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2004. Print.
- Betts, Robert B. In Search of York: The Slave Who Went to the Pacific with Lewis and Clark. Colorado Associated University Press, 2000. Print.
- Gates, Henry Louis. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
- Gordon, Avery F. Ghostly Matters : Haunting and the Sociological Imagination. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.
- Hartman, Saidiya. “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe 12.2 (2008): 1–14. Print.
- Morrison, Toni. “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” Michigan Quarterly Review 28.1 (1989): 1–34. Print.
- Walker, Frank X. Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York. 2nd edition. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2004. Print.
- Young, Kevin. The Grey Album: On the Blackness of Blackness. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2012. Print.
J.53 Nourishing the Self, Cultivating the Archives, Enriching the Public: Sustaining the Work of Royster, Rohan, and Kirsch
This panel focused on archives as places of learning within the framework of writings by Jacqueline Royster, Gesa Kirsch, and Liz Rohan (who have written on researching in archives and promote a feminist perspective).
- Beyond the archives: research as a lived process by Gesa Kirsch and Liz Rohan
- Feminist rhetorical practices: new horizons for rhetoric, composition, and literacy studies by Jacqueline Royster and Gesa Kirsch
One of the things I loved about this panel was the discussion around the “Living Archive”. Jennie Vaughn uses the term to talk about “The relationships formed via social circulation which often lead to serendipitous discoveries that impact, support, and enhance the results of our research in more traditional archival spaces.” Traditional spaces meaning in person. This idea of the Living Archive sounds very familiar to how researchers work at MIT. There is little researchers can do without a person guiding them through collections, and it was good to hear that this way of navigating archives was such a positive, enriching experience for one researcher, but it is also quite limiting if it’s the only way one can access collections.
There was also discussion and agreement about the messy-ness of archives – both from an organizing viewpoint (with relation to donors and their emotions) and a researcher’s use viewpoint (how to get information about a collection, logistics of getting to and using archives). They also struggled with how to prepare students for the messy-ness. Overall I found this panel to be very informative about researchers’ ideas about archives, and I was pleased to hear that working with archives was a mostly positive experience with an understanding as to why the job of the archivist can be challenging and messy.
-Greta Kuriger Suiter