How in the World?

How do we, everyone working on this project, talk about the KWE Native American books collection as a whole? What sort of project and what kind of tools could make something that speaks to the whole collection? For some reason, I’m particularly interested in broad questions of place concerning these Native American books- How for instance would we present geographic- info on where these authors are from or where their books were published-in a meaningful and accessible way?

Or what, if any, are the significant relationships between an author’s place of birth/residence and their subject matter?

Thinking about my interest in these particular research questions stems from my interest in storytelling. Storytelling in a purposefully broad way. I like reading stories, thinking about them, writing them. So when my fellow interns and I got introduced to the KWE Native American books collection (through a tour of the Archive’s exhibit and through articles on the collection from the college and archive blog),  I immediately began to wonder what we could do with such a relatively large amount of material (nearly 1400 titles according to the library catalog).

It seems overwhelming in a sense, to think about how much information we’re dealing with here. So the questions return- how could we dive in and pull something out, or how could we create something that houses a slice of information of it all. For some reason I’m stuck on that question- What can we learn about the collection, what are the limits of that learning, and how could that be useful for others?

I’m beginning to learn about the collection and the variety of digital tools and methods out there. And as I’m learning about these things, I feel like there’s a story, or some broad narrative that I’d want to tell about this collection. But some of what I’ve been hearing and reading about archival and digital collection practice has made we think more carefully about narratives. This article here suggests, among many other things, that all archives are biased in the sense that the narratives told are constructed, meaning they’re not absolute narratives. Regardless of what we make our project into, that is something that we will likely have to keep in mind.

At this point, I’m not opposed to getting more specific in our work and focusing on creating and presenting one narrative. But we have access, with the material and our digital tools, to do create much more. Is that something we want or should do though? I ask for a specific reason, one related to the question of ‘big data’ in the digital humanities, a thorny subject for most whether you’re on the digital or humanities side of things. There’s a lot to the conversation on big data in the humanities, specifically in literary studies it seems, so I’d like to spend some more time researching the topic before talk about it and why it’s related to the questions I’ve asked here. So stay tuned for more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *