In my application to this summer’s DSSF cohort, I hoped to convey a genuine desire to help produce a project that not only combined humanistic inquiry and technical applications but one that would positively impact our campus community during these challenging times. Due to the current world health crisis, we are all communing in a virtual space and while this presents the perfect opportunity to engage our community digitally there also exists the pressure to produce a project that will supplement the rich in-person experience that gallery and museum exhibits provide. This encourages us to ponder how might our cohort create a project that is more than just a static page but a dynamic experience that can hold the focus of the viewer for over half an hour as Scott Saul’s Richard Pryor’s Peoria did to me.
Additionally, in our pursuit to create a project that is both meaningful and relevant, we may choose to pursue a research question that involves some of the world’s most pressing issues such as race relations, equity, and public health. If we so chose to pursue one of these research topics we are not only encouraged but obligated to ensure that our use of archival collections is ethical and that we avoid commodifying the traumatic experiences of others. This responsibility of archivists and researchers to center the human subjects of traumatic histories and avoid collecting archival material at the expense of retraumatization is expertly detailed in Eira Tansey’s “No one owes their trauma to archivists, or, the commodification of contemporaneous collecting”, one of our introductory readings.
Just in this week alone, I have learned so much about research methods, careers in archives and collections, and archival research. Our independent activities have encouraged me to think about more technical aspects of the project like site design and data collection and visualization.
In this week’s Introduction to Archival Research workshop, the session began with the following icebreaker question – “what is your research superpower?”. My answer to this question was based on different projects that I have completed throughout the semesters, during which I found that my research strength is transforming a medley of information and putting it into context for my audience. More specifically, my strength is going beyond the “what” and answering the ubiquitous followup to most research – “why should we care?”. Currently, I am considering how my answer to the question will present itself in the following weeks.
Following this week’s sessions, I have questions of my own such as how might we use the past to inform our present and future and what role do academic institutions play in shaping community structures. I look forward to exploring these questions next week and beginning the first phase of devising our cohort’s research question.
2 Richard Pryor’s Peoria: A Digital Companion to the Biography Becoming Richard Pryor. Saul, Scott. http://www.becomingrichardpryor.com/pryors-peoria/home/contact-the-author/ (accessed 6/27/2020).