A Digital and Historical Exchange

“Each library serves a distinct community of users. Our metadata needs to speak their language.”[1] Found in the transcript of the speech “We need to talk about cataloguing” is the dynamic relationship and continuous interaction between a community of researchers and the text or object capturing its history. In presenting such an artifact or text, it is important to learn the nature of such a community to respectfully and rightfully display its history. Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia (A4BLiP) alludes to a similar idea within their “Anti-Racist Description Resources,” summarizing how archivists and researchers can best approach and support black lives within their work.[2] The WordPress workshop with Bridget Dahill, the Digital Library Software Developer at Amherst College, highlighted the connection between the Amherst community and the presentation of its history as she discussed the importance of making websites accessible to all members of the community. During the data visualization workshop, my partner and I investigated New York City Police Department (NYPD) arrests over the past decade; through analyzing the data and pondering the ideologies that might have led to the arrests of people of a specific sex or race, we established a connection between our research and NYPD’s history. 

Initial investigation into a similar exchange between communities of researchers, students, or faculty and their respective histories has already prompted me to deeply investigate the history of disasters presented in Amherst’s student publications and to ask detailed and engaging questions. How can we engage the Amherst community with a project presentation that appeals to community’s interests and values? How can the visual representation of our project facilitate an ongoing dialogue between Amherst students and the history captured in 19th and 20th century Amherst student publications? We can address these questions not merely in the presentation of our work to the Amherst community but in the ongoing research process. While collecting data, how might we best present or organize the data so that it may accurately and respectfully portray the sentiments and worries of 20th century Amherst? In what ways are the students and administrators responding to disasters that have occurred on campus? In reading student publications on these disasters, who are we not seeing responding to various disasters on Amherst’s campus? Why might that be the case? What can we understand about the context of that time that might explain the lack of specific voices? Such questions are critical to conducting and presenting our research and to helping us create a more community-centered, dynamic, and detailed project.

I will start to answer some of these questions in the shift from the learning phase to the project phase. These questions will help me formulate a concrete and rich research question. Throughout the research process, I hope to continue finding sources on the history of Amherst College’s disasters and honing in on important aspects to present to the community. I eagerly anticipate seeing our project come to fruition and writing our project proposal this upcoming weekend. And making this transition will bring to life ideas and focuses from brainstorming sessions, allow us to apply the methodologies and ideas learned in Zoom workshops and meetings, and enrich and broaden our curious minds.

[1]McCulloch, Alissa. “We need to talk about cataloguing: the #NLS9 transcript.” Cataloguing the Universe: A work in progress, WordPress, 11 July, 2019. lissertations.net/post/1177

[2] Antracoli, Alexis A. et al. Archives for Black Lives in Philadelphia: Anti-Racist Description Resources. Creative Commons, 2019. Web. 10 July, 2020.

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