Throughout the past few weeks, discussions on metadata, workshops on accessibility, a greater understanding of digital humanities, and an investigation into Amherst College Student Publications have enhanced and expanded my perspective of Amherst College and its history. Not merely does the College hold the dreams and ideas of a diverse group of students and the animated buzz of College life but maintains a strong grasp on a rich and dynamic history that makes its way into discussions, classes, and projects on campus. Such a history is powerful; it travels from the mouths of students to the whiteboards in the Science Center to the bricks of the seemingly timeless Frost Library and the plaques located in each building on campus. While I have gained such a grand and unique perspective on and deep appreciation for Amherst’s complex history while exploring the digital archives, I want to understand more about this history it impacts those around me. I would love the opportunity to ask students, faculty, and staff around campus what Amherst’s history means to them. I would love for more peers and friends to understand why I enjoy in getting lost in the pages of an 1868 Amherst Student Newspaper article.
Throughout my research, I have also learned that it is important to highlight the perspectives of those we do not see within the student publications from former Amherst students and to ensure students’ safety and well-being as they witness some of Amherst’s more troubling history. I have cherished discussions about how to present this information to students and about the importance of putting trigger warnings on publications and articles that contain blackface or problematic language. It is crucial for Amherst students, especially those from marginalized backgrounds and disciplines, to feel respected when they look through the photographs of an early play.
I have tried to investigate these questions and ideas within my research as I tried to understand more about the relationship between the local community and its history. I believe my focus on this exchange has brought me to grasp a wide avenue of perspectives; it has also made its way into our final project on the disasters at Amherst College. Initially, I had wanted to pursue a different avenue of research and wanted to investigate the more health-related disasters in Amherst College’s history. While that avenue alone would have been hard to research as there are not many of these disasters, our research project includes these various epidemics. I hope to examine the impact of these disasters on the Amherst community and tie them to COVID epidemic affecting the Amherst community today. While this focus relates to my interests as a scientific researcher, it also emphasizes the importance of responding to such crises and preserving their history; it is crucial, especially today, to reflect on past health crises that have shaped the community and informed our approach and response to the epidemic today. In preserving the history of the COVID epidemic, it is also pivotal to include the voices that we haven’t previously heard from and put these voices at the forefront of such historical narratives. While it is important to reflect on the impact of our own history, we must also look to improve and grow the way we capture such histories in the future.
In the future, I hope to pursue other avenues of digital humanities research. I want to further delve into the collection of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Native American Collection. Who contributed their artifacts and stories to the collection? In what ways can we trace and map the locations from which these pieces of history have come from. How can we delve more deeply into who and where students who wrote and told their stories, stated their perspectives, and emphasized the importance of new ideas in various student publications come from? What backgrounds, perspectives, and ideologies did these students hold? Such topics and ideas would be intriguing to investigate in future research in digital humanities at Amherst College.