Students and faculty from the Master of Information Program (MI) at the School of Communication and Information (SC&I) at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, will attend the 2017 Spring Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) from April 20-22 in Newark, NJ.
Six MI students in the Archives and Preservation Concentration from Associate Professor Marija Dalbello’s Foundations of Preservation and Archives class will present their posters at MARAC as a part of a project, “Archival Lab Remix.” This project explores the narrativization of primary source materials using new media platforms and technologies of production.
Dalbello explained, “The students each took a deep digital dive with the primary source content available online and curated an object (or a series of objects) in order to reveal the meaning, the beauty, and the possibilities of interpretation for these digitized forms, repositioning them in a new context for meaning making. Each of the projects presents a unique vision of how a student engaged with the material she curated. The projects were guided by the idea that opening primary source collections to citizen archivists can prompt reinterpretation of these materials, especially those found in the digitized collections.”
The “remix” project’s purpose is to inspire public institutions to increase public enlightenment with their archival collections and organize citizen challenges.
To learn more about the MI program, click here.
MARAC, was founded in 1972 and “is a volunteer, regional consortium of archivists who live and work in the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and in the District of Columbia,” according to its website. It plans semi-annual, practical, action-oriented conferences and workshops and to seek additional means of increasing professional competence, preserving local historical resources, and promoting cooperation with colleagues in related fields.
“Archival Lab Remix” Posters and Demos
The East Asian Calligraphy Challenge
Digitization provides easy access to thousands of cultural heritage materials, but how can we engage the public with this content? The East Asian Calligraphy Challenge was developed to engage users of the collection of East Asian texts from Princeton University’s Digital Library (PUDL). Inspired by a handwriting quiz authored by Time’s Chris Wilson, which he developed with a combination of open source code expanded by his own programming, I propose an unobtrusive, interactive element be added to the interface of PUDL’s East Asian texts. Within the interactive tool, users will have the option of trying to digitally write an Asian calligraphic character that is predetermined from a page of the text they are viewing. The interactive calligraphic prototype will be accompanied by a guide showing the order of brushstrokes, the character embedded in the text, and utilize Sketch.js open source code so that users can mimic the character. The East Asian Calligraphy Challenge prompts users to engage with the ancient texts, learn about particular signs, build characters, and acquire a new skill. This tool promotes the accessibility of the digitized collection and user/reader engagement. A design of the calligraphic tool will accompany the poster presentation.
Archiving America: George Washington’s Letters
This project focuses on select examples of archived correspondence between George Washington and various figures of the Revolutionary war. Digitized copies of these letters from the New York Public Library and National Archives and Records Administration are connected within this remix to tell a story of Washington as a personal man and public figure. In this project, Wix software is used to prepare a visualization that locates these letters within a historical timeline, link the archival repositories together, and compare the transliterated representations of Washington’s letters with the digitized copies. This project demonstrates how libraries and archival repositories can use a similar strategy to: 1) link to archives and promote these resources and their own with website building and hosting tool wix.com; and, 2) showcase the importance of having transliterated and digitized copies within a collection.
This project focuses on select examples of archived correspondence between George Washington and various figures of the Revolutionary War. Digitized copies of these letters from the New York Public Library’s archives and the National Archives and Records Administration digital collections are connected within this remix, showing how libraries can use a similar strategy as presented to: 1) link to archival repositories and promote these resources and their own with website building and hosting tool wix.com; and, 2) showcase the importance of having transliterated documents as well as digitized copies within an archival collection.
We the People Protest
Assembled as a remix of primary source material from various collections, We the People Protest consists of a web-based, interactive timeline that creates a people’s narrative of American history told through a chronological sequence of images and descriptions of historical moments of citizens’ protest. This online exhibition and teaching tool emphasizes the continuity and consistency of citizens’ protest throughout the country’s history by maximizing the timeline’s visual structure that provides context for a series of public domain, digital, archival-sourced photographs. Taken as a whole, the provocative images situate protest and protesters, not as bystanders to, or disruptors of the growth and change of American democracy, but as integral and essential elements of a dynamic democratic structure. This wide view reveals the perpetual process that is Democracy. Through archival images, We the People Protest challenges a common cultural ideal. It shows that opposition to government action, positions, or agencies affirms the principles of a democratic society making a compelling intellectual, visual and emotional case that citizens’ protest is a normative behavior in our democracy, strengthening and enriching it. This project aims to highlight America’s shining moments were achieved when the People’s protests were addressed on issues such as: equal rights and justice, workplace safety and protection, access to education and opportunity, and reigning in the powerful in order to raise the disenfranchised. When placed along a timeline, the project reveals a narrative of American history from the perspective of the American people.
Prepare for Docking: The Staten Island Ferry in Artwork, Words, and Images
The Staten Island Ferry, which serves as a nexus point for Staten Island and Manhattan, can be considered a microcosm of the vibrancy present throughout the five boroughs of New York City. This “archival remix” centers upon the role of the Staten Island Ferry in the cultural lives of New Yorkers and New York visitors and combines photographs and ephemera from various archival collections depicting the ferry from 1871 to date. While these sources present the ferry in actuality they do not always illustrate a central role that it occupied for its passengers, for all those who used the ferry, and the ferry in the everyday life of the people who use it. Therefore, included in this project (rendered in Wix.com) are various secondary representations of the ferry including paintings, drawings, and audio clips that were created from passengers and observers points of view. Together, these create a narrative of the cultural role of the Ferry in the lives of New Yorkers. The narratively rich project can be expanded to other sites. The presentation will combine a poster with a demo of the website.
Caption This! Faces of the Farm Security Administration Photographs Collection
This project takes its inspiration from Internet memes and asks: how else can we rescue the unknown from obscurity? The answer is crowdsourcing interpretations by adding captions to photographs of people for which there is little to no metadata. By taking what is known (e.g., historical context, composition, body language, the moment in which they are historically situated) could be reconstructed in order to create a “micro-story” about a photograph. This project takes the unnamed, public domain photographs from the Farm Security Administration Photograph Collection (New York Public Library) and invite citizen engagement by captioning the photos as an exercise in historical perspective. The inspiration for this project was a moment of serendipity. Searching through the Farm Security Administration Photographs Collection (NYPL), I happened upon an image of a woman with an intriguing caption: “I guess I’m satisfied.” There is no name or location, but rather an absence of personal information and a silence in the archive that warrants translation. I thought, then, about Internet memes and about how very often on social media, friends post a funny picture and say, “Caption this!” I realized this would be a novel approach to narrating archival material. A demo website demonstrates this approach of captioning as a narrativization strategy. Part recovery and part creation this project encourages “reading” images and engaging in a dialogue with visual forms, illuminating the complex relationship between images and text. Gillian Rose’s (2013) sites of production and modalities provide a theoretical basis for the project. I plan to present the poster and accompanying demo with a limited number of images at the conference, engage the viewers in interpreting images on site, and display their caption suggestions on the demo website at: http://eden.rutgers.edu/~mam1001/archives/remix.html.
Dressing the Past
Dressing the Past is an activity protocol that uses the commonly available Snapchat app to integrate the New York Public Library's The History of the Feminine Costume, From the Year 5318 B.C. to Our Century collection into historical fact-finding or storytelling sessions at libraries across the country. The project aims to introduce technology and creative/critical thinking to the traditional paper doll model. The activity is focused primarily but not exclusively on children ages 6-12.
In practice, the user would select articles of clothing, take a picture using Snapchat and then utilize the sticker-making function to create a personal archive of articles. The user would then photograph either a digital model from the collection or a real-life friend and virtually dress them up using the stored stickers.
The strength of this activity lies in its interdisciplinary applicability. Librarians can use the protocol to give concrete representation to even the most fanciful (if historically inaccurate) mash-ups of costumes. The activity turns a normally passive story time into an act of creation of narrative and digital drawing. This inversion is accomplished all while exposing users to one of the NYPL Digital Collections and reinforcing a comfort with technology.
Check out MI student, Lauren Bell's experience at MARAC.