Like the rest of higher ed and the world at-large, Brown’s Spring 2020 semester was disrupted by COVID-19 (the university’s COVID-19 site has the details regarding our community and campus life; the page has also been crawled by The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine and is likely also being documented by Brown’s archivists). This page documents our class readings and schedule when Brown returned from spring break (the university canceled classes the week preceding spring break as well). Course meetings shifted to weekly Zoom meetings (students completed surveys over the break and indicated that they were able to attend Zoom meetings; another course I taught this semester moved to an asynchronous learning environment for a variety of reasons) and we made increased use of our Slack page (mainly to write responses to readings, to sharedrafts of final project work, and to post links relevant to course conversations). Expectations for major course work were altered and scaled back as well.
I’ve updated the course site primarily to document the impact of COVID-19 on this particular course. Text below is mostly taken from emails to students (which were then posted to Slack channels for relevant course topics).
Week of March 30th: Spatial Histories and Digital Archives
“What is Spatial History?” (Richard White; Spatial History Project)
“Mapping A Slave Revolt: Visualizing Spatial History through the Archives of Slavery” (Vincent Brown; Social Text 33.4; 2015)
“Public In/Formation.” (Shannon Mattern; Places; November 2016)
Projects that consider spatial histories and digital archives
Mapping Inequality (may default to my own geospatial coordinates; click on the words “Mapping Inequality” to see a more personalized view)
Mapping Indigenous L.A.Mapping The Gay Guides
The Roaring ‘Twenties (launch project; sound on might be preferable)
)“Providence’s Vacant Spaces” (Rhode Tour by Angela DiVeglia)
“Artist Wen-Ti Tsen Returns 12 Long-Absent Residents to Boston’s Chinatown” (WBUR coverage; more info on Tsen’s project here)
“Family Photos Connect Iowans to History” (on Fortepan Iowa)
“We Came and Stayed: Coyt Jones / Ras Baraka” (you may also be interested in Newest Americans at-large, but this piece is particularly focused on archival materials and re-use)
Week of April 6th: Archives, Technology, and Temporality
”Flowers for Homestead: A Case Study in Archives and Collective Memory” (Jeanette Bastian, The American Archivist 72.1; Spring/Summer 2009)
“alternate futures/usable pasts” (Bethany Nowviskie; 2016)
Two pieces from the Monument Lab’s Bulletin: “Teaching Classical Pasts in New York City” (Patricia Eunji Kim; 2020) and “Excerpt from An American History of the Berlin Wall” (Paul Farber; 2020). We had planned to review excerpts from the Monument Lab book, which is unfortunately on my desk in Providence. I think these readings are interesting considerations of temporal AND spatial dimensions of cultural memory.
I wrote a little bit about temporality a few years back, but let’s prioritize what’s listed below. More recently, in the wake of COVID-19, I wrote some tweets about archival contexts in our current moment (apologies if I’ve shared this already). You may also be interested in posts tagged “Rapid Response” on the National Council on Public History’s History@Work blog.
One additional “reading” recommendation from you all, drawing on either previous work you’ve come across or stuff you’ve found this week. “Reading” broadly construed here: articles, books, tweets, videos, podcasts, fiction, non-fiction, exhibitions, etc. Please provide a link or citation and a little context.
Week of April 13th: Art and Other Transformative Uses of Archives
“An Archival Impulse” (Hal Foster; October, 2004) This piece comes up a lot in the literature on this topic; here’s one example.
“From Paint to Pixels” (Jacoba Urist; The Atlantic; May 2015)
“The Custodians” (Ben Lerner; The New Yorker; January 2016)
Lizard Ramone in Hot Pursuit (Jeremy Ferris, 2017; you can read a PDF here)
re:vive (Creative Commons interview with project member here)
Shades of Blue: Madlib Invades Blue Note (album available on Spotify and elsewhere if you’re interested in hearing it; I have it on CD because I am one thousand years old)
“GIF It Up” (Digital Public Library of America)
“A Brief History of Animated GIF Art” (Paddy Johnson; artnet)
Providence Public Library Creative Fellowship
And I’d be remiss if I did not mention this recent social media participatory project, which I believe I’ve seen some Public Humanities graduate students participating in on Instagram. Also, second-year Public Humanities MA student Meera White completed a project in my “Digital Storytelling” course last year that is definitely relevant to this week’s topic; check out CONCEALED here.
Week of April 20th: What We Talk About When We Talk About Digital Archives (Public Writing and Popular Culture)
When putting readings together for this week, I initially thought of this recent New York Times piece on the “Meme Lords” of the Library of Congress.
As Angela (DiVeglia) mentioned briefly during her guest visit, musician Ian MacKaye has done a lot to call attention to the value of archives / digital archives / “citizen archives” via his Fugazi Archive project. This 2013 Library of Congress blog post highlights some of those contexts; feel free to look for more. Disclaimer: I am not a hardcore Fugazi fan but enjoy them and other bands on Dischord but was more of a Matador / Kill Rock Stars / Rawkus Records fan in terms of label fandoms; lots of intersections between DIY / punk and archives (and perhaps these are a little more pronounced in a place like Providence).
It’s a bit old now, but this piece for The Awl (which was a niche / semi-popular site run by many folks who used to work at Gawker) went a long way towards articulating the value of personal digital archiving for freelance journalists and other folks who are particular dependent on publishing work in spaces that they do not own.
Dan Cohen wrote in The Atlantic about the controversy surrounding the archiving of President Obama’s materials (this post on his blog likely informed his article).
”Secrets From Belfast” documents a Boston College oral history initiative whose digital dimensions / public-facing aspirations / methodologies caused an international scandal
I was on a panel at the Digital Library Federation’s annual conference in 2018 with Rebecca Patillo, and she used this Twitter thread / the events described there as a “case study” in how not to talk about digital archives / work derived from digital archives in public contexts. Some of you may be interested in “Archives Twitter” (which often gets conflated with / consumed by “Library Twitter,” which is definitely A Thing). I think some of the conversations there have interesting intersections with the rest of Twitter and resonate beyond their immediate professional networks, but there’s also a lot of stuff that is archivists talking to archivists (you can imagine that “Public Humanities Twitter,” if such a thing actually does exist, is very similar).
Week of April 27th: Archival Futures
“Digital Humanities in The Anthropocene” (Bethany Nowviskie; Digital Scholarship in the Humanities 30.1; December 2015)
“Archives in The Anthropocene” (Purdom Lindblad; Social Justice and Digital Humanities Speaker Series, University of Houston’s Arté Publico Press; February 2018)
“AI in The Archives” (Dan Cohen; Humane Ingenuity Newsletter; September 2019)
Read the introduction to Joanne McNeil’s Lurking: How A Person Became A User (2020) and watch at least one of her “Just Browsing” videos here
Optional (given length / range of readings already here; I will talk about this though!): read this excerpt adapted from Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019)