This week’s reading, Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences by Lyon, Nix, and Shrum used the parallel disturbances in Baltimore in 1968 and 2015 to discuss the importance and purpose of oral histories. This particularly interested me, because my family is from Baltimore, and my dad was a child during the ’68 riots. While talking to him about this, he said that he lived about a half mile outside of the Baltimore city line, so he could hear sirens and other noises. The interview that I picked (http://archives.ubalt.edu/bsr/oral-histories/transcripts/halderon.pdf) shows a perspective from within the center of the action. Freda Halderon lived in the ghetto in East Baltimore with her husband and five kids. As a black family in the city, they were surrounded and directly impacted by the violence. Halderon recounted what her impression of the damage and injuries were in her area. She focused on the widespread injury and death, at first stating that the news said that at least 700 people were hurt or died. However, the interviewer had learned that in Baltimore, six people died and 70-100 were hurt. After further questions, it turns out that 700 was probably the number of people nationwide hurt in protests and riots. The fact that Halderon remembered the largest number shows that her impression was of widespread affects. Also, she connects the events in Baltimore with the events in the rest of the country, and doesn’t forget that people all over the United States were affected by the death of Martin Luther King Jr.
The way that other colleges have set up archives of their campuses can inform how Muhlenberg wants to format theirs. It depends on for what purpose the archive will be used. Princeton University set up ASAP: Archiving Student Activism at Princeton to “select, save, and serve.” The archive collects and organizes information, documents, and objects of past and present protest from their campus. They then save all of it in their archive, where researchers and scholars can use it, which serves the needs of the school. UNC Chapel Hill’s archive mostly focuses on the past. However, by putting the buildings and statues on campus in their historical contexts, students are able to connect their lasting effects to the present. The University of Virginia’s archive is focusing more on the present. The archivists are collecting material about rape and sexual violence on their campus. While this stems from a current issue and wants current stories, documents, etc., the issues that UVA is experiencing is a result of older laws and societal norms. By organizing and studying the information, the archivists will be able to draw conclusions about the history of sexual violence on their campus, and maybe in Virginia or the US.
The descriptions of “Black at Bryn Mawr” and “Names in Brick and Stone: Histories from UNC’s Built Landscape” brought up an interesting point about collecting data. Both specifically mentioned that the students drew upon outside sources and their own archive while researching. In order to find information that belongs in your archive, you might need to look in other archives. Creating an archive does not need to start from scratch. Other resources can be vital in producing the information that belongs in your archive. This really shows how much different topics can intersect, like how UNC’s historical buildings are connected to the events that took place within and around them. While the architectural and social information might be from two different sources or archives, they are most definitely connected.
All of these cataloging efforts, including Muhlenberg’s, have a narrow focus. It is necessary to just focus on campus protests, or another specific aspect, rather than the history of the entire school. There would be too much information to collect, and the archivists would never have a complete collection of information. As it is, documenting protests will never end, because students will always push for change. In any archive, there is always more information to be found. Some people might want to save every bit of information about their college or university, but it isn’t usually possible. One should remember, however, that whatever topic is focused on is never completely separated from its surrounding context. For example, campus protests can always be linked with the wider history, politics, and atmosphere of the school, state, and country.
The one issue that Bryn Mawr’s archive brought to my attention is how hard it is to keep updating an archive. Their project is not currently active, because the two students that started it have graduated. Archivists move on to other jobs or graduate, and they do not always find someone to take over when they leave. Our other article also brought up the idea that archives need funding in order to have a staff and resources, so sometimes the money can run out. While this class will spend a lot of time adding to Muhlenberg’s archive, what will happen when the semester is over? Will the archive become stagnant, or will there be more faculty, staff, and students ready to step up and continue the work?
I selected Kathryn Ranieri’s photo of herself and another protester posing with a sign. The reason that this photo interested me was because you could see what they are wearing. As someone who is studying costuming, I like to try and understand what people’s clothing says about themselves and how they present themselves to the world. These women have chosen to mark themselves as protesters to Donald Trump by wearing “pussy hats.” Sometimes a person’s clothing also tells us about their environment. I can interpolate that since they are wearing coats and hats, and they attended a Women’s March in Dublin in January, that it is cold. The background of the image does not tell us a lot about the location of the march, or anything about other protesters in attendance, but that there were police officers present. The poster that they are posing with shows the Star Wars character Princess Leia with the quote “A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE RESISTANCE.” This is an image that circulated around the internet, so at least one of these two protesters might be a Star Wars fan and was active enough on the internet to find the image and print it out. Of course, one still image does not tell the complete story of the sister march in Dublin. One would have to look at a wide range of accounts in multiple mediums in order to see more diverse perspectives, both physically and ideologically. This photograph should also be studied in the context of all of Kathryn Ranieri’s photographs throughout the day. They tell us what she deemed important enough to record.
One question that I came across while studying this image is who’s image is it? The creator is Wendy Williams, so she must have taken the picture. However, Kathryn Ranieri submitted the photos, because she is the source. This makes me think that Wendy took the photo on Kathryn’s phone, or sent them to her in order to be sent to Muhlenberg’s archive. Would both women have to give permission to have this photograph archived and shared, in addition to the anonymous person in the photo? This made me realize that it is hard to truly get the rights to archive something.