Jessica: Final Reflections

I knew what I wanted my exhibit to be about on the first day of class. As we were going through the syllabus, I saw that we would be creating an exhibit about whatever aspect of the Women’s March interested us. As I do with most of my class projects, I immediately thought of ways that I could focus on clothing or costumes. From that class forward, I kept a word document with ideas and relevant quotes that came up throughout the semester. The questions that drove me from the beginning were: “What do you wear to a protest? Who does or doesn’t display their messages on their body? What do those messages convey?” Over the last few months, those questions have evolved into the finished exhibit “What They Wore.” Our class did a successful job of walking us through all the necessary steps for me to go from an idea about protest clothing to a finished online exhibit with oral histories to back it up. The beginning of the semester was a little slow, as we mostly focused on academic articles about archives and oral histories. While it was important that we gained the background about these methods of gathering and storing information, it became slightly repetitive. The best part of our course was being so hands on; we got to work on our projects and discuss them in class. This was possible due to our small class size, but I think that we lost out on scope because there were only five of us. I wish that we could have focused more on protest on Muhlenberg’s campus, because it more directly relevant to a Muhlenberg-based archive. While we were aware that our oral history subjects were not very diverse, we did not have enough time to conduct more interviews with a wider range of narrators.

I leave this class wondering if our research will be used in the future. Maybe if our archive is advertised widely with the rest of Muhlenberg’s online archive, students and faculty will start using it as a resource for research. When I personally start research, I do it through the subject guides that are linked on the library’s website, instead of on the actual library’s website. I don’t know how many studies will be done on specifically the Women’s March of 2017, but hopefully all the effort that we put into learning these processes and compiling our work will be useful to others. I enjoyed the oral history aspect of this project, but I still feel it is slightly outdated. Even though we read articles about how important these recordings are, I still have that small part of my brain that thinks of them as an old-fashioned way to collect information. I need to work to counteract these thoughts, because I appreciate that they can give those without a platform a way to be heard and remembered. In general, I am glad to be leaving my exhibit behind when I graduate, because it is a project I wouldn’t have expected of myself, since it came from a Media and Communications course instead of a Theatre one.

 

Jessica: Omeka Reflections

Over the course of the semester, I have become more comfortable using different platforms online. We learned how to use WordPress to make this blog, so I became comfortable navigating that setup in order to make posts. I have struggled the most in formatting in WordPress, especially as I also am trying to make an online portfolio with the main page of my website. In comparison, Omeka is slightly more straightforward because there are fewer options for theme. I like that when adding a block of text or an item, it gives you a few options about how to orient that section. Also, I have not had to deal with picking a theme and formatting it, because we picked one that runs across all pages for our class. The hardest part about Omeka is uploading items. It is a time consuming process to figure out and input as much metadata as possible, and I still don’t feel like I got a complete grasp on Dublin Core’s categories. However, I am comfortable with a few categories, because they do not change from item to item or are straightforward, like repository and creator. Another small obstacle is the glitch we have had with photos uploading sideways. It therefore becomes a more time consuming process to use those items, because we have to reformat the image so that it stays in its correct orientation. The biggest obstacle I had when creating my exhibit did not have to do with Omeka at all. It was my schedule. The show that I was costume designing went into tech as we were working on this project, and then I had a final due first that took precedence. Therefore I have had a hard time working on my exhibit outside of class. Now that both of those things are done (and that the due date was pushed back), I will have more time to focus on making my exhibit the best that it can be.

Jessica: Women’s March Reflections with Natalie Sams

Interviewing Natalie Sams about her experience at the 2017 Womens March showed me that I am already more comfortable with conducting interviews. The long pauses that happened in my first interview were not present, because I was more confident in my questions. Maybe I should have responded to Natalie’s answers more, and asked more in depth questions about what she was talking about, but I was confident in the list of questions that I had. I did reorder a few questions, but I was prepared enough ahead of time to know what questions I already wanted to elaborate on. It was already helpful that I knew that Natalie went to the march with her mother instead of with Muhlenberg, so I had specific questions about how her experience might have been different if she had done the opposite. I think that I might have asked too many questions, because the interview is just over an hour long. However, I did not want to cut any questions because I felt that they were all important. We did take two short breaks during the interview, and before restarting for the last time, I asked Natalie if she wanted to keep going or not, because my last chunk of questions about protest at Muhlenberg were less directly related to the rest of the interview. Another reason that the interview took so long was that Natalie was very descriptive. I did not want to cut her off at all, because we were both willing to stay for this long and I wanted to keep her answers authentic. Natalie even apologized for talking too much and offered to help me transcribe it! While transcribing, I have become more aware of people’s speech quirks. While Simone unconsciously said “Um” a lot, Natalie said “like, you know.” While these filler words are to be expected when someone is speaking off the cuff, it is interesting to see what words they fall back on the most. This also affects the transcription, because I need to make the decision whether or not to keep these phrases in.

Jessica: First Oral History

I interviewed Simone Becker about her extracurricular activities that link the Muhlenberg Theatre Association with the wider Allentown community. Through her work previously as Community Engagement Chair of the MTA, her continuing work as a regular participant in the community engagement theatre events, and her upcoming studio production, Simone is helping to bring theatre and theatre education to the students of Allentown. Not only is she participating in teaching theatre to students from elementary to high school, but she has expanded her studio production to reach beyond Muhlenberg and into schools. Studio productions, sponsored by the MTA, normally have a few performances over the course of one weekend, but Simone has scheduled additional performances set to take place at nearby schools. In this interview she discusses how these two community engagement events were formed, how they will hopefully impact the students, and why they are important tools for change.

The biggest challenge that I faced during this interview was figuring out what questions to ask next. I knew that I had to be prepared to go in different directions, depending on how the conversation went, but it was still challenging. There are long pauses between questions as I figure out what question to ask next and how to properly phrase it. This was also challenging because my attention is split between listening to the narrator and trying to think of a question that follows up on what she was saying. I am interested to see if I am less comfortable doing my next interview, because I will most likely be interviewing someone that I am not as close with. Also, I have discussed Simone’s community engagement projects with her in the past, and I am a part of the MTA (I even went to one of the high schools to help teach one week). With a narrator that is discussing protest, I probably will not have as much previous knowledge about the person or events.

Jessica: Oral Histories in Baltimore

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.

Jessica: Student Archives

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?

Jessica: Image Reflection

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.