At our meeting on November 9th, our reading group explored representation in digital archives. The digital archives that we explored where Black at Bryn Mawr, Visualizing Emancipation, and O Say Can You See. Each of these archives took a unique approach to visually representing racial history in the United States. Black at Bryn Mawr was started by Bryn Mawr students Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15 in the Fall of 2014. Through the use of historical artifacts, such as pictures, documents, letters, ect, Kioka and Pusey composed a digital walking tour that illustrates the racialized history of Bryn Mawr. The digital walking tour represents the racial history of the college through discussions of place. Viewers are taken to different buildings on campus that represent the racialized views of the college. One particularly powerful visual representation on the map is Rockefeller Hall, known historically as “the servant quarters”. The authors note “At Bryn Mawr, servant corridors communicated clearly the expectation that Black men and women should do their work without being seen or heard, thereby bypassing any need to acknowledge or credit them for their labor”( Kioka and Pusey 2015)
The second Archive that our reading group spent some time looking at Visualizing Emancipation. Visualizing Emancipation “organizes document evidence, about when, where, and how slavery fell apart during the American Civil War.” When viewers first click on the map they are bombarded by various data points that each represent a historical event. Once one clicks on the point a window will pop up details the event. Viewers can also click a link at the bottom of the pop up to be taken directly to the source for that event. In representing the archive visually on a map, it allows viewers to draw conclusions about what sort of vents were taking place where as well as where the greatest concentration of events took place.
The third archive that we briefly took a look at was O Say Can You See. This archive “documents the challenge to slavery and the quest for freedom in early Washington D.C.” There are many ways to go about navigating this site. You can navigate by people, families, cases, and stories. If one chooses to navigate by selecting a specific individual to follow then one will be brought to a sort of map detailing the chosen person connections. If one chooses to navigate by case then one is able to actually see some of the historical documents and the ruling of the case.
Though all of these archives go about presenting the artifacts contained in them differently, they all tell of a highly racialized history within our nation. One where certain voices are silenced because of their skin color. A country where we as digital scholars must engage in these types of recovery projects in order to begin to give voice to the silenced.