The Latina History Project Goes Live!

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The digital exhibit component of the Southwestern University Latina History Project has been under construction since fall 2014 as contributors researched, identified, digitized, described, and contextualized primary sources pertaining to SU’s Latina histories.  Our site remains a work in progress, but we are happy to unveil it at this juncture!

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Click above to explore Items, Collection, and Exhibits related to the 1992 photography exhibit “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls,” which featured portraits by San Antonio photographer Mary Jessie Garza of influential Central Texas Latinas.  Congratulations to student workers Tori Vasquez, Nani Romero, and Stephanie Garcia for their hard (and ongoing!) work on this exhibit.  Special thanks to LHP faculty directors Dr. Brenda Sendejo and Alison Kafer for their support, and thanks also to Dr. Sendejo’s fall Anthropology students for their contributions to the site.

“Taking History Out of the Box”: Fun with Archives at the Latina History Project

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It’s been a busy few weeks at the Latina History Project! Having processed, selected, and digitized primary source materials pertaining to a 1992 Southwestern University photography exhibition titled “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls” including the work of photographer Mary Jesse Garza and featuring influential Central Texas Latinas, student workers Tori and Nani have been hard at work building a Latina History Project online exhibit.  Since the photography exhibit represents an important intersection between Latina history and SU’s institutional history, the students are using Omeka, a web-publishing platform to build digital collections and exhibits, to highlight primary source materials pertaining to the planning and execution of the 1992 photography exhibition.  We still have work to do before the site goes public, but here’s a sneak peek at the landing page:

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And here’s a shot of us collaborating on the site:

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Left to right: Nani Romero, Charlotte Nunes, and Tori Vasquez making important decisions about aesthetics, organization, and metadata for the Latina History Project online exhibition!

In order to get the site up and running, we had to decide on an Omeka “theme” to determine the aesthetic identity of the site.  We also had to decide what metadata fields would be most relevant and useful to identify and describe the assortment of digitized primary source items we want to include in the exhibit.  Establishing the basics of the site turned out to be a great opportunity to talk about the identity of our project at large, and relatedly, what descriptive categories we want to prioritize in order to convey the significance of the selected primary sources to Latina and SU history.  We hope to launch the public site in Fall 2015.

In addition to establishing the Omeka site, the students also recorded their own oral histories, which we will include as primary sources on the site.  We took advantage of SU’s newly acquired sound booth in the Smith Library Center (acknowledgements to the Mellon Foundation for the grant funds that enabled us to get the sound booth!).

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Sound check! Left to right: Charlotte and Nani

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Tori (left) and Dr. Brenda Sendejo (right) have a laugh before getting down to oral history business.

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Dr. Sendejo facilitates an oral history interview with Tori (left) and Nani (right).

Dr. Sendejo brought her extensive experience conducting oral histories to bear facilitating the session with Tori and Nani.  She invited the students to share their experiences and thoughts including:

-impressions of Southwestern University upon arrival, and current perceptions of SU from their perspectives as Latinas.

-experiences with the Latina History Project.

-connections between the Latina History Project and their lived experiences at SU.

-reflections on the 175th Anniversary of SU, including representations (or lack thereof) of the Latina/o experience in campus anniversary celebrations.

Tori and Nani shared their dynamic perspectives on experiences of both inclusion and exclusion at SU.  Nani shared that for her, one of the most valuable aspects of the Latina History Project is the opportunity to literally “take history out of the box.”  In the process of selecting, digitizing, and exhibiting Latina history primary source materials that were delivered to us in a mid-sized paper storage box, we’re thinking “outside the box” about SU’s institutional history: highlighting the history of the 1992 “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls” photography exhibit is a way to insert a Latina historical perspective into our university’s institutional narrative.  Hear Tori and Nani’s oral history below.

For our LHP semester finale, Tori, Nani, Dr. Sendejo and I enjoyed a day trip to UT-Austin’s Benson Latin American Collection.  Dr. Sendejo arranged a fantastic introductory session with Benson archivist Christian Kelleher.  Christian provided some useful tips and strategies for approaching archival research, then showcased a selection of fascinating materials from the Gloria Anzaldúa Papers housed at the Benson.

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Christian Kelleher provides a tour of the Benson Latin American Collection finding aids.

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Tori (left) and Nani (right) view an archival photo while Christian Kelleher (center) discusses its context.

After our session with Christian, we decamped to the Reading Room to conduct independent archival research.  Tori and Nani submitted folder request forms and got busy exploring the Anzaldúa Papers.

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Arriving in the Benson Reading Room. Left to right: Dr. Sendejo, Tori, and Nani.

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Tori (left) and Nani (right) explore their selected folders of archival materials in the Benson Reading Room.

Archival research makes you hungry!  We concluded our session with a well-deserved PIZZA FEAST.

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YUM

Congratulations to Tori and Nani on a semester of hard work and great development on the Latina History Project.  Thanks also to faculty co-Directors Dr. Sendejo and Dr. Alison Kafer.  Wishing a great summer to all and looking forward to continuing our adventure in Fall 2015!

Tiki-Toki Timelines and the Rule of Law Oral History Project

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Recently in “English 10-714: Freedom and Imprisonment in the American Literary Tradition: A Multidisciplinary Approach,” we’ve been exploring the rich audiovisual oral history collection at Columbia University’s Rule of Law Oral History Project, which features perspectives from various stakeholders around the Guantánamo Bay detention facility.

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Students are responsible for selecting one interview to watch, after which they post to our class blog using the results of this Close Listening Worksheet.  In discussion, multiple students have mentioned their surprise at how deeply engaging AV oral history interviews can be.  One student blogger wrote,

“I was skeptical at first. Skeptical that I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to these oral histories. But boy was I wrong… These interviews make the topics come alive with the tones, inflections, and the facial expressions of the narrators… Seeing a narrator… completely changes the way the anecdote is processed… I think close-listening through technology and videos could be the next big movement in reaching out to the general public.”

Of course, first people have to watch these oral history videos!  But I love the idea that AV oral histories might play a central role in efforts to raise awareness about the historic relationships in the U.S. between structural injustice and incarceration, both domestically and in terms of our foreign policy.

In order to explore a digital timeline option for the Final Project Assignment for the course, last week in class students completed this Tiki-Toki Assignment, which asked them to establish a digital timeline based on the Rule of Law Oral History Project interview they watched.  Tiki-Toki is a free digital timeline creation tool.  Since the objectives of the exercise were 1) to gain familiarity with a new digital tool and 2) practice identifying and crediting images in the public domain, students created only one “story,” or point on the Tiki-Toki timeline, in their respective timelines.  Nevertheless, their timeline creations were very impressive.  Students made many creative decisions about how to visually represent themes, concepts, and issues represented in the oral histories.  Click through below for a few compelling examples of the students’ work.  (And thanks to the students who granted me permission to include their timelines here!)

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Tiki-Toki story on Rule of Law Oral History Project interview with Robert Kirsch

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Tiki-Toki story on Rule of Law Oral History Project interview with Moazzam Begg

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Tiki-Toki story on Rule of Law Oral History Project interview with Steven Reisner

*All student bloggers in the class, including those cited above, completed this Social Media Privacy Agreement at the beginning of the semester.*

“Discovering America” with the Latina History Project

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Our most recent Latina History Project session began with a discussion about the theory and practice of oral history anchored in our reading of Dr. Brenda Sendejo‘s essay titled “Mother’s Legacy: Cultivating Chicana Consciousness During the War Years.” The essay appears in Beyond the Latino World War II Hero: The Social and Political Legacy of a Generation edited by Maggie Rivas-Rodríguez and Emilio Zamora.

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In order to provide insights into evolving gender norms during the post-war period, Dr. Sendejo’s chapter examines the oral histories of three Mexican-American women who became mothers in the years following World War II.  Dr. Sendejo led us in a fantastic discussion about the important role that granular, individual narratives can play in illuminating broad cultural, historical, political, and social phenomena.

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Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

Following our oral history discussion, we switched gears to spend some time identifying items for digitization in the collection of primary source materials that Professor Mary Visser has provided for us to explore and preserve.

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Evaluating an item for potential digitization. Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

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The primary source materials include several sheets of photographic slides featuring portraits of Central Texas Latinas by Mary Jesse Garza. Photo credit: Brenda Sendejo

The materials on loan to us by Prof. Visser pertain to the planning of the exhibit “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls,” a collection of portraits of influential Central Texas Latinas with photography by Mary Jessie Garza.  Dr. Visser collaborated with Lupita Barrera Bryant to coordinate the exhibit in conjunction with the 1992 Brown Symposium at Southwestern University, titled “Discoveries of America.”  One item we’ve flagged for digitization provides useful insights into the context and motivation behind both the photography exhibit and the 1992 Brown Symposium at large:

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This untitled typed memo announcing the 1992 Brown Symposium provides evidence that the event was in direct response to the Columbian Quincentennial:

“Next year’s Brown Symposium will take place January 22-24 of 1992, roughly five hundred years since Columbus sailed the ocean blue… The symposium will be entitled DISCOVERIES OF AMERICA, and brings together scholars in a range of disciplines to discuss interconnected meanings of America, and of discovery… The symposium will thus feature six DISCOVERIES OF AMERICA achieved by Blacks, Women, Southwestern Explorers, the English, the Spanish [by way of Columbus], and Native Americans. “

This memo demonstrates that the “Rostros y Almas/Faces and Souls” exhibit was not only relevant to regional Central Texas Latina history, but also connected with a broad movement at Southwestern and nationally to take the 1992 Quincentennial as an opportunity to reflect on the implications of Columbus’s continuing legacy for ethnic and minority groups across the Americas.