New Boston Research Center Grant!

The Boston Research Center got a new grant!  After a successful prototyping phase of faculty-led data projects, this phase (led by the incredible Amanda Rust), will look at neighborhood histories and archives and figure out ways in which data and technical infrastructure can support a community’s understanding of itself. I’m truly excited about this grant, and think it reflects current thinking in the field– ethical community partnerships combined with real-world pedagogical research opportunities, undergirded by sustainable tech.  My official role is “BRC Community Liaison,” and I’ll be spending some (undetermined, but probably too much) time working on this project.

My hands
My new career as a hand model starts today

Info follows from the Library’s blog:

The Library is pleased to announce that it has received a $650,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to implement the next phase of the Boston Research Center (BRC). The Boston Research Center is based in the Northeastern University Library and is dedicated to the study of Boston, enabling researchers from around the world to shed light on the city’s past, present, and future. The BRC serves as a place for students and scholars, Boston residents, and anyone interested in the history and culture of Boston to work together to combine special collections and contemporary data in an effort to better understand the past and envision the future.

This next phase of the BRC’s growth will, through partnerships with Boston community organizations, focus on the development of new digital collections and technological systems to empower these organizations to tell the story of their work and their neighborhoods. This builds on the strengths of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, a frequent partner with organizations in Boston and a trusted steward of local community archives, and will allow the BRC to serve as a digital community history lab where the creation of new collections and technology is driven by the needs of the people whose histories are represented in those collections. It also serves as a further iteration of the Library’s work to build inclusive information systems for cultural heritage.

The BRC is also now entering into a new partnership with the Boston Public Library. The Boston Public Library will play a key role in community outreach and technology development by drawing upon its extensive history of technological innovation and active partnerships with neighborhood communities served by its library branches. David Leonard, President of the Boston Public Library, said, “We are thrilled to take our relationship with Northeastern to a whole new level and collaborate on preserving and extending the reach of local neighborhood history and culture across Boston.”

“We deeply appreciate The Mellon Foundation’s generous support for this critical next phase of the Boston Research Center and how it forges strong connections with communities around Boston and with the Boston Public Library,” said Dan Cohen, the Dean of the Library at Northeastern. “And we look forward to helping to reveal new insights about our city through the BRC’s network of individuals and institutions.”

LEEDh: Leadership in Engaged and Ethical DH Projects #d4d

LEEDh is also a fancy speaker company

To be LEEDh (Leadership in Engaged and Ethical DH) Certified, projects must:

  • Fill a community need.  Involve the community, at the beginning, at all points along the course the project, and the community must own the project at the end.  
  • Include academics who commit to:
    • Understanding community values by listening with their mouths shut
    • Acknowldedge that they are not in charge of people’s memories
    • Recognizing that there will be pain, and that pain is personal growth, pain is accountability in action
    • Answering the question “Will this project benefit from having what we bring to the table? Or should I just provide $$ because the community is perfectly capable of running the project, all they need is resources?”
  • Analyze and disclose the social impact of access and use, exposure and creating vulnerabilities in the community.  
  • Encourage self-determination of communities, as colonization/power structures can be maintained and transmitted into a digital format. 
  • Include an Accountability practice that specifically defines who the project is accountable to, and what success looks like to that entity
  • Begin with a relationship and end with a better relationship.  If the academic partner intends to sunset the project, they must leave knowledge, infrastructure, community leaders behind.
  • Be used for community understanding and results in community change (as defined by the community) especially when discussing a painful event/period.

“Community Engaged” projects

community-engagement
Gross corporate “community engagement” image from the internet. Who wears a suit while gardening?

During the #d4d Design for Diversity Conference, Case study presenters talked about developing DH projects that are ethically embedded in the community.  Wanting to learn a little more about the topic, I googled around and found guidelines for both “Community Engaged”  and “Ethically Community Engaged” projects. Both had similar types of mild suggestions, such as ‘humility,’ ‘mitigating harm,’ ‘engaging across boundaries’ and ‘respecting self-determination.’ Obvious, right?

What was missing from the reports and guidelines I skimmed was any perspective from the impacted community ‘partner.’   Are they not asked for feedback?

The exception was in this “Characteristics of quality Community-Engaged Scholarship” from Pepperdine (this report is worth reading), but is just a citation.Ethical

It looks like this book  “Service-Learning Through Community Engagement:What Community Partners and Members Gain, Lose, and Learn From Campus Collaborations”
by Lori Gardinier might shed some light on the community’s perspective, so I will put it on my list of books to read at some point.

#d4d case study presenters and conference attendees had some interesting ideas about forming an ethical community engagment certification (like LEED!) program.  I have collated them and will post later.

 

 

Northeastern, community leaders unveil Lower Roxbury Black History Project

Northeastern, community leaders unveil Lower Roxbury Black History Project

Community and university leaders, Roxbury residents, and elected officials joined together on Tuesday to unveil the Lower Roxbury Black History Project.

The project, which features oral histories and artifacts collected to tell the powerful stories of Lower Roxbury’s residents, started as an idea at a meeting between university leaders and members of the Black Ministerial Alliance in 2006. It was there that Rev. Michael E. Haynes suggested the university create a living history of the African American community in Lower Roxbury. That history is preserved in the University Libraries Archives and Special Collections and the full collection is available online.

Tuesday’s celebration featured remarks from some of the project’s biggest supporters throughout the years—delivered in person and in video clips to a standing-room-only crowd at the Cabral Center—in recognition of the documentary’s newfound availability online. Though it marked a major milestone in the process of capturing the neighborhood’s rich history, President Joseph E. Aoun noted that the work is far from finished.

“What you have started here has no end,” he said, “because we have to keep looking at what’s happening now and what will happen in the future. What you’ve unleashed with us is something that has no end, and you have my commitment that we will continue this legacy.”

There’s gold in the hills

Aoun invited Haynes to the podium during his remarks to ask him a question about the meeting that started the project more than a decade ago.

“Something I didn’t ask you during our meeting (in 2006): Of all the things we could have worked on, why did you want to focus on this one?” Aoun asked.

After a thoughtful pause, Haynes, the child of Caribbean immigrants and the first family from the West Indies to buy a house on their Lower Roxbury street, replied that it was witnessing the changes to his neighborhood that impassioned him.

“The things that happened on this turf in Lower Roxbury could fill books,” he said, likening the as-yet unmined stories from Vernon Street and Massachusetts Avenue to the World War II cartoon captioned, “Boys, there’s gold in them thar hills.”

“I’m thrilled that this project has gotten a big boost, but I know the best is yet to come,” Haynes said. “There’s gold out there in Lower Roxbury.”

‘The antidote is the neighborhood’

Still, finding that gold in a city of more than 600,000 people can be daunting.

William Fowler, Distinguished Professor of History and a former advisory board member of the Lower Roxbury Black History Project, said that the antidote to that “vague,” “anonymous” quality that can appear with a large city is its neighborhoods.

“However drawn, the faces and lives of neighborhoods are not fixed; new people arrive, weaving their stories into the fabric of the neighborhood,” he said. “To grasp the history of this city, we must peer into its neighborhoods. That’s what we’re about here: preserving memories.”

Those memories that comprise the Lower Roxbury Black History Project represent the “historic and deep relationship between Northeastern University and the Roxbury community,” said Margaret Burnham, University Distinguished Professor of law and founder of the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project.

“We’re here to acknowledge this project and the voices and the struggles it preserves,” she said. “We’re preserving it for future generations in our archives.”

‘The center of incredible amounts of talent and creativity’

Other attendees acknowledged the importance of archiving that rich history and making it widely available for generations to come. State Rep. Byron Rushing was among them.

“The work that we’re commemorating and celebrating today is some of the most important historic work that anyone can engage in,” he said. “Not only are we talking about a key community in the history of black people in Boston, in Massachusetts, and in New England at large, we’re talking about a community that was the center of incredible amounts of talent and creativity and that was destroyed.” Rushing continued, describing the destruction of swaths of Boston neighborhoods, including the West End and parts of Lower Roxbury, over the years.

But while the buildings in Lower Roxbury had been destroyed, he said, “the people were not wiped out.”

“That history of the people is what is so essential here,” he said. “It exists in the memories of the people who lived here, and we have to collect all this material so that this community will never be forgotten.”

For state Rep. Chynah Tyler, herself a 2011 graduate of Northeastern and a fifth-generation resident of Lower Roxbury, the project has a special significance.

“I’m determined to change Boston forever, starting right here at home, right here in Roxbury,” she said. “Growing up in Roxbury was truly instrumental in creating a solid foundation for my success, and I’m prideful that I’m a product of my community. It’s so important that we document the rich history of Roxbury so future generations can have that historical context.”

Tyler’s young daughter, also in attendance Tuesday, is among those future generations.