BPS School Desegregation Project history– Planning and Building (part 2)

(This is part 2: part 1 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here)

bps_deseg_projWith BLC funding secured and a search for a techical consultant underway, BLC archival partners (University Archives and Special Collections at UMass Boston, the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, The State Library of Massachusetts’ Special Collections, and Boston College’s John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections) met and started formulating the project in January 2015.  The group determined that we would employ a ‘big tent’ approach to collection building, and invited non-BLC institutions to join as non-fiscal partners. The Moakley Archive and Institute at Suffolk University, the Boston City Archives, and WGBH) were added later that spring.  We announced the project, including our arguments for collection creation in a Blog Post. 

SCOPING AND SCANNING

A full list of collections that were contributed to the collection is here, including partners added later in the project.  My initial idea for the project was to start in 1954 and end in 1974 when the court order was implemented.  This is what we intended to focus on at Northeastern.  The group agreed to stretch that date range into the 1980s and 1990s for two main reasons.  Pragmatically, many institutions had strengths in that time period.  Philosophically, students and teachers doing the day-to-day work of integration was equally as challenging as getting to an integration decision.  Once the project was scoped, we determined that each institution would have the ability and freedom to contribute the most relevant items based on their collection strengths.

BUILDING via SUBJECT HEADING

The group determined that metadata would be the glue that would bind our collections together in Digital Commonwealth/DPLA. More on the decisions on this topic are reflected in this Blog Post written by Jessica Sedgwick.  We considered a non-LCSH option that could mark records that were part of a BLC-specific project, but ultimately decided to use the single subject heading “Segregation in education — Massachusetts — Boston — History” as a determinant of participation.   Our reasoning was twofold; one subject heading is a very low bar for participation, and it would also allow the collection to grow easily if other additional collections decided to participate.  This “everyone can participate” decision risks significant duplication and will most certainly invite unevenness and irrelevant items– a DPLA participant might tag something with ‘our’ subject heading that we might not consider ‘significant’ or even relevant or even deployed mistakenly.  A counter argument is that if we wanted to create a static, even, balanced collection we could have followed the blueprints of the many self-contained e-collections on varying subjects.  DPLA describes searching in its collections as like “drinking from the fire hose,” overwhelming, but offering the kind of varied perspectives and collection strengths that a curated collection can’t.

SCANNING and METADATA

The group shared internal scanning policies and procedures.  Some institutions provided folder-level metadata, others item-level.  Participants used several different metadata standards, including Dublin Core and METS.   Scanning standards (dpi, color/greyscale, sizing) varied.  As this variety is also reflected in Digital Commonwealth/DPLA, we determined that we would also apply a low bar/high participation policy to our scanning and metadata standards. Thus, we did not require or suggest any kind of standard metadata, scanning standards or levels of description.

In May of 2015 Northeastern hired Sociology PhD candidate Meghan Doran (formerly of BBDP) and UMass Boston Public History MA student Corrinne Bermon (who worked on UMB’s Omeka site) to work on selecting, scanning, and providing basic metadata for items.   Corrinne describes going through the collection in this Blog Post. 

The group also talked about putting together an external personography that collated non-LCNAF name authorities in list form.  However, recent scholarship has described and problematized library and archival technical structure structure (and LCNAF) for its inability to understand relationships between people, organizations, and families.  A new standard has been emerging to address that, EAC-CPF.  In the summer/fall of 2016, graduate student Elizabeth (Betts) Coup initiated a pilot instance instance for our collections as an internship.  Eventually the goal is to incorporate that information into our Northeastern and our partners’ descriptive practices.  Betts’ blog post about her project is here. 

(This is part 2: part 1 is here, part 3 is here)

BPS School Desegregation Project history– Beginnings, 2006-2014 (part 1)

bps_deseg_proj

(This is part 1: part 2 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here)

February 1, 2018, we launched the BPS Desegregation Portal and I thought I would spend a few minutes talking about the origins of the project.

My predecessor served on the advisory committee of the “Lower Roxbury Black History Project,” which ran from 2006-2009.   It was not an archives-driven project; it was managed and funded through City Affairs.  Project funding ran out unexpectedly in 2009, so when I arrived at Northeastern in June of 2013, the interviews, digitized images, and photographs were sitting on an external hard drive on a shelf in the Archives, uncataloged and unfindable.  Community members often asked “where is the oral history project?” when I met with them.

Library administration and I applied for some money to expand on this project and create an electronic home for it called ” The Lower Roxbury Digital Library.”  The funder we approached was not interested– they asked us to come up with project that more closely resembled the Shoah Foundation— an oral history collection of national importance.  Although the reason for this rejection rankled (Local history is the foundation of our work!), it got me thinking about what about our collections could qualify as of “national importance,” despite having a hyper-local focus.  I surveyed our collections and determined that some of our most-used collections related to school desegregation in Boston– commonly known as ‘busing.’

And there was an anniversary– 2014 marked 40 years since the Garrity decision court ordered schools to desegregate.  There were commemorative events and press– Boston City Council hearings, articles in the Boston Globe, the Mayor talked about his own personal experiences.  To gague the temperature of a project on campus, I convened Northeastern faculty who were already using Boston’s school desegregation troubles pedagogically, from English, Education, History, Public History.  Meghan Doran, then a Northeastern Sociology Ph.D.  student, introduced me to the Union of Minority Neighborhood’s Boston Busing Desegregation Project, whose work completely altered the direction/thrust of our ideas (concepts of the long civil rights movement, focus on Boston’s education civil rights heroes, “it’s not the bus, it’s us”).    The work continued: I was contacted by Josue Sakata, a curriculum designer for BPS, “was there material he could include in a new unit on Desegregation?”  Fabulous NU student Martha Pearson started working on an independent study, “Boston Before Busing” which made use of new tools being built by the newly formed Digital Scholarship Group of the library.  UMass Boston’s Public History program focused on school desegregation, creating another wonderful exhibit “Stark and Subtle Divisions.”, which introduced me to the wonderful collections at the Boston City Archives.

I mentioned all of this churn, and the possibility to colleagues at the Boston Library Consortium (BLC).  We brainstormed– wouldn’t it be great for this information to be widely available and become part of public discourse?  And then, could we unite our collections in one place? And if that was even possible, where?  DPLA?

I did some Digital Commonwealth/DPLA searching and realized that the only material related to Boston’s desegregation fight were from WGBH. There were other collections, but they were all  from the south and western parts of the country.  This wasn’t surprising– the bulk of the most relevant collections were at Northeastern, UMass Boston, Suffolk University, and the City and State Archives– and none of us were adding metadata to Digital Commonwealth/DPLA.

We applied to BLC for two separate but related grants– technical assistance to help assist BLC institutions to develop the technical connection  from our repositories to DPLA, and scanning funds for the school desegregation project.  The goal of the two simultaneous grants would result in

  • BLC institutions connected to DPLA
  • Determining the feasibility of developing a roadmap for other collaborative collections.

If both projects were successful, it would also result in a collaborative desegregation collection. BLC funded both projects.

The press release:

https://bpsdesegregation.library.northeastern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/BPS-Desegregation-Collection-Press-Release-1.pdf

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.

 

 

SAA Panel on Radical Empathy

My Presentation, “The Colonizing Gaze: Digitized Collections, Radical Communities and Paywalls (featuring Rhianna)”. Click on “tools” and “speaker notes” for more.

radempathy-minizine-final

— the minizine that @kellywooten put together for a panel we presented at the Society of American Archivists’ 2018 annual meeting.

Boston, Race, and Resilience

Mel King, Harry Dow, Jean McGuire, Tent City

For the past nearly two years, I have been a member of the Race Equity Working Group of the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Race Equity. The MORRE Office’s primary mission is to help build resilience for all Bostonians by addressing and and challenging social and racial inequities.  The Racial Equity working group (an advisory group for the office) consisted of incredible warriors– smart, experienced, passionate people who do battle every day but still are able to laugh, breathe, and do it all over again the next day.  Although I felt like I really belonged at the #kidstable instead of in this group, it was a brain-expanding experience and I am thankful I was able to participate.

The Chief Resilience Officer leading the charge to create Boston’s Resiliency Plan, Atyia Martin, and her staff allowed me to assist the effort by convening a group of historians and archivists  (‘history holders’ she called us) and Race Equity Working Group members to strategize how we could showcase the lesser known/understood aspects of Boston’s history across race and ethnicity, including immigrants, from a personal and policy perspective. As Donna Bivens and co. write in the Boston Busing/Desegregation Project’s 7 Lessons “Access to a more complete picture of this history is access to knowledge about how power works to enable and limit us. That access allows us to focus our individual and collective efforts to make real social change.”

One of the results of this convening was POLICY, PLACE, and POWER in an evolving city: BOSTON’S RACIAL EQUITY HISTORY PROJECT, a map and timeline that describes flashpoints, battlegrounds, and structures of inequity in the City of Boston. You can view that timeline at http://socialjustice.library.northeastern.edu/

From the website:

History is everywhere in Boston. Every neighborhood, street corner, and building embodies the people, communities that have occupied those spaces previously. The history of Boston’s systemic racism and communities’ acts of community building, activism and resistance are baked into both our understanding of our city, as well as its physical geography.

This timeline represents policies, events, and projects to the map and timeline that describe flashpoints, battlegrounds, and structures of inequity in the City of Boston.

  • BATTLEGROUNDS: Places where communities and institutions collide over resources, spaces, and neighborhood visions. ie. Tent City, The Southwest Corridor, Villa Victoria, The West End.
  • FLASHPOINTS: Trigger events that exposes inequity and leads the city to a better understanding of itself. ie. School Desegregation, the Henry
    Louis Gates arrest, the Charles Stuart Case.
  • STRUCTURES OF INEQUITY: Government and private sector policies and practices that are racially biased. ie. Chinese Exclusion Act, Redlining, Urban Renewal.

PROJECT GOALS

  • Our goal is to illustrate. To identify histories of racial injustice and celebrate communities’ acts of social resilience through community involvement and activism that moved spaces and institutions and policies toward justice and equity.
  • Our goal is also to learn. The combination of policies and citizen actions over time define our city and our current state equity/inequality. What are the key elements in each campaign or event that have made forward momentum toward racial equity successful?
  • Our goal is also to apply. What are the equity projects you are involved in that define Boston’s current social resilience? Are there elements missing in your current constellation of support? Help create a foundation for new insight as we assess current and future projects.

 

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.