Performing Archive

History of "Performing Archive"

The Performing Archive: Curtis + "the vanishing race" project emerged in response to two ongoing efforts funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The first was a year-long planning grant awarded to the Claremont Consortium to support the development of a consortial Digital Humanities Center. The second was a faculty course-planning seminar at Scripps College.

In the context of larger efforts to transform Honnold-Mudd Library, particularly by providing innovative learning resources and promoting research collaboration across the Consortium, the planning grant proposal included a pilot project that would engage with a range of disciplinary modalities. While the exact project remained to be selected, we knew that we wanted to use the pilot to explore avenues for "curricular integration, undergraduate research, and project incubation." Aware of the rich landscape of tools and digital resources, we were eager to extend pedagogical and research applications of existing digital humanities work. At the same time, we wanted to demonstrate that even a pilot project could include a robust consideration of the relationships of historical and emerging scholarly and archival technologies with histories of race and national identities.

We envisioned a pilot that would offer the Claremont community a working model not only of collaboration within the consortium but with regional R1-level institutions as well. Embracing the disruptive potential of new technologies, we were interested in crossing boundaries of disciplines, traditional professional hierarchies (undergraduate student, graduate student, faculty, programmers, and library specialists), and institutions and institutional types.

The goal of the Scripps seminar was more local, but also deeply interdisciplinary, and boiled down to the creation of a new interdisciplinary Core I course to be taught fall 2013 -2015. Faculty participants in the course-planning seminar were highly interested in, and committed to, providing students with a first-hand experience of looking at, listening to, and potentially writing on historical objects, material culture, photographs, sound recordings, and artworks. The challenge: presenting a range of primary materials to 250-270 students. After discussion about possible materials to be included, and working closely with the staff in Special Collections at the Honnold-Mudd Library, the faculty agreed to draw on a resource held within the consortium: one of less than 300 existing complete sets of the twenty volume, The North American Indian, by Edward S. Curtis.

While discussions about the Scripps course were ongoing, the Digital Humanities planning grant team agreed that the Curtis work was an excellent opportunity to leverage both existing local and digital resources (at Northwestern, the Library of Congress, Archives of Traditional Music at Indiana University, and the Smithsonian by way of the in order to think about issues of race, histories of technologies and art, digital archives, and pedagogy. Because we were using existing digital collections, we were able to focus on the development of interfaces, visualizations, and scholarly material to help students and researchers contextualize Curtis' work. We were particularly excited to be able to collaborate closely with the USC-based Scalar team to develop a new interface that could support viewing the large number of image assets from a range of non-local collections, thus further developing an existing digital authoring/publishing platform.

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