I am a Digitally Challenged Digital Humanist.
My Digital Humanities project, creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive, is a truly multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and cross-disciplinary project – it requires me to understand and engage with a number of different fields and disciplines, including History, Social History, LGBT History, Archives, Community Archives, Digital Archives, as well as understanding the how of doing it digitally. Not a challenging task at all!!!!
A lot of the time it seems as if I am floundering in a land I don’t know, where people speak a language I do not understand. The Humanities side is fine, I speak that language, but I’m new to the Digital.
And yet I keep trying, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always learning through the process. As Samuel Beckett said: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’
I have just returned from a visit to New York to meet with a number of LGBT Digital Archive projects. Building these connections and opportunities for the sharing of ideas, experiences and practical skills is crucial for me as I work on developing a Cork LGBT Digital Archive. The opportunity to be in a room with others who share my obsession with the importance of preserving and sharing the rich history of LGBT communities, and with using digital tools to do so, is a crucial but rare experience for me.
I met with Anthony Cocciolo, Associate Professor at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science in New York. Since 2008 Anthony Cocciolo has been working with his students on digitising some of the audio and video collection from the Lesbian Herstory Archive in Brooklyn.
Anthony teaches a module called Projects in Moving Image and Sound Archiving. As part of this course the students work with Anthony on digitising various collections from the Lesbian Herstory Archive. They began with series of interviews Joan Nestle conducted over a number of years with Mabel Hampton (1902-1989). Mabel was an African American Lesbian who was closely connected with the Lesbian Herstory Archive. They have since digitised the archive’s collection of Audre Lorde’s public speeches, readings, and panel presentations, a series of videos in relation to the Daughters of Bilitis group and the interviews from Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold (study of the lesbian bar culture in Buffalo). Continue reading
This week I have been engaged in creative pursuits, while also trying to make progress towards my aim of creating a Cork LGBT Digital Archive.
In an earlier post on Cork LGBT Digital Archive I talked about the rich source of archival material stored in the basement of a house in Cork. This material has been gathered over the past 30 years. It relates to the history of the LGBT community in Cork, the Quay Co-op, Safer Sex and AIDS organisations as well as various other campaigns and organisations. While it contains many gems, the ‘archive’ is unsorted with information on various organisations mixed in together.
This week I began the slow process of trying to sort through the archive, with the assistance of Arthur, Carol, Katherine, John and Fionuala. We tried to resist the temptation to read through all the fantastic information we found, although we had to admire some of the wonderful posters in the collection. Initially the information is being sorted into broad categories, such as LGBT Cork, Quay Co-op, AIDS, Environmental, Housing Co-op etc. Once sorted each category can be catalogued and explored in further depth.
In the basement of a magnificent house in Cork there are boxes and boxes of old newsletters, posters, letters and other documents collected over the past 35 years by a local activist. They relate to the activities of various Cork groups, including the lesbian and gay communities, the Quay Co-op, environmental groups and different campaign groups. It is a rich source of information documenting the activities of these groups and a testament to Arthur’s foresight that it has not all been lost over the years.
To call this an ‘archive’ would be to suggest a level of organisation that doesn’t exist. It is a jumble of unorganised boxes, each containing a mix of information relating to different organisations and activities. There are also old computers which would require some level of expertise to unlock the files contained on them.