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.’
Looking forward to the Accelerate LGBT event in Dublin on 17 September.
See my interview on the Accelerate LGBT blog
Written by Orla Egan
I am still reeling from the emotional rollercoaster of the weekend as my country finally voted to respect me, my son, my family, my friends and my community.
This weekend Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage through popular vote. And by a resoundingly popular vote – 62.1% overall, with only one constituency (Roscommon-South Leitrim) voting No. The highest YES vote was in Dublin South East with 74.9%. In the 5 Cork constituencies the YES vote ranged from 56% (Cork South West) to 65.8% (Cork South Central).
It has been a long and hard journey to get here. This weekend’s vote is the result of decades of LGBT community activism all over Ireland. Since at least the 1970s Irish LGBT people have supported one another to build community and have pride in who we are, despite the consistent messages from the church, the laws, the media and society telling us that we were sick, evil, lesser and unworthy. We set up LGBT organisations, centres and services. But we also created community – we created the positive spaces where LGBT people could be together, to love, to party, to affirm each other – to counterbalance all the negativity. We gave each other the strength to come out in ever increasing numbers. And that’s what made the difference. People respond to the personal. Its easy to vilify a concept – a gay man, a lesbian family etc. – its harder to hate the person standing in front of you: your son, your daughter, your mother, your uncle, your neighbour, your colleague. Its the stories of real people’s lives that have convinced so many people to vote YES.
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
My website http://corklgbthistory.com/ was this week voted Runner Up for Best Blog Post / Series of Posts in the DH Awards. The awards are nominated and voted for entirely by the public. These awards are intended to help put interesting DH resources in the spotlight and engage DH users (and general public) in the work of the community.
The DH Awards have provided a useful platform for visibility of the corklgbthistory site and an opportunity to have Queer work more visible within the Digital Humanities world. I developed the corklgbthistory site to begin to display a chronology of the development of the Cork LGBT community, to showcase some of the materials which will form part of the LGBT Digital Archive I am developing, and to stimulate interest and engagement in the project. Hopefully the DH Award will help to further these aims.
It has been a busy month for this LGBT Digital Historian (I guess that’s what I am now!).
In mid February I attended the LGBT History Festival in Manchester. I was delighted to introduce and screen the Cork film, Out and About, produced by Frameworks Films in collaboration with the Cork LGBT community. The film is a historical LGBT walking tour of Cork, presented by myself and John Dunlea. I was particularly delighted and excited to have this film screened alongside the BAFTA award winning film Pride. This was particularly appropriate as the Cork LGBT community has always been conscious of the importance of forging links and working in solidarity with other social change movements, similar in many ways to the solidarity shown in the Pride film between the lesbian and gay community and the striking miners.
The LGBT History Festival in Manchester had a wealth of interesting presentations and events. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet and network with other LGBT Historians and Archivists. It was particularly interesting to meet the team from Bergen University in Norway who are developing a LGBT Archive, SKEIVT ARKIV, with the support and resources of the university. It was exciting to meet people doing similar work, but I found myself more than a little jealous of the resources and support they obtained from their university!
Tonie Walsh and Orla Egan
The following week found me in OutHouse LGBT Community Centre in Dublin discussing the Cork LGBT Archive alongside Tonie Walsh of the Irish Queer Archive. The event was organised as part of LGBT History Month. Tonie is one of the few Irish based people who shares my passion and obsession with LGBT history and the importance of preserving and sharing our history. We fed off each other’s enthusiasm and stories and this led to an interesting and engaged discussion with the participants.
MA DAH 2015
Then at the end of February I graduated with an MA in Digital Arts and Humanities. While we can be cynical about the pomp and ceremony of such events, I think that it is important sometimes to take time to stop and acknowledge achievements and milestones in one’s life. I know that for me doing the MA in DAH was challenging on many levels. I put myself completely out of my comfort zone, studying an area that was new to me. It was also challenging on a personal level as I juggled the responsibilities of parenting (primarily solo) with a crazy study schedule and other personal commitments. The graduation ceremony provided an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the year and to express my gratitude to those who supported me during the year and to those who dragged me, kicking and screaming and protesting, into the exciting new world of Digital Humanities!
There is no doubt that the enormous technological developments of recent decades have fundamentally changed how we ‘do history’. In particular they have created a plethora of new possibilities for the preservation and presentation of historical and archival materials. While this is primarily positive, enabling the preservation and display of historical documentation that may otherwise be lost forever, it is not without challenges. Foremost amongst these for historians is assessing what digital tool or tools to use for capturing, analysing, presenting and sharing this material.
In Digital History Cohen and Rosenzweig explore how “new media and new technologies have challenged historians to rethink the ways that they research, write, present and teach about the past.” The book is designed essentially to be a practical handbook on how to create digital history. In the introduction they stress that “we need to critically and soberly assess where computers, networks, and digital media are and aren’t useful for historians…..in what ways can digital media and digital networks allow us to do our work as historians better?”
If one agrees that, on balance, it is worth doing history digitally, then how does one go about it? How do we choose from the plethora of tools available? For my work I am particularly interested in the development of digital archives and in digital tools that enable the storage, display and sharing of digitised materials. However, there seems to be some confusion and disagreement about what a digital archive is not to mention what are the best digital tools to use to create one. There are many tools, both open source and commercial, to choose from. As Carolyn Li-Madeo states: “Digital Archives are easier to create than ever before, utilizing content management systems such as Omeka, Drupal, Collective Access or even WordPress, libraries and institutions can share and organize their collections through the web.” Continue reading