Chloe Raub 2017-07-11 14:47:31
In the wake of the US presidential inauguration, millions of people took to the streets for the Women’s March on Washington, DC, and in other cities around the world on January 21, 2017. The Newcomb Archives and Vorhoff Library Special Collections, part of Newcomb College Institute (NCI) of Tulane University in New Orleans, joined archivists across the country to preserve the legacy of those marches. As other New Orleans repositories were also collecting ephemera from the local and DC marches, we focused our efforts on Tulane students, faculty, and staff. In partnership with the Society of American Archivists’ Women Archivists Section (WArS), we further narrowed our scope to emphasize born-digital materials, including digital photographs and oral histories, with the intent of making the collection available via a larger aggregation of Women’s March collections. (Learn more about this project at https://womenarchivistsroundtable.wordpress.com/2017/01/10/project-spotlight-womens-march-on-washington-archives-project/.) NCI, along with several other campus departments, cosponsored a bus to take fifty-four students and one faculty member from New Orleans to Washington, DC, an undertaking initiated and organized by students with the guidance of faculty and staff. While at the march, students sent photos to NCI to share on our Instagram and Facebook accounts. With their permission, these images were collected in a Box folder, along with photos taken at the DC and New Orleans marches by NCI’s staff. Our digital archivist processed the images as a photo series and created an ephemera series made up of digital and physical materials from the marches, including digital designs for buttons created by Tulane student Maya Pelichet as well as the physical buttons worn by students at the march. Later we created an oral history series. Rather than attempt to conduct interviews during the Women’s March, we used the oral history sessions as an opportunity to bring students together afterward, offering a supportive space for them to talk about their experiences at the march and engage in further activism. We scheduled interviews around the March 2017 Louisiana Equal Pay Summit in Baton Rouge, inviting students to come to the archives to be interviewed, make posters to bring to the summit, and write letters to members of the Louisiana State Legislature and legislators from their home states. With the assistance of NCI staff and faculty, the archives provided lunch, poster-making supplies, envelopes and stamps, office addresses for state senators and representatives, and tips for writing to legislators. Pelichet generously agreed to revise her button designs as postcards that students could mail to their legislators, copies of which were also preserved in the collection. By conducting oral histories several weeks after the march, students were able to reflect on their experiences and discuss differing perspectives on and reactions to the march, as well as their own feelings about being a part of this historic moment. They talked about how they were staying engaged in political activism, their plans for future activism, and the bonds they made with other students at the march. In addition to documenting an important moment in US history and in our students’ lives, the Newcomb Archives also hoped to encourage community and political engagement when creating this collection. While the mission of the Newcomb Archives is to document the history of women and gender in the Gulf South, as a part of NCI we are also committed to the broader task of educating women for leadership in the twenty-first century. By providing opportunities to take part in activism efforts while stressing the importance of documenting the present for future generations, we aim to create a space in the archives for students to consider the past and the impact of their actions now and in decades to come.
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