NEH Awards $260,000 Grant to Expand ‘College Women’ Archives Portal

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collegewomen.orgIn Summer, 2015 we announced the beta launch of the cross-institutional archives portal  College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (collegewomen.org), a collaboration between the institutions once — and often still — known as the “Seven Sisters.” The site development was funded by a Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and allowed us to begin imagining a resource that could serve both researchers and the casual browser interested in the shared histories of women’s education at some of the first U.S. women’s colleges in the Northeast. Today, we can now share that the National Endowment for the Humanities has recently awarded a Humanities Collections and Reference Resources grant to Bryn Mawr College that will allow us to expand the digitization project with our seven partner institutions beginning in Summer 2016.

A Poetry Hour on Bryn Mawr's Campus (1930) via collegewomen.org.

A Poetry Hour on Bryn Mawr’s Campus (1930) via collegewomen.org.

The College Women archives portal brings together digitized writings and photographs from our seven libraries, dating from the mid-nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, and documenting the experiences of students attending Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University). In the first phase of our work, the partners established a metadata schema, built and tested the beta site, and developed an approach to building subject-focused digital collections that can serve as a model to other institutions pursuing collaborative ventures. The portal currently holds a sample selection of 318 items, mostly photographs; the next phase of the project will focus on the expansion of content, allowing us to digitize, catalog, and upload 50,000 new images to the portal with a focus on student writings from letters, diaries, and scrapbooks. The research value of these sources will be greatly increased by the ability to consider a wide range of student materials in conversation with each other, as part of a larger phenomenon in the history of women in America, rather than as isolated fragments that document only the history of the individual colleges.

In an era in which women’s access to education still cannot be taken for granted, and women’s colleges in the United States are increasingly pressured to justify their continued existence, the exposure of these unique collections will be a key resource for researchers interested in tracing the experiences and impact of women’s higher education. By linking these materials under a common searchable access point, we hope to illuminate questions that still resonate today: how did young women’s social and intellectual relationships inform their entry into the public sphere?  How did differences in social and economic status between students influence day-to-day life on campus? How did the atmosphere of women’s education as nineteenth-century “experiment” influence their attitudes and experiences, both in their undergraduate years and beyond–and how might we use those histories to build supportive educational environments for marginalized populations around the world today?

Are you interested in using archival primary sources to explore the history of women’s higher education? Tell us what kinds of materials you would like to see included in CollegeWomen.org in the comments!

For more information, contact Eric Pumroy (epumroy [at] brynmawr [dot] edu) or Christiana Dobzynski (cdobrzynsk [at] brynmawr [dot] edu).

Daughters of the Samurai: Author Janice Nimura visits Bryn Mawr

Bryn Mawr College is delighted to welcome Janice P. Nimura to campus on Tuesday, January 26, 2016. Nimura is the author of Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West and Back, published in 2015 by Norton. According to the publisher:

daughters of the samurai coverDaughters of the Samurai describes the journey begun in 1871, of five young girls who were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened leaders in Japan. Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors—Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda—grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional  clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance. The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan—a land grown foreign to them—determined to revolutionize women’s education. Based on in-depth archival research in Japan and in the United States, including decades of letters from between the three women and their American host families, Daughters of the Samurai is beautifully, cinematically written, a fascinating lens through which to view an extraordinary historical moment.”

Ume Tsuda portrait, 1890.

Ume Tsuda portrait, 1890. Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

One of these young women, Ume Tsuda, attended Bryn Mawr College. Upon her return to Tokyo, she founded a similar institution for Japanese > women, which grew into the important and prestigious Tsuda College of today. The connection between Bryn Mawr and Tsuda Colleges has remained strong over the years and sparked a host of connections between Tri-Co colleges and Japan over the years.

Nimura will visit with staff and students in Taylor Hall from 1:30-2:30pm today, an informal opportunity to discuss the book and women’s international education initiatives. She will also speak to students in HIST 303: History in Public: Race, Gender, and Campus Memory from 3-4pm.

  • For more on Japanese ties to U.S. women’s education, read Febe Pamonag’s 2012 article, “‘A Bryn Mawr School in the East: Transpacific Initiatives for Japanese Women’s Higher Education,” in Pacific Historical Review 81.4 [link to full text on Tripod].
  • For more on Janice Nimura, visit the author’s website.

“College Women” at the Digital Library Federation Forum [video]

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College women beta site 6-11The October talk featuring Greenfield Director Monica Mercado, Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College Digital Collections Librarian) and Joanna DiPasquale (Vassar College Digital Initiatives Librarian) is now online via The University of British Columbia Open Collections. “College Women: A Collaborative, Cross-Institutional Archives Portal” begins at 00:14:50.

“Teaching History through Archives” at AHA 2016

ahaGoing to AHA 2016? Greenfield Director Monica Mercado will be co-chairing the Committee on Women Historians mentoring/brainstorming session on Saturday, January 9, and later that day will be speaking about Bryn Mawr College projects on the panel “Teaching History through Archives.” Her paper, “Archives Praxis: Supporting Independent Study and Experiential Learning in Special Collections,” will detail student work including “Black at Bryn Mawr” and “We Are/We Have Always Been,” initiated by undergraduate student researchers:

How might faculty and archivists encourage students to undertake a sustained engagement with local archives and special collections, beyond the one-time class visit? Monica L. Mercado will detail recent projects centered on the Bryn Mawr College Archives, designed by students, and made possible by the College’s Praxis Program, which gives undergraduates the ability to conduct semester-long fieldwork for credit at a wide variety of research sites. Reflecting student interest in unpacking the historical context for a number of current campus conversations, these projects and their public-facing products have had the added benefit of drawing the attention of the larger campus community to the College Archives and its rich but understudied women’s history collections. Through discussion of three case studies, the paper will consider the role of History faculty, archivists, and librarians as supervisors and collaborators with undergraduate students; the possibilities these projects offer for developing contemporary collecting efforts and digital tools; and the opportunities and constraints of teaching with archives outside of the traditional classroom setting. As experiential learning offerings grow in popularity on our campuses, this paper argues that college and university archives can support undergraduate learning goals in new ways with benefits for multiple constituencies.

For more on the conference, follow the #AHA16 Twitter stream or search the online program.

 

“Sisters Launch Digital Archive” in the Alumnae Bulletin

Thanks to the Bryn Mawr Bulletin for featuring our seven institution collaboration, College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education in the November 2015 issue, which also features an important set of “Letters to the Editor” on the topic of Black at Bryn Mawr. We look forward to sharing our work with more alumnae/i in the new year!

Read more at the Bulletin site, here, and explore the College Women site online at collegewomen.org.

 

Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education

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Mount Holyoke students walking by Abbey Chapel, ca. 1940s. Mount Holyoke College Archives and Special Collections, via collegewomen.org.

After returning from the Digital Library Federation Forum in Vancouver, I reflected on one of the College Women site’s lesser themes, religion. How might we go about studying religion at the women’s colleges?

As someone who has studied, taught, and written about American religion and American women’s higher education separately for quite some time, I’m intrigued by conversations about the place of religion on college campuses, in both the built environment and the curriculum. Our Seven Sisters digital project (collegewomen.org) and conversations with my students who participate in religious life on the 21st-century campus show me new ways of continuing these lines of inquiry, in the College Archives and in our new virtual portal.

Read more over at Religion in American History: Finding Religion at College? Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. [link]

‘College Women’ Goes West: DLF Forum 2015

DLF-Forum-2015-logo-150210We’re in beautiful Vancouver, BC this week for the Digital Library Federation Forum. On Tuesday afternoon, Greenfield Director Monica Mercado, Bryn Mawr College digital collections librarian Rachel Appel, and Vassar College Libraries digital initiatives librarian Joanna DiPasquale will be presenting a project update on our archives portal, College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education.

There’s a few ways to follow along:

We’re looking forward to presenting with the University of Virginia Scholars Lab project Take Back the Archive, a public history project created by UVa faculty, students, librarians, and archivists to “preserve, visualize, and contextualize the history of rape and sexual violence at UVa, honoring individual stories and documenting systemic issues and trends.” How can digital women’s archives work together and share in other conversations after we return to Bryn Mawr?

Greenfield in the Classroom

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker's seminar, "Building Bryn Mawr." (Photograph by the author.)

Setting up for Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr.” (Photograph by the author.)

Although I’m not teaching a course this semester, I’m still getting to spend time in the classroom, sharing the Greenfield Digital Center’s resources with students and faculty across disciplines. Together we look not only at the growing array of resources Greenfield supports on the web – collegewomen.org, Black at Bryn Mawr, and Greenfield’s own collections exhibits – but also at materials housed in the College Archives: scrapbooks, photograph albums, papers, and more. Some classes are an obvious choice for a Special Collections visit, such as Professor Alicia Walker’s seminar, “Building Bryn Mawr,” where students are studying the early stages of development of Bryn Mawr’s campus, exploring the ways in which the founders of Bryn Mawr understood architecture as a key aspect of the institution’s image and aspirations. But I’ve also worked with faculty to integrate archives materials with class sessions on race and photography, or storytelling and digital narratives. If you ask me, the possibilities are endless! Continue reading

Black at Bryn Mawr: What’s Next?

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* cross-posted from the Black at Bryn Mawr blog *
BlackatBrynMawr

Good question!

I’ve been invited by the Bryn Mawr College Pensby Center to kick off this year’s Diversity Conversations programming – this Wednesday, September 30 at noon – with a look at the past, present, and future of the Black at Bryn Mawr project. During 2015-2016, I will continue to manage the project, providing new research and integrating it with my teaching and the work of the Greenfield Digital Center. I feel the loss of the project’s creators, Emma Kioko ’15 and Grace Pusey ’15 greatly — their energy and expertise made Emma’s idea for a Black history walking tour real, and far more successful than we ever could have imagined at this time last year. Our students graduate, and move on in their research and careers; talk of sustainability for campus history projects in the small liberal arts college environment must reflect this.

For those who can not attend the conversation, I am making my slides available via Slideshare (click here) and welcome comments and further questions below. Today’s presentation also dovetails with the work I am just beginning as a co-organizer of the 2016 NCPH Working Group “Campus History as Public History,” which is taking applications through October 15, 2015. Can we create best practices for these kinds of projects?

As always, the conversation also continues on Twitter: #BlackatBrynMawr and #campushistories.

Greenfield on the Road: Fall 2015

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Students Take a Drive, ca. 1940s, Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections via collegewomen.org.

Students Take a Drive, ca. 1940s, Mount Holyoke Archives and Special Collections via our new archives portal, collegewomen.org.

With the Fall semester underway, I’ve been scheduling travels to share our work with digital women’s history and women’s education archives with colleagues around North America, and right here on Bryn Mawr’s campus. If you’re attending one of the following events, do introduce yourself – it’s a pleasure to share our collaborative work in women’s education history with new colleagues and old friends. [Unfortunately, my rental car doesn’t look half as snazzy as the one Mount Holyoke students took for a spin on collegewomen.org!]

September 19, 2015 | UNYWHO (Upstate NY Women’s History Organization)
“Digital Histories of Women: Projects and Possibilities”
Geneva, NY

September 30, 2015 | Bryn Mawr College Pensby Center Diversity Conversations
Black at Bryn Mawr: What’s Next?”
Bryn Mawr, PA

October 27, 2015 | DLF Forum
College Women: A Collaborative Cross-Institutional Archives Portal” (co-presenting with Rachel Appel and Joanna DiPasquale)
Vancouver, British Columbia

January 9, 2016 | American Historical Association Annual Meeting
“Archives Praxis: Supporting Independent Study and Experiential Learning in Special Collections” as part of the panel Teaching History Through Archives.
Atlanta, GA

In the meantime, you can also find me walking campus as part of the Black at Bryn Mawr project, which has two upcoming public walking tours: Saturday, October 3 at 2:30 pm (as part of Bryn Mawr College alumnae volunteer summit) and Friday, October 23 at 2:00pm (as part of Bryn Mawr College Family Weekend). These tours meet in front of Thomas, rain or shine, and all are welcome. Spring 2016 tours, including one during Reunion weekend, will be listed on the website when they are scheduled, so stay tuned!