“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.


‘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?

Black at Bryn Mawr: What’s Next?


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

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


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!

College Women: A Collaborative Cross-Institutional Archives Portal


Bryn Mawr College archery team, undated, via collegewomen.org.

Bryn Mawr College archery team, undated, via collegewomen.org.

In June, we announced the launch of College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education (collegewomen.org), a project of the seven institutions once known as the “Seven Sisters” colleges. With a one-year Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, we developed an archives portal that brings together–for the first time online–digitized letters, diaries, scrapbooks and photographs of women who attended the seven partner institutions: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University).

This summer we put the finishing touches on a white paper documenting our collaboration for the NEH Division of Preservation and Access, Humanities Collections and Reference Resources. The white paper joins our application narrative, freely available on the NEH site; both serve as useful documentation for thinking through collaboration across multiple institutions. The white paper, in particular, makes the case for finding ways to collect geographically disparate collections in a vital and sustainable site, and over the long term, using that site to stimulate significant new work in women’s history. But, as we wrote, the project partners also saw a secondary goal of creating an open-source infrastructure and set of procedures that could be adapted by other institutions interested in developing their own subject-based digital collections. Our white paper, its accompanying standards documents, and the site architecture, design and accompanying documentation available through Barnard College’s GitHub, are all readily available for other initiatives interested in pursuing this approach.

To read more, download the “History of Women’s Education Open Access Portal Project” from the Bryn Mawr College repository, here.

College women beta site 6-11

Our work on this project is ongoing and collaborative. College Women is currently available in a beta version, featuring 300 photographs, letters, diaries and scrapbooks from the seven partner institutions. As more of our historical documents are digitized and catalogued, we plan to expand the content of the site, and continue to write new grants towards these goals.


Going to DLF? College Women project team members Rachel Appel (Bryn Mawr College), Monica Mercado (Bryn Mawr College), and Joanna DiPasquale (Vassar College) will discuss the collaboration as part of the program on Tuesday, October 27.

We continue to welcome feedback on the site, in the comments below, and through a form on the College Women homepage.

Black at Bryn Mawr

The Greenfield Digital Center is currently supporting the work of three students undertaking Praxis III independent study projects exploring lesser-known aspects of Bryn Mawr College history. This week, two of those students — Grace Pusey and Emma Kioko, both Class of 2015 — are formally launching their research project, Black at Bryn Mawr. Readers can stay up-to-date with their research via the Black at Bryn Mawr blog and tumblr. Today, Grace shares the origins of the project, and its goals.

This semester Emma Kioko and I are collaborating on a Praxis III independent study course titled Black at Bryn Mawr, a project that will illuminate the history and experiences of Black students, faculty, and staff at the College. Using Bryn Mawr Special Collections as well as primary sources archived outside of the College, we are analyzing the ways in which Bryn Mawr has chosen to record, remember, and represent racism in its history. Using the archives, we are identifying spaces of both racial conflict and conversation on campus in order to develop a final project in the form of a campus walking tour and a digital historical record.

Continue reading

“We Are/We Have Always Been”: A Multi-Linear History of LGBT Experiences at Bryn Mawr College, 1970-2000


Early days of the May Hole celebration (1980s) courtesy of Deb Rowan, Class of 1990.

Early days of the May Hole celebration on May Day. Photograph courtesy of Deb Rowan, Class of 1990.

Over the summer, Tri-Co Digital Humanities Initiative intern Brenna Levitin (Class of 2016) began new research into histories of LGBT individuals and communities on campus. What started as a simple question — do materials exist in the Bryn Mawr College Archives to document LGBT life? — led us to new donations from alumnae/i and a rethinking of our digital tools.

We’re pleased to announce that Brenna’s project is now online, accessible through the Greenfield Digital Center’s website:

“We Are/We Have Always Been”: A Multi-Linear History of LGBT Experiences at Bryn Mawr College, 1970-2000

We Are/We Have Always Been” uses college newspapers, ephemera, photographs, oral histories, and informal interviews to show pieces of a fragmented history that continues to develop in the present day. In doing so, it highlights the multi-linear nature of the narratives that make up personal and institutional memory.

Brenna Levitin '16 asks, how do we study lesser-known aspects of Bryn Mawr student life?

Brenna Levitin, Class of 2016.

Brenna’s project departs from the form of past exhibits published by the Greenfield Digital Center in that it is built on a platform called Scalar, rather than Omeka. With its flexible approach to narrative, Scalar allowed Brenna to situate parts of the story within and beside one another, in addition to traditional sequential relationships. Brenna’s documentation of this work, including her summer blog posts, lives on as a broader reflection on process; Greenfield Digital Center Assistant Director Evan McGonagill also considered how we might begin to think about the “T” in LGBT histories, particularly in the women’s college context.

We also encourage readers to visit “History of Gender Identity and Expression at Bryn Mawr College,” created by Pensby Center summer intern Emmett Binkowski (Class of 2016) to recognize Mawrters with diverse gender identities. Along with the digital exhibit “A Point of Difference” — recently completed by Alexis De La Rosa (Class of 2015) and Lauren Footman (Class of 2014) to document histories of students and staff of color — these projects reflect the Greenfield Digital Center’s commitment to research that tackles the diverse and challenging histories of Bryn Mawr College and its many communities.

Brenna will return to the Greenfield Digital Center in Spring 2015 through Bryn Mawr’s Praxis program, which will provide an opportunity for her to continue pursuing oral history interviews with alumnae/i and community members.

Comments? Questions? We welcome your thoughts below, or via email to greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu.

Hidden Libraries, Hidden Histories: The Story of the BGALA Library


Since May, Brenna Levitin, the Greenfield Digital Center’s TriCo DH summer intern, has been hard at work tracking down the histories of LGBT individuals and communities at Bryn Mawr between 1970-2000. To catch up with her work, read Brenna’s thoughts on one of her first finds, her consideration of silence in the archives, and her approaches to using digital tools to address the silence, including reflections on making the Digital Center’s first Scalar project. We look forward to launching Brenna’s project, We Are/We Have Always Been, next week–stay tuned!


Brenna Levitin, Class of 2016

Let’s hear it for victories! Although much of the past four months has been spent sighing over a lack of LGBT archival material, I recently had a great realization which partially solved the mystery of the disappearance of Bryn Mawr’s BGALA Center Library. I first heard about this mystery from Robin Bernstein, Class of 1991, the creator of the library and its first keeper. She told me about how she painstakingly shaped it over three years, only to have it disappear a few years after she graduated. She mourned the multi-hundred-volume library for years, until, to our excitement, I physically ran into the collection in Canaday Library a few weeks ago! Here’s a short retelling of the library’s saga.

In her sophomore year, Robin Bernstein asked the Bryn Mawr Women’s Center to use their empty back room as a physical space for BGALA (The Bryn Mawr-Haverford Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance). After the students in charge agreed, Bernstein began to create a physical space for the club within the Women’s Center, located on the upper floor of the Campus Center. To fund decoration and set-up of the space, Bernstein wrote a grant and received $1,000, in addition to the money BGALA received from general SGA budgeting. She took approximately $1,500 to the Owl Bookshop on campus and to Giovanni’s Room–the famous bookstore in the Philly Gayborhood–and bought as many books as possible. After carting everything back to campus, BGALA members rubber-stamped everything “The Bryn Mawr/Haverford Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian Alliance.”

BGALA Library stamp, found in Lesbian Plays (New York: Methuen, 1987-1989), Canaday PR 1259.L47 L4 1987 v.2.

BGALA Library stamp, as seen in Lesbian Plays (New York: Methuen, 1987-1989), Canaday Library Rainbow Alliance & Women’s Center Collection, PR 1259.L47 L4 1987 v.2.

Bernstein lovingly curated the library for the next three years, watching as it grew with each year’s funds. By the end of her senior year, the library contained over 1,000 books, audiotapes, and magazines. The summer after Bernstein’s graduation in 1991, the books were removed from the BGALA Center and relocated to a room in the Denbigh dormitory. Previously, the BGALA library was unstaffed, functioned on the honor system, and was heavily used. After their move, no one knew where to find the books, and so they saw less use as the years went on.

After approximately 1993, institutional memory fails to recall where the books lived. In fact, Bernstein and I believed the books to still be missing when I found them, by chance, living in Canaday Library as an official collection. By working backwards and talking to library staff, I was able to piece together part of their journey post-Denbigh.

Layers of library history, as seen in Anthony Burgess,The Wanting Seed (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), Canaday Library Rainbow Alliance & Women’s Center Collection, PR 6052.U638.

Layers of library history, as seen in Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964), Canaday Library Rainbow Alliance & Women’s Center Collection, PR 6052.U638.

The next time that anyone saw the BGALA books was in 2003, when members of the Rainbow Alliance came to then-Coordinator for Information Acquisition and Delivery, Berry Chamness, in Canaday to ask for help. The Rainbow Alliance (the new name for BGALA) was losing the space where they stored the library, and wondered what to do to save the books and keep them accessible. Since Fall 2004, what is now known as the Rainbow Alliance/Women’s Center Collection has lived as a discreet collection in Canaday Library, and can be found on the shelf closest to Quita’s Corner by the back window on the first floor.

Library 1

Library 2

The Rainbow Alliance & Women’s Center Collection is now catalogued in TriPod and shelved on the first floor of Canaday.

I’ve put together the history above from personal accounts and some library sleuthing, but there are still pieces missing from the puzzle. What happened to the books between 1992 and 2003? Were BiCo students aware of the books as a resource, and who was responsible for them? If you have a piece to add to the puzzle, please email greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu or comment below! I’d also love to hear from anyone who remembers the library in any of its incarnations.

Interested in the Rainbow Alliance/Women’s Center Collection holdings? We’ll be sharing our favorite books on the Greenfield Digital Center tumblr this fall!

A New Start: Monica’s First Days at the Greenfield Digital Center


On July 1, 2014, Monica L. Mercado joined Bryn Mawr College Libraries as the CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow and Director of The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education.

Last week, I unpacked my boxes, learned how to read the SEPTA train schedule, and arrived on campus, eager to dig into Bryn Mawr Special Collections and the resources supported by the Digital Center.

Exploring Bryn Mawr's campus.

Exploring Bryn Mawr’s campus.

This month I’m getting up to speed on our NEH-funded planning grant, already underway, which is supporting the development of a collaborative digital portal with the libraries of Barnard College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, Vassar College, Wellesley College, and the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. [You might have seen the project announced on Technical.ly Philly last month.] This portal will make available materials documenting the first generation of students at the colleges once known as the “Seven Sisters,” and we hope it will offer researchers new access and insights into the experiences of women at our institutions in their founding years and beyond.

I’m also interested in considering how the Digital Center and the College Archives can document more recent histories of women’s education. This summer, we’re lucky to have TriCoDH summer intern Brenna Levitin (BMC ’16) at the Digital Center. Brenna is currently investigating queer histories of Bryn Mawr for a future digital exhibition, mining the College Archives, and beginning an oral history project that we hope will continue after her internship concludes.

Monica's summer reading: A Book of Bryn Mawr Stories (1901)

Monica’s summer reading: A Book of Bryn Mawr Stories (1901)

I’m already energized by sharing a workspace with Brenna and the College Archives’ other student workers, who are happy to answer all my questions about campus! Moreover, advising students like Brenna doing new research in women’s education history has been a terrific introduction to the wealth of materials housed in Bryn Mawr’s archives (and already digitized), but also suggests to me ways in which the Digital Center can be part of a conversation about collections development, and how we document the last few decades of student life.

Although it may be the middle of summer, we’re busy planning for the year ahead. With the greater College community, we’re looking forward to the formal inauguration of Bryn Mawr’s ninth President, Kimberly Wright Cassidy, on September 20, for which I’ll be creating my first digital exhibition. And as I prepare my upcoming course on women’s education history for the Bryn Mawr College History Department, I’ll be reviewing how the Digital Center can serve as a more robust repository of ideas for college-level teaching in women’s history.

We’re also beginning to think about a second conference, building on the success of last year’s meeting, Women’s History in the Digital World. In many ways, my own introduction to digital history was facilitated by the connections I made at that inaugural conference, and I hope to use the Digital Center as a platform to reach audiences new to digital projects in women’s and gender history, as well as to support the work of a growing group of historians, archivists, and digital humanists who are making possible the future of the feminist past.

As part of getting to know the Bryn Mawr community, I’ll be working closely with Digital Center Assistant Director Evan McGonagill to continue to build relationships with College alumnae/i as well as scholars engaged in the growing field of digital history. Through our website, this blog, and other social media,including tumblr and Twitter, as well as events on campus, we hope you’ll continue to follow our work.

The Greenfield Digital Center Announces New Director


Long-time followers of the Digital Center will recall that after her two years of outstanding leadership, our former Director, Jennifer Redmond, elected to depart last fall in order to pursue a position in the Department of History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. After a carefully considered search, we are eager to announce that we have found our next Director and we are excited to welcome her this coming summer!


Monica Mercado at the ASA Digital
Humanities Caucus, November 2013

Monica Mercado will complete her Ph.D. in U.S. Women’s History at the University of Chicago this spring. With a background in women’s history, museum studies, and archives, Monica is already deeply engaged with many of the subjects that are germane to the work of the Digital Center. Her previous topics of focus have included, among others, religious history, feminist and queer history, the history of the book, and women’s educational history and practices. (For examples of Monica’s recent work, see the links at the bottom of this post.) Her work has often interrogated the extent to which marginalized voices are either preserved or silenced both in their contemporary environments and in the historical record, a topic that increasingly informs the work that we are doing here at the Digital Center and which we intend to pursue further.

We first became acquainted with Monica through our inaugural conference last spring, Women’s History in the Digital World, at which we convened nearly one hundred scholars, students, independent researchers, archivist, librarians, technologists and others who were engaged with digital work in the fields of women’s and gender studies. She has remained one of a vibrant group of conference attendees who have continued to converse, through social media and other outlets, about the crucial presence of scholars in these disciplines in digital spaces. Monica agreed to share some words here:

mercadoOver the last year I have found the Digital Center to be an incredibly useful resource for my work with University archives in Chicago. Women’s History in the Digital World introduced me to new colleagues across the humanities, in academic departments, libraries, archives, and elsewhere, who are building exciting new projects in women’s and gender history using digital tools and contexts.

I am thrilled to join the Digital Center as its next Director, and to continue the work that makes Bryn Mawr an important place for taking seriously the future of women’s history. I look forward to organizing programs building on the Digital Center’s inaugural conference, reaching out to both existing audiences — from whom I have learned so much — as well as to audiences new to digital history — students and more advanced scholars who can look to the Digital Center’s online portal as a resource for developing new projects, or figuring out social media in the age of the #twitterstorian. Some of my most rewarding experiences at the University of Chicago have resulted from creating opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved first-hand with archives and community history, and I hope to expand upon these opportunities online and in the classroom at Bryn Mawr, where I will design and teach courses for the Department of History. And as a Barnard alumna, I’m eager to pursue new research and collaborative ventures that further uncover the histories of women’s education in women’s institutions.

See the links below to learn more about Monica and her work. We look forward to welcoming her in July, 2014, and opening a new phase of exciting work for the Digital Center.

Monica’s blog: http://monicalmercado.com

“A Desire for History: Building Queer Archives at the University of Chicago” (2013)

University of Chicago LGBTQ History Project tumblr (2012-present)

Religion in American History blog (contributor, 2013-present)

On Equal Terms? The Stakes of Archiving Women’s and LGBT History in the Digital Age (presented at Women’s History in the Digital World at Bryn Mawr College, March 2013)

‘On Equal Terms’ – Educating Women at the University of Chicago (co-authored with Katherine Turk, 2009)