“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.


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.

Margaret Hall and Bryn Mawr: On the Front Lines of the Great War


Margaret Hall

Elizabeth in Special Collections

Elizabeth Reilly, Class of 2014, at work in Special Collections

Veteran’s Day is observed every year on November 11th to commemorate the anniversary of the end of World War I, one of the pivotal events of modern history. As a women’s college, Bryn Mawr did not send students or alumnae into direct combat in the early twentieth century — an era before women entered battle alongside men — but members of our college community were very much linked to the turmoil in Europe.

Recent Bryn Mawr College graduate Elizabeth Reilly spent the summer of 2014 researching materials related to World War I in Bryn Mawr Special Collections. As part of her work Elizabeth immersed herself in the papers of Margaret Hall, Class of 1899, who volunteered with the Red Cross near the front lines in France. Using a wide range of sources, including Hall’s correspondence, photographs, ephemera, a bound manuscript that Hall herself compiled upon her return, and other resources from Special Collections, Elizabeth created a digital exhibit, using Omeka, that captures Hall’s unique story almost a century after the fact. Elizabeth’s project is now available on the Greenfield Digital Center website:

Margaret Hall and Bryn Mawr: On the Front Lines of the Great War

By drawing on the full resources of the college archives, Elizabeth weaves together several stories and perspectives into a rich narrative. Her exhibit incorporates findings from alumnae files and records, personal correspondence, ephemera, and published sources to build a biography of Hall’s WWI experiences that also highlights the experiences of other Mawrters volunteering in Europe and at home on Bryn Mawr’s campus.

The Bryn Mawr "Patriotic Farm,"

The Bryn Mawr “Patriotic Farm,”1910s.

Elizabeth also reflects on what it means to research physical materials in an age of digital methods and tools. Calling for an incorporation of both approaches, she writes, “navigating and learning from archival collections online can be invaluable in our present digital information driven culture. But,” she argues, “they should be used alongside physical collections whenever possible.”

Margaret Hall and Bryn Mawr” is the latest student-produced digital project published on the Greenfield Digital Center‘s website, combining archival research and digital writing methods. On both our main site and our blog, we strive to support and publish student work that interrogates the relationship between women’s history and the digital world.

Do you have feedback on this project, or suggestions for new areas of research? Leave a comment below!

“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.

Translating Archival Materials into the Digital Realm: Samone Rowe Uncovers a “Candid Campus”

Recent graduate Samone Rowe (BMC ’14) interned with The Greenfield Digital Center and Special Collections to create an original digital exhibit featuring the College Archives. Here she reflects on her connection to the archival materials documenting early Bryn Mawr students. You can view Samone’s project, Candid Campus, and other exhibits built on Bryn Mawr’s collections here.

Page from the scrapbook of Lucy Shoe (Meritt), Class of 1927.

Lucy Shoe Meritt, Class of 1927, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Last summer, I was granted the opportunity to work with the Photo Album and Scrapbook Collection within Bryn Mawr’s Special Collections. My research, completed over ten weeks, resulted in Candid Campus: The Lesser Known Narratives of Bryn Mawr College, a Greenfield Digital Center exhibit detailing hidden aspects of the college’s culture. The scrapbooks and albums included postcards, photographs, playbills, newspaper articles, and a myriad of other trinkets and clippings.

Since the internship summer served as the precursor to my final year at Bryn Mawr, I appreciated seeing which moments of their academic careers the school’s alumnae held most dear and comparing those experiences to my own. Even now, months later, I continue to wonder how I fit into Bryn Mawr’s legacy and what effect the school will have on my future.

A scrapbook I developed a somewhat personal connection with was that of Frieda Woodruff (née Wagoner), a graduate of the class of 1951. The design of her album was simple: small black-and-white photos explained by minimal text. Yet, the sentimentality of the album starkly contrasted its stark layout.  Her photographs, which chronicled her final two years at the college, unexpectedly mirrored experiences of my own. Initially, I was amused by images of Woodruff and classmates waiting for their modern art course to begin and an allusion to “The Thinker” sculpture. As I continued to gaze at photos of her friends studying, sunbathing, and joking around, everything in Frieda Wagoner’s album seemed so natural and familiar to me. It was thrilling to see how the Mawrter spirit hasn’t changed much over the years.

Euretta Simons, Class of 1936, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Euretta Simons, Class of 1936, Bryn Mawr College Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection, Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College.

Creating the exhibit was both exciting and illuminating. As a history of art major with a strong interest in new media, working with the Greenfield Digital Center allowed me to explore translating visual and physical materials into the digital realm. Since the summer, I have continued to sharpen my newly-gained virtual exhibition skills by curating digital exhibits for class assignments and scanning and editing various types of archival materials with Special Collections. My ten weeks spent with the Greenfield Digital Center and the Scrapbook and Photo Album Collection were invaluable, and I hope I get the privilege to complete projects similar to Candid Campus in my post-Bryn Mawr endeavors.

A Point of Difference: Diversity at Bryn Mawr College


A Point of DifferenceLast summer, Bryn Mawr’s Pensby Center interns Alexis De La Rosa ’15 and Lauren Footman ’14 began research on histories of diversity on campus, with a particular focus on students and staff of color. Their research took many forms: surveys, new photography, and oral history, as well as research in the College Archives. We’re pleased to announce that their project is now online, and hosted on the Digital Center’s website:

A Point of Difference: Diversity at Bryn Mawr College

Alexis De La Rosa and Lauren Footman

Alexis De La Rosa and Lauren Footman

Over the past year, Alexis and Lauren have reflected on the origins of their project. More recently, Digital Center Associate Director Evan McGonagill considered how we document the experiences of students of color in our archives and institutional histories–what she called building an archive of change. In the conclusion of their exhibit, Alexis and Lauren write:

We hope our work will just be the beginning of an ongoing institutional commitment to research, acknowledge, and document the experiences and contributions of marginalized communities on campus, and join us in celebrating this rich history.

We view this research as necessary, and just the beginning of what we imagine as more projects linking student interest in the history of Bryn Mawr College to our diverse communities. We’re looking forward to continuing these conversations on campus, and in our digital spaces.

Do you have historical knowledge or personal information about diversity on campus in the last twenty-five years (or beyond)? Share your experiences in the comments below, or contact us on Twitter @GreenfieldHWE or by email: greenfieldhwe@brynmawr.edu.