Silence in the Archives, Part I: Inviting Inquiry


When the Digital Center’s TriCoDH summer intern Brenna Levitin ’16 last wrote about her project, she was in the early stages of researching Bryn Mawr’s LGBT history. Recently, Brenna’s focus has shifted to methods for acknowledging silence in the archives, and she is now looking at ways to use her final exhibition project to represent—not fill—that silence.

I’ve begun this blog post four times, each hoping that this iteration will be the one that gels—the one that sums up archival silence in just the right way. I’ve realized, however, that perhaps the problem is the subject matter itself. Archival silence is not an easy topic: each interaction illuminates a single page of history and three blank books. Perhaps that’s why this blog post has been hard to write; after all, writing about what does not exist is difficult and an overwhelmingly foreign task to a fledgling historian.

Historians are intimately familiar with silence; one of the first things which my historian major advisor reminded me to think about for this project was silence. Anyone who attempts to write from physical archives knows the weight of the silence contained within; anyone using oral histories acknowledges the silence from those who did not, would not, or could not volunteer.

My project uses what little the physical archives contains alongside oral histories, cross-referencing the two in an attempt to provide the fullest picture of Bryn Mawr’s LGBT history possible. Even if I am able to confirm the veracity of the information, I still need a way of representing the silence. A truly complete image of history will never be reached for any subject, especially not for any study of minorities. Archives are writ by the victors, not the marginalized sexual minorities.

PhillyDH@Penn via Philly

PhillyDH@Penn via Philly

Last month, I explored this topic in an unconference session at PhillyDH@Penn. An animated group discussed visualizing archival silence and its inherent problems. We discussed how to make silence not just noticeable, but enticing; in a physical museum if viewers are invited to uncover something, they are often more likely to look at it. Moreover, the physicality of uncovering actively involves them in the process. They don’t simply gaze passively at a blank space, wonder about it for a moment, and move on; instead they boldly take action, resulting in questioning their assumptions about history as a process and about the preservation of minority culture.

This method of inviting an action or inquiry of an empty or blank space also queers the act of disseminating history. By doing so, not only do we move away from static installations built of text and images; we provoke critical thought about the historical process. Readers are thus encouraged to think as historians, to critically consider the landscape of history as subjective and fluid. As we elucidate the history of queer experiences at Bryn Mawr, my hope is that we also illuminate the historical process. To me, digital humanities is all about making academia accessible. To illustrate archival gaps by revealing the silences and amplifying the voices of queer community members is a worthy goal.

Next week, Brenna’s post will discuss the search for a technology to help document her findings and visualize silence.

Technology and Feminism: Rethinking our Digital Tools


June and July have been busy months so far for the Greenfield Digital Center. Rather than a slowing of activity, the departures of students and faculty members from campus have left us free to reach out and connect to broader communities of feminist and digital scholars. I have recently attended several events and programs, including the Digital Humanities Summer Institute in Victoria, British Columbia, Philly DH at Penn, and the “GLAM Day Out” LGBTQ Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia.

GLAM_Day_Out_poster_SmallerThere have been equally exciting developments happening closer to home, as well. Our regular followers will recall that we are hosting summer intern Brenna Levitin with funding and programmatic support from the Tri-Co Digital Humanities Initiative, and, of course, we welcomed Monica L. Mercado as the Digital Center’s new Director on July 1st.  The last two months have brought a flood of new ideas, people, and potential research.

With new projects underway and a new leader in place, this summer seemed like a perfect transitional moment to do some reflecting on theory and methodology. We have now been using the same tools (Omeka, WordPress, and a handful of others—for two years, and I felt it was time to renew my consciousness of the relationship between the technology we use and the content we produce. When I enrolled in Feminist Digital Humanities at DHSI, my interest in the course was inspired by the idea that it might help me ground a more thoughtful approach to how we use technology to further feminist and historical inquiries at the Greenfield Digital Center.

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CFP: Popular Cultural Association/American Culture Association – Education, Teaching, History & Popular Culture

Popular Cultural Association/American Culture Association

Education, Teaching, History & Popular Culture

Call for Papers

The Area of Education, Teaching, History and Popular Culture is now accepting submissions for the PCA/ACA National Conference, New Orleans, LA, held April 1-4, 2015 at the New Orleans Marriott ( For detailed information please see

Educators, librarians, archivists, scholars, independent researchers and students at all levels are encouraged to apply.  Submissions that explore, connect, contrast, or otherwise address area themes of schooling, educa tion, teaching (including preparing teachers/preservice teacher education), history, archival studies, and/or their linkages to popular culture from all periods are desired.   Sample topics for papers include, but are not limited to:

  • Reflections/linkages between schooling and popular culture in the United States and internationally/multinationally;
  • The role of history in education, teaching, or preservice teacher education in the United States;
  • The use(s) of popular culture in education, teaching, or preservice teacher education in the United States;
  • How education has impacted pop culture/how popular culture has impacted education in the United States;
  • Representations of teaching and/or schooling in popular culture throughout history in the United States;
  • Using popular culture to subvert/supplement prescriptive curricula in schooling;
  • The impact/emergence of LGBTQ studies in schooling and education;
  • Queering any o f the area fields (education, schooling, history, archival studies, teaching, preservice teacher education, popular culture);
  • Developing means to re-integrate foundations of education into preservice teacher education;
  • Tapping into (or resisting) popular technology to improve instruction;
  • Exploring the intersections of social media, social identity, and education.

Deadline for proposals is November 1, 2014. To be considered, interested individuals should please prepare an abstract of between 100-250 words.  Individuals must submit electronically by visiting and following the directions therein.

Graduate students are STRONGLY encouraged to submit their completed papers for consideration for conference award.  Graduate stud ents, early career faculty and those travelling internationally in need of financial assistance are encouraged to apply:

Decisions will be communicated within approximately two weeks of deadline.  All presenters must be members of the American Culture Association or the Popular Culture Association by the time of the conference.  Any further inquiries can be directed to Dr. Edward Janak at

Women’s History Matters Essay Competition

In honor of the centennial of woman suffrage in Montana, the Women’s History Matters Essay Prize Committee at the University of Montana, Montana State University and the Montana Historical Society are sponsoring a call for entries for the Women’s History Matters Essay Competition. We invite submissions that explore comparative studies of women in Montana and the West, Native American women’s histories, studies of women’s roles in social movements and institution building, biographical accounts of individual women, feminist historical analyses of forces shaping Montana and the West, and more contemporary accounts of women’s social and political action into the late twentieth century.

6,000 to 8,000 words (including footnotes), based in original research in primary resources, complete with footnotes, and prepared in accordance with Chicago Manual of Style. Manuscripts should be double-spaced, 12-point font, and submitted electronically (in .doc or .docx format).

Criteria for judging will include:

*Originality of topic or approach

*Quality and depth of research

*Contribution to western women’s history

*Coherence of argument

*Clarity of presentation

Cash awards will be given to the winning essays. Prize-winning essays will be considered for possible publication by the Montana Historical Society in a special issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History and a Montana Historical Society Press anthology dedicated to women’s history.

Electronic submission is required:


Reposted from H-NET

Worlds of Learning: Education and the Book Trades, 1586-1945

Worlds of Learning: Education and the Book Trades 1586-1945
22-23 July 2014
St. Anne’s College, Oxford

The 32nd Print Networks conference will take education and the book trade as its theme. Speakers will ask questions such as: how did the book trade and education mutually profit from and shape each other? What was the book trade’s impact on the development of institutions of learning; the organization of knowledge; pedagogies and technologies of instruction; and on both formal and informal education, including self-help? All are welcome.

Conference Programme:

Conference booking:…

Call For Papers: LEGACY special issue: “Recovering Alice Dunbar-Nelson for the 21st Century”

Special issue, “Recovering Alice Dunbar-Nelson for the 21st Century”

Guest Editors: Sandra Zagarell, Katherine Adams, Caroline Gebhard

Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers solicits papers for a special issue devoted to writing by Alice Dunbar-Nelson. Best known today as the author of regionalist short fiction set in her native New Orleans, Dunbar-Nelson was also an essayist, poet, playwright, newspaper columnist and editor, diarist, anthologist, educator, and activist engaged in the suffrage movement and African American political and social advancement.

Neither Dunbar-Nelson’s oeuvre nor her life fits comfortably into the ways of thinking that have traditionally shaped Americanist, African Americanist, and feminist criticism. For example, while some of her short stories openly engage racial inequity, much of the New Orleans fiction seems to hew to an aesthetic that prizes polish over politics. It takes considerable knowledge of the city’s racialized cultural geography and history to recognize how artfully Dunbar-Nelson’s fiction unsettles presumptions about racial and sexual distinctions, religion, ethnicity, nation, class, and gender. Dunbar-Nelson’s own practices of identification were enormously complicated. She was a prominent black activist and public intellectual; she felt that as a light-skinned African American she suffered from reverse colorism; she was herself sometimes derisive about dark-skinned blacks. Her sexuality was fluid: she had sexual-romantic relationships with women as well as men, and her most enduring relationships were with her third husband, Robert J. Nelson, and a woman educator, Edwina B. Kruse.

Despite Akasha Gloria Hull’s pioneering recovery work and the publication of three volumes by the Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers, Dunbar-Nelson’s writing still awaits the recognition it merits. This special issue sets out to revisit Dunbar-Nelson’s work in relation to recent and new areas of scholarly inquiry, including critical regionalisms; new southern studies; intersectional feminist criticism; black print culture and periodicals studies; the rethinking of periodization; and reconsiderations of relationships between genre and literary historiography, politics and aesthetics. Not only do such frameworks promise to bring Dunbar-Nelson’s writing and life more fully into view; the writing and the woman promise to help us complicate and advance these developing frameworks.

The guest editors invite submissions focused on any period or aspect of Dunbar-Nelson’s career, with a special interest in scholarship that looks beyond her New Orleans collections, Violets(1895) and The Goodness of St. Rocque (1899). Comparative analyses with contemporaneous writers are welcome.

Deadline: Completed papers must be submitted by 30 September 2014. Length limit: 10,000 words (including endnotes and list of works cited) using MLA format. Send electronic copies of papers to this special issue’s guest editors: Katherine Adams (, Sandra Zagarell ( and Caroline Gebhard ( Questions may be directed to any of the three.

Call For Papers: Transnationalism, gender and teaching: perspectives from the history of education

Annual Conference of the History of Education Society (UK)
University College Dublin
21st-23rd November 2014CFP 2014

Keynote speakers
Professor Joyce Goodman MBE, Pro-Vice Chancellor, University of Winchester
Professor Elizabeth Smyth, Vice-Dean, School of Graduate Studies, University of Toronto
Professor Dáire Keogh, President, St Patrick’s College, & Cregan Professor of Modern Irish History, Dublin City University

Papers are invited that examine the conference theme: Transnationalism, gender and teaching: perspectives from the history of education. Papers may also be considered that provide historical perspectives on one of the conference thematic areas: transnationalism and teaching, OR gender and teaching. Papers may address the conference theme through consideration of some of the following, though this list is only suggestive, and not definitive:

International education networks & alliance
Travel, transnational mobility and global citizenship
Knowledge formation & travel writing | education and the Grand Tour
Education and diasporas | missionary education
Travel scholarships, boarding and finishing schools, school tours
Education & experiential travel | teachers as ambassadors
Networks of schools and teachers | voluntarism, voluntary action and education
Life histories| history in the margins | masculinities and femininities
Heritage education and global knowledge| cross-cultural studies and the history of education
Nationality, language and schooling | transnational femininities | space and place
Academic leadership, public intellectuals and international education
Gender and university teaching | gender-differentiated curricula and schooling
Materialities of teaching | visual histories | education archives
Reading, libraries and transnational culture | books, publishing and the transfer of ideas
Teacher education and gender | teacher unions and professional societies

Abstracts (500 words max) should be sent to
Deadline: Friday 12th September 2014

Conference host: School of Education, University College Dublin, Ireland
Conference venue: Bewley’s Hotel / Thomas Prior Hall, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, Ireland

Veritatem dilexi: Lesbian



Brenna Levitin, Class of 2016

Welcome to summer! We have partnered with the Tri-Co Digital Humanities Initiative  this year to sponsor a Greenfield intern to conduct historical research in the college archives for a digital project. Brenna Levitin, class of 2016, is a Gender and Sexuality Studies major and will be spending the summer excavating some of the history of queer individuals and groups on campus at Bryn Mawr. In just over a week in the archives Brenna has covered an immense amount of material and has already uncovered some interesting finds. Here, she shares a poem written by an alumna from the class of 1968 that was published in the 1989 Alumnae Bulletin. Look for more posts from Brenna as the summer continues!

Bryn Mawr is often associated with lesbians by the world’s collective conscious. This association and its accompanying veracity have, however not always been publically acknowledged by the college itself. When looking through the archive, LGBT sentiments most often crop up in student publications. These newspapers, zines, and booklets give passionate voice to the oft-marginalized lesbian[i] students.

In 1989, the Alumnae Bulletin published “The Pluralism Issue,” which gave voice to those alumnae/i who felt marginalized on campus. The editors sent out a call for submissions of writing about the minority experience throughout Bryn Mawr’s 104 year history. Most wrote about the lives of racial and ethnic minorities, but a vocal section described living as lesbians on a campus simultaneously approbative and hostile to homosexuality. Responses came from far—class of 1939 and near—class of 1989, from anonymous submissions with vague graduation dates to those who confidently outed themselves.

One submission was the following poem, written in 1989 by Judith Masur ’68. The poem discusses the experience of a lesbian living within the predominant heterosexual culture of Bryn Mawr. Though awareness of sexual minorities is a fairly recent event, Masur elegantly weaves the tale of lesbianism throughout all of Bryn Mawr’s history, from M. Carey Thomas to the present.


The first reference, to Bryn Mawr’s motto, is repeated twice.

Veritatem dilexi

Veritatem dilexi: Lesbian

“Veritatem dilexi” means I delight in the truth. Which truth is left ambiguous, but is implied to be the existence of lesbians at Bryn Mawr. It is easy to see how lesbianism can be an eternal truth of Bryn Mawr: from M. Carey Thomas’s journals, to Applebee’s eponymous column, to the open mic nights of today, literary expressions of lesbianism are threaded through our history like one strand in a complex tapestry.

The second stanza makes blatant reference to M. Carey Thomas and her partners, Mamie Gwinn and Mary Garrett, who lived together with Thomas (at different times) in her on-campus residence, the Deanery.

The President’s ‘friend’
The First Dean’s ‘companion’

Lesbianism as it is now understood did not exist in the 1890s, either as perversion or as fact of life. Gwinn and Garrett were explained as Thomas’s dear friends and companions, words which inadequately summed up their relationships as romantic and likely sexual partners.

M. Carey Thomas is referenced again later:

What was it she said
About marriage and failure?
Maybe we got it right the first time

The anonymous “she” is Thomas, often misquoted as saying that only Bryn Mawr’s failures marry. Most likely, the quote was closer to, “Our failures only marry.” The poem wonders at the common misconception, inquiring whether the mistaken Thomas quote is perhaps the correct one. Written when marriage equality was not even a star on the horizon, the poem implicates heterosexual marriage as failure. Those who married men, failed. Perhaps the ultimate failure is, as a school, to erase the rich history of lesbians at Bryn Mawr.

This post is the first of a series concerning the history of LGBT presence at Bryn Mawr College.

[i] We use lesbian here because we are primarily discussing time periods where other non-heterosexual sexualities were not yet understood. We acknowledge and affirm the existence of bisexual and pansexual students on campus, and we hope that these remarks will be understood as addressing them, and any other woman-lovers, as well as the named lesbians.

Call for Submissions: Education’s Histories

Education’s Histories | methodological grist for the history of education

Education’s Histories is a curated digital research collaborative devoted to methodological and conceptual problems, practices, and innovations in the history of education field. Throughout May 2014, the project debuted “Our Trickster, The School,” by Adrea Lawrence, a serial essay published in four parts. You can begin reading Part 1 here.

We seek research collaborators and specifically, we are looking for:

  • Writers who consider the mode of publication as a conduit for their ideas. What could you do through our digital platform that would not be possible in a traditional print format?
  • Editorial-length essays (1,200 to 2,000 words) probing methodological questions or exhibiting new methodologies
  • Methodologically-based teaching cases, especially those that encourage collaboration and the use of digital tools
  • Group writing and research. Historians notoriously work in isolation; let’s meet through our methods.
  • Multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary book reviews that encourage the field of education history to consider the methodologies employed by our peers
  • Reviews of software, multimedia, and web applications that push education historians to be digitally conversant

This is by no means an exhaustive list. We hope you surprise us. Please send a brief  (250 words) description of your idea(s) to

We accept submissions on a rolling basis. The review process proceeds in two stages: (1) Education’s Histories co-curators work with writer(s) to finalize ideas and format (2) writers(s) will be matched with at least one open peer reviewer.

Why write with us?

  • Fast submission to publication turnaround
  • Commitment to open-access publishing
  • Open-peer review
  • Methodological risk-taking encouraged
  • Graduate students work with faculty

We believe due credit should be given for digital scholarship and continue to strive to make Education’s Histories a scholarly home for our publishers, as well as an accessible resource for their intended audiences and those beyond their usual reach. We can work with authors to provide Google analytics, such as page views and average site visit duration.

Interested in learning more about Education’s Histories?

Consider becoming a subscriber to Education’s Histories in order to receive regular updates on the project. Subscribers also receive a personal copy of articles and essays delivered to their inbox; this publication is a great classroom resource!

We look forward to hearing from you,

Adrea Lawrence & Sara Clark, co-curators |

Award: Coordinating Council for Women in History Awards

CCWH Nupur Chaudhuri First Article Award 2014

The Coordinating Council for Women in History Nupur Chaudhuri First Article Award is an annual $1000 prize that recognizes the best first article published in the field of history by a CCWH member. Named to honor Nupur Chaudhuri, long-time CCWH board member and former executive director and co-president from 1995-1998, the winning article for 2014 must be published in a refereed journal in either 2012 or 2013. An article may only be submitted once.  All fields of history will be considered, and articles must be submitted with full scholarly apparatus. The deadline for the award is 15 September 2014. Please go to for membership and online application details.

CCWH/Berks Graduate Student Fellowship 2014

The Coordinating Council for Women in History and the Berkshire Conference of Women’s History Graduate Student Fellowship is a $1000 award to a graduate student completing a dissertation in a history department. The award is intended to support either a crucial stage of research or the final year of writing. The applicant must be a CCWH member; must be a graduate student in a history department in a U.S. institution; must have passed to A.B.D. status by the time of application; may specialize in any field of history; may hold this award and others simultaneously; and need not attend the award ceremony to receive the award. The deadline for the award is 15 September 2014. Please go to for membership and online application details.

CCWH Ida B. Wells Graduate Student Fellowship 2014

The Coordinating Council for Women in History Ida B. Wells Graduate Student Fellowship is an annual award of $1000 given to a graduate student working on a historical dissertation that interrogates race and gender, not necessarily in a history department. The award is intended to support either a crucial stage of research or the final year of writing. The applicant must be a CCWH member; must be a graduate student in any department of a U.S. institution; must have passed to A.B.D. status by the time of application; may hold this award and others simultaneously; and need not attend the award ceremony to receive the award. The deadline for the award is 15 September 2014. Please go to for membership and online application details.

Catherine Prelinger Memorial Award 2014

The CCWH will award $20,000 to a scholar, with a Ph.D. or A.B.D., who has not followed a traditional academic path of uninterrupted and completed secondary, undergraduate, and graduate degrees leading to a tenure-track faculty position. Although the recipient’s degrees do not have to be in history, the recipient’s work should clearly be historical in nature. In accordance with the general goals of CCWH, the award is intended to recognize or to enhance the ability of the recipient to contribute significantly to women in history, whether in the profession in the present or in the study of women in the past. It is not intended that there be any significant restrictions placed on how a given recipient shall spend the award as long as it advances the recipient’s scholarship goals and purposes. All recipients will be required to submit a final paper to CCWH on how the award was expended and summarizing the scholarly work completed. The deadline for the award is 15 September 2014. Please go to for membership and online application details.