SAVE the DATE and CFP: Mediating Public Spheres: Genealogies of Feminist Knowledge in the Digital Age

SAVE the DATE and CFP: Mediating Public Spheres:
Genealogies of Feminist Knowledge in the Digital Age

April 4-6, 2013

Locations include Amherst College, Hamsphire College, and Mount Holyoke

Confirmed keynote speakers include Lisa Nakamura, Susan Squier, Alex
Juhasz, Anna Balsamo, and Jackie Stacey, among others.

  • Who constitutes public spheres in the digital age?
  • How does academic research in the (re)emerging fields intersect with debates about access and applicability in public spaces?
  • Who participates in the transmission of knowledge and cultural production? To what end?
  • What are the implications of delivering knowledge from one generation of the digital divide to the other?
  • What are the effects of virtual means of transmission on the materiality
    of lives?
  • What are the pivotal means to incorporate digital media in feminist scholarship and practice?

We welcome submissions that address these and related questions pertaining
to the focus of the symposium. We seek one-page abstracts describing your 20-minute
presentation for participation on one of four panels. We can accommodate 12
presentations in total for the panels, but will also include networking
and work in progress sessions for all projects submitted.  Joint submissions are welcome.

Please submit your proposal no later than Dec. 15, 2012 to
We will provide a small honorarium to those presenting on the panels.

Call for Papers: Public History in the Digital Age

Public History in the Digital Age

Location: Maryland, United States
Call for Papers Date: 2013-01-18
Date Submitted: 2012-11-14
Announcement ID: 198777
The Society for History in the Federal Government and Oral History in the Mid-Atlantic Region announce a joint conference.

The program committee invites participants to broadly interpret the conference theme, “Public History in the Digital Age.” Topics might include the historiography of oral history practice and theory; the impact of technology on the practice and sharing of public history; the challenges of managing and distributing data in the digital age; the evolving relationship between public history and the web; oral history programs in federal history offices; and research in the history of the federal government. This expansive conference theme is intended to encourage a lively conversation among oral historians, archivists, and public historians.

The program committee invites entire panels and roundtables, as well as individual papers. We encourage presentations that include audio/visual components. We welcome proposals from graduate students, federal historians, public historians, archivists, oral historians, information technology professionals, enterprise architects, and scholars from other disciplines. We encourage panels composed of practitioners with a variety of backgrounds and experiences in these topics.

Paper proposals should include a brief abstract of 250-500 words, a biographical paragraph about the author, and contact information. Panel proposals should include brief abstracts for each paper as well as biographical paragraphs and contact information for each presenter.

The conference will be held 2-5 April 2013 at National Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Please send all correspondence, including questions and proposals, to

Please visit SHFG and OHMAR’s websites for further information.

David J. Caruso
Program Manager, Oral History
President, OHMAR
The Chemical Heritage Foundation
315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 873-8236
Visit the website at

Call for Papers: Women’s Movements and Female Activists in the Aftermath of the First World War, 1918-1923

Women’s Movements and Female Activists in the Aftermath of the First World War, 1918-1923

Location: Hungary
Call for Papers Date: 2012-12-07 (in 18 days)
Date Submitted: 2012-11-15
Announcement ID: 198795
REMINDER Call for papers. Women’s Organisations and Female Activists in the Aftermath of the First World War: Central and Eastern Europe in National, Transnational, International and Global Context. An interdisciplinary, international conference to be held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary. 17th-19th May 2013. Recent developments in the social and cultural history of modern warfare have done much to shed new light on the experience of the First World War, and in particular how that experience was communicated in popular and high culture, and in acts of remembrance and commemoration after 1918. The post-war period (ca 1918-1923) is distinctive, both within individual nations and as a point of international comparison. It is characterised by the often troubled transition from a wartime to a peacetime society; continued conflicts over the repatriation of refugees and POWs; revolutionary and counter- revolutionary violence in parts of Central Europe; and new ethnic and national conflicts arising from the collapse of the former Russian, German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires, and the cultural anxieties that surrounded these events. Within this context, the role of organised women’s movements and female activists in the post-war period takes on a new importance. The aim of this conference is to explore major comparative themes such as citizenship, suffrage, nationalism, commemoration, revolution and militarised technology from a national, international and transnational perspective. It will have a particular focus on movements and activists operating in or communicating with Central and Eastern Europe. It will examine the work of organisations and individuals able to move across international borders, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) or the journalist Eleanor Franklin Egan, who reported on social conditions throughout post-war Europe. The role of such women and organisations in bringing about reconciliation and facilitating cooperation between former enemy nations (cultural demobilisation, ‘the dismantlement of the mindsets and values of wartime’—John Horne) will also be examined, as will the role of nationalist women’s organisations in perpetuating discourses of war and in facilitating the rise of new forms of ethno-nationalism and racial intolerance (‘cultural remobilisation’) during the period 1918-1923. This conference is the fourth in a series. The first conference, The Gentler Sex: Responses of the Women’s Movement to the First World War, 1914-1919, London, held in 2005, was followed in 2008 with Aftermaths of War: Women’s Movements and Female Activists 1918-1923, Leeds, and in May 2012 with Women’s Organisations and Activists: Moving Across Borders, Hamline. Publications arising from the earlier conferences include special issues of Minerva: Journal of Women and War and two edited volumes: Fell, A.S. and Sharp, I.E. (eds) (2007) The Women’s Movement in Wartime. International Perspectives 1914-1919. Palgrave Macmillan and Sharp, I.E. and Stibbe, M. (eds) (2011) Aftermaths of War: Women’s Movements and Female Activists, 1918-1923 (Brill). The Budapest Conference is linked in particular with the Hamline Conference which focused on the US experience and transnational organisations. It is supported by a network grant from the UK-based Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Two special issues of a peer-reviewed journal and a volume of comparative essays are planned for 2014, based on papers given at both conferences.Confirmed speakers include: Judit Acsády (Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest) Alison Fell (University of Leeds, UK) Susan R. Grayzel (University of Mississippi, USA) Gabriella Hauch (University of Vienna, Austria) David Hudson (Hamline University, USA) Ingrid Sharp (University of Leeds, UK) Olga Shnyrova (Ivanonvo State University, Russia) Matthew Stibbe (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) Nikolai Vukov (Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia).

Proposals for papers and/or panels that deal with the work of women’s organisations or female activists between 1918 and 1923 are invited in the following areas: • Commemoration and discourses of heroism; • transnational organisations and activities transcending the nation state; • peace-building and reconstruction: cultures of resistance to war and the mind sets of war; • right-wing women and culture remobilisation • on-going campaigns for suffrage and women’s organisations post-suffrage, specifically in the Central and Eastern European context; • socialist women and revolutionary violence; • women and the technology of war; • women’s involvement in relief work and social activism, particularly in the Central and Eastern European context; • cultural reflections of post-war society in art, literature and film, particularly in the Central and Eastern European context

Contributions are welcome from any field or discipline, including literary and cultural studies, sociology and social anthropology, women’s and gender studies, peace and war studies, as well as history itself. Please send abstracts (500 words in English) to Ms Ingrid Sharp and Professor Matthew Stibbe by Friday 7th December 2012

Ingrid Sharp, University of Leeds
Matthew Stibbe, Sheffield Hallam University

Call for Contributions 17th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries Valetta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013

Call for Contributions
17th International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries
Valetta, Malta, September 22-26, 2013

Full Information:

The International Conference on Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries
constitutes a leading European scientific forum on digital libraries that
brings together researchers, developers, content providers and users in
the field of digital libraries. The 17th International Conference on
Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries (TPDL 2013) is organized by the
University of Malta and it will be held in Valetta, Malta on September
22-26, 2013.

* Aims and scope *
Valuable and rapidly increasing volumes of data are produced or
transformed into digital form by all fields of science, education,
culture, business and government. For this purpose the digital libraries
community has developed long-term and interdisciplinary research agendas,
providing significant results such as conceptual models, added value
infrastructures, software tools, standards and services.

The advent of the technologies that enhance the exchange of information
with rich semantics is on the centre of the discussions of the community.
Information providers inter-link their metadata with user contributed data
and offer new services outlooking to the  development of a web of data and
addressing the interoperability and long-term preservation challenges.

TPDL 2013 under the general theme “sharing meaningful information”,
invites submissions describing original, unpublished research and not (and
will not be) simultaneously under consideration for publication elsewhere,
for the proliferation of scientific and research osmosis in the following
categories: Full Papers, Short Papers, Posters and Demonstrations,
Workshops and Tutorials, Panels and Doctoral Consortium. All submissions
will be reviewed on the basis of relevance, originality, importance and
clarity in a triple peer review process.

The TPDL 2013 proceedings will be published by Springer-Verlag in the
Lecture Notes in Computer Science series
( According to the Registration
Regulation for TPDL 2013, inclusion of papers in the Proceedings is
conditional upon registration of at least one author per paper.

The authors of the best research papers presented to TPDL2013 will be
invited to submit substantially extended versions of their paper for
publication in a Focused Issue of the International Journal on Digital

Doctoral Consortium papers will be published by the Bulletin of the IEEE
Technical Committee on Digital Libraries (IEEE-TCDL Bulletin,

* Topics *
General areas of interests include, but are not limited to, the following
topics, organized in four categories, according to a conceptualization
that coincides with the four arms of the Maltese Cross:

– Information models
– Digital Library conceptual models and formal issues
– Digital Library 2.0
– Digital library education curricula
– Economic and legal (e.g. rights management), landscape for digital
– Theoretical models of information interaction and organization
– Information policies
– Studies of human factors in networked information
– Scholarly primitives
– Novel research tools and methods with emphasis on digital humanities
– User behavior analysis and modeling
– Social-technical perspectives of digital information

– Digital Library architectures
– Cloud and grid deployments
– Federation of repositories
– Collaborative and participatory information environments
– Data storage and indexing
– Big data management
– e-science, e-government, e-learning, cultural heritage infrastructures
– Semi Structured data
– Semantic web issues in digital libraries
– Ontologies and knowledge organization systems
– Linked data and their applications

– Metadata schemas with emphasis to metadata for composite content
(Multimedia, geographical, statistical data and other special content
– Interoperability and Information integration
– Digital Curation and related workflows
– Preservation, authenticity and provenance
– Web archiving
– Social media, and dynamically generated content for particular
uses/communities (education, science, public, etc.)
– Crowdsourcing
– 3D models indexing and retrieval
– Authority management issues

– Information Retrieval and browsing
– Multilingual and Multimedia Information Retrieval
– Personalization in digital libraries
– Context awareness in information access
– Semantic aware services
– Technologies for delivering/accessing digital libraries, e.g., mobile
– Visualization of large-scale information environments
– Evaluation of online information environments
– Quality metrics
– Interfaces to digital libraries
– Data mining/extraction of structure from networked information
– Social networks analysis and virtual organizations
– Traditional and alternative metrics of scholarly communication
– Mashups of resources

* Important Dates *
– Full and Short papers, Posters and Demonstrations: March 23, 2013
– Panels, Workshops, Tutorials: March 4, 2013
– Notification of acceptance for Papers, Posters, and Demonstrations:
May 20, 2013
– Notification of acceptance for Panels, Workshops and Tutorials:
April 22, 2013
– Camera Ready Versions: June 9, 2013
– Doctoral Consortium Papers Submission Deadline: June 2, 2013
– Doctoral Consortium Acceptance Notification: July 2, 2013
– End of Early Registration: July 31, 2013
– Conference Dates: September 22-26, 2013

* Formatting Instructions *
Full papers (12 pages), short-papers (6 pages), posters and
demonstrations (4 pages) must be written in English and submitted in
PDF format. The TPDL 2013 proceedings will be published by
Springer-Verlag in Lecture Notes in Computer Science
( Therefore all submissions
should conform to the formatting instructions described in the “For
Authors” webpage
( For
Doctoral Consortium, papers are expected to have a maximum of 8-10
pages, including references. Papers is recommended to be formatted
according to Springer LNCS guidelines.

In case your paper includes images or screenshots please ensure that you
set image compression at 600dpi when you produce your PDF file.

* Submission *
All papers, short-papers, posters and demonstrations must be submitted
in electronic format (PDF) via the conference’s EasyChair submission
page (TBA).

* Organization *
General Chairs:
Milena Dobreva, University of Malta, Malta
Giannis Tsakonas, University of Patras, Greece

Program Chairs:
Trond Aalberg, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
Christos Papatheodorou, Ionian University, Greece

Organizing Chair:
Charles J. Farrugia, National Archives, Malta

Call for Papers: “Women of Color and Gender Equity”, A Special Issue of Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies

Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies invites submissions for a special issue on women of color and gender equity. Due date for receipt of papers is 5/15/2013.

With this special issue, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1974 Women’s Educational Equity Act, which provided funds for Title IX and codified women’s equality under the law in the U.S. setting forth a foundation for anti-discrimination policies and remedies as well as cultivating a language for gender equity. For this issue, we will explore the nexus between the enactment of gender equity policies, rhetorical /discursive and political strategies for empowerment, and the lives of women of color.

We encourage submissions that explore feminist commitments to the socio-political understandings of equality under the law but also conceptualize equity issues in broad terms. For example, we are interested in analyses of gender equity that both expand and challenge notions of women’s equality in formal and informal politics across educational, political and legal institutions.

We especially encourage submissions that further the journal’s commitment to scholarship on women of color, third world, transnational, LGBT, and queer movements in local, national, or transnational contexts. Foremost, we are interested in those papers that situate women as racialized, classed and/or sexualized subjects, and explore the collateral effects of their experiences with equality, inequality and the varied socio-political roads necessary to attempt to realize and/or preserve that equity.

The guest editors for this issue are Anita Tijerina Revilla (Women’s Studies, University of Nevada, Las Vegas) and Wendy G. Smooth (Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, The Ohio State University).

An inter- and multidisciplinary journal, Frontiers publishes scholarly, creative, and practitioner works that draw on the legacies of women of color and queer women’s political engagement and activism to interrogate women’s equity across issues including education, employment and labor, healthcare and wellness, and immigration/migration. Works must be original, and not published or under consideration for publication elsewhere.

All special issue submissions and questions should be directed to For submission guidelines, please consult the Ohio State University Frontiers websites:

“The Seed of the World that is to Be”: the Activism of Emily Greene Balch

Balch, n.d. Soon after she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946

On November 14, 1946, Emily Greene Balch became the third woman to be awarded the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize.1 In commemoration of that event, The Albert M. Greenfield Center for the History of Women’s Education has compiled the following biographical overview of Balch’s remarkable life and achievements.

“Differences as well as likenesses are inevitable, essential, and desirable. An unchallenged belief or idea is on the way to death and meaninglessness.”
–Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Lecture


One of Bryn Mawr College’s most distinguished alumnae is Emily Greene Balch, who, in 1889, became a member of the the school’s first graduating class. In an era in which bachelor’s degrees for women were still a novelty and post-college careers were even more rare, Balch set herself apart by effecting real change on both the local and global scale. Her history stands in direct opposition to the dissenting voices of her time that asserted that women were not worth educating, and her achievements appear no less remarkable today.

Balch at 10 years old

Born in 1867, Balch grew up in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston. Though she would later convert to Quakerism in 1921, she was heavily influenced by her Unitarian upbringing. Late in her life she would recall a sermon by Unitarian minister Charles Fletcher Dole that inspired her to dedicate herself to the “service of goodness whatever its cost” when she was just ten years old. “In accepting this pledge,” she wrote, “I never abandoned in any degree my desire to live up to it.” 2

Balch was also a dedicated student: her excellent academic performance at Bryn Mawr, where she took her degree in Greek and Latin, culminated in her being awarded the prestigious European Fellowship to fund a year of further study abroad. After a year studying sociology in the US, she applied the funds from her fellowship to a year at the Sorbonne to study poverty alleviation policies, and returned to Boston determined to apply her education to the task of realizing her moral convictions. Her most notable achievement during her first years out of school was the 1892 founding of the Denison House College Settlement, an initiative to bring “social and educational services into a poor immigrant neighborhood” by integrating educated women and the urban poor in a living environment.3 From early in her career she acted on the belief that the most effective way to create change was by erasing divisions between groups of people, fostering contact and mutual understanding.

Balch at Bryn Mawr

Driven by a desire to instill her own compassion in others, she decided to become a teacher and joined the faculty of Wellesley College after several more years of preparatory study. Though she was successful as a professor, Balch continually prioritized hands-on work and research, taking leave (both paid and unpaid) to conduct research on Slavic immigrants. This effort produced the highly acclaimed work Our Slavic Fellow Citizens (1910). In 1913 she became the chair of the Department of Economics and Sociology at Wellesley.

Balch advocated unequivocally for peace in the years leading up to and during the First World War. Her active involvement in international politics began while she was still teaching at Wellesley: in 1915 she joined the International Congress of Women at The Hague, an organization that took the stance of promoting mediation rather than military action in response to the conflict in Europe. However, her outspoken avowal of peace during the war was controversial, eventually leading to her dismissal from Wellesley College.

U.S. delegation to the International Conference of Women for a Permanent Peace, held at The Hague, The Netherlands, 1915

After departing from Wellesley in 1918, Balch continued to champion peace both in her editorial work with The Nation and in her co-founding (with Jane Addams) of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1946, she became the third woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Balch’s life is notable not just for her international advocacy, but also for the way in which she wove together her global vision with her ability to foster connections between disciplines, groups, and individuals. She lived this vision fully as a student, an academic, a poet, a Quaker, and as a public voice for change. In her acceptance speech for the American Unitarian Association Award in 1955, she used words of connection, unity, and growth that were consistent with her lifelong commitment to global community: “The time has come to break down the dikes and let the healing waters flow over us. I see in us, young and old, the seed of the world that is to be.”4


Further reading on Emily Greene Balch:
Nobel Lecture
Emily Greene Balch: the Long Road to Internationalism  (2010)
Improper Bostonian: Emily Greene Balch, Nobel Peace Laureate, 1946 (1964)
Emily Greene Balch of New England: citizen of the world

1. The first was Bertha von Suttner in 1905; the second was Jane Addams (close friend and colleague of Emily Green Balch) in 1931.
2. Miller, Heather. “Emily Greene Balch: Nobel Peace Laureate 1967-1961.” Harvard Square Library. Web. 11 November. 2012. <>
3. Buehrens, John A. Universalists and Unitarians in America: A People’s History. Boston: Skinner House Books, 2011. p. 130
4. Benjamin, Michelle; and Mooney, Maggie. Nobel’s Women of Peace. Toronto: Second Story Press, 2008. p. 35


Call for proposals: Queering Archives special issue of the Radical History Review

Queering Archives

Call for Proposals, due February 1, 2013

Editors: Daniel Marshall, Zeb Tortorici, and Kevin Murphy

This issue of Radical History Review reflects on the notion of the “archive” that has been radically opened up by activists, archivists, and scholars. Beginning with feminist and postcolonial critiques of institutional and bureaucratic consolidations of power, what has come to be called the “queer archive” has emerged from those who both collect new materials and critique existing historical materials across varied modes of public memory work. On the one hand, these include institutional libraries with LGBT/queer collections (e.g. Cornell University’s Human Sexuality Collection and the New York Public Library’s Gay and Lesbian Collection), grassroots community-based archives (e.g. the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives and the Lesbian Herstory Archives), and queer archives of trauma and of the emotions. On the other hand, they include the recent critical and interpretive practice of “queering” colonial and national archives for multiple queer contents (and absences). While archives as places are distinct from the critical act of queering an archive, both endeavors are often characterized by preoccupations with the notion of in/visibility, the identification of LGBT/queer practices, and the question of the LGBT/queer historical and archival subject.

We are thus interested in how some queer archival narratives privilege models of historical subject recovery, such that they purport to recuperate (and define) particular voices and subjectivities of the past. In doing so, do such practices reassert traditional notions of archival authority? How have postcolonial and queer critiques of the archive and archival practice sought to alter the idiom through which the subjects of the archive are constructed? While avoiding simplistic laudatory readings of LGBT/queer archive formation, we aim to historicize the complications, omissions, and racial/gendered/class implications of queer archival engagements (as well as the ways in which some historians, archivists, and queer archival practices struggle against such phenomena).

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

• Archival knowledge and LGBT/queer political campaigns.

• Archives as sites for reading political contests in histories of sexuality and gender (e.g. the Sex Wars, decolonization, anti-capitalism, the War on Terror).

• The archive’s performance of an educational role, including the ideas of public history and public pedagogy.

• The ways that scholars have sought to “queer” mainstream, national, state, municipal, judicial, and colonial archives.

• Personal and critical reflections on being “in” an archive (as part of the collection, archivist, volunteer, researcher, etc.).

• How archives sustain or attenuate particular activist, affective, intellectual and/or kinship relationships.

• Archival work as a site for enabling intergenerational collaboration and coalitionist work, understood broadly.

• The ways in which archives have interacted with and influenced the development of academic fields of research regarding sexuality, gender and history.

• Different modes or genres of archiving and public memory work.

• Innovations in archiving that have been generated by LGBT-specific public memory work, including the ways in which this work has built on, departed from or influenced mainstream practices (e.g. queer oral history methodologies).

• How LGBT/queer archives challenge (or affirm) prevailing notions of whose material ought to be collected, and what types of material ought to be collected.

• “Archival homonormativity” and erasures, in terms of language, ethnicity, race, (trans)gender, sexuality, (dis)ability and class.

The Radical History Review features scholarly research articles, but will also consider photo essays, film and book review essays, interviews, reflections, interventions, essays on public history activities, teaching materials, archival field-notes, and “conversations” between different interested parties such as community historians and academics, users of archives, archive volunteers, and older/younger generations of people involved in archive communities.

At this time we are requesting abstracts that are no longer than 400 words; these are due by February 1, 2013 and should be submitted electronically as an attachment to with “Issue 120 submission” in the subject line. By March 1, 2013, authors will be notified whether they should submit a full version of their article to undergo the peer review process. The due date for completed drafts of articles will be July 1, 2013. An invitation to submit a full article does not guarantee publication; publication depends on the peer review process and the overall shape the journal issue will take.

Please send any images as low-resolution digital files embedded in a Word or rich text document along with the text. If chosen for publication, you will need to send high-resolution image files (jpg or tif files at a minimum of 300 dpi), and secure written permission to reprint all images.

Those articles selected for publication after the peer review process will be included in issue 120 of Radical History Review, scheduled to appear in fall 2014.

For preliminary e-mail inquiries, please include “Issue 120” in the subject line.

Abstract Deadline: February 1, 2013

Intersections: An Inaugural Black Queer Sexuality Studies Graduate Student Conference, October 20th 2012, Princeton

Intersections: An Inaugural Black Queer Sexuality Studies Graduate Student Conference

Keynote Address: Professor Kara Keeling, University of Southern California
Location: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Date: October 20, 2012

Princeton University’s first annual Black Queer Sexuality Studies Conference will be held on October 20, 2012. The conference will create a public forum for dialogue on innovative research across the many disciplines and fields that interrogate sites of blackness and queerness and the intersections between the two. We invite graduate students from within and outside of Princeton University to present original work in a multi-panel, one-day conference. Professor Kara Keeling (USC) will serve as our keynote speaker.

The inaugural theme, “Intersections,” aims to illumine the interdisciplinary work characteristic of black queer sexuality studies. In the seminal anthology, Black Queer Studies, E. Patrick Johnson and Mae G. Henderson introduce the field and the volume with a host of claims about how to embrace the intersectionality at its core: “[work in the field should] endorse the double cross of affirming the inclusivity mobilized under the sign of ‘queer’ while claiming the racial, historical and cultural specificity attached to the marker black.” Johnson and Henderson sought to open up space for academic inquiry that married the methodologies and activist impulses of black studies and queer studies in order to finally animate the study of a number of traditional disciplines. Honoring the crucial work of pioneering scholars of black queer studies, our conference seeks to foster dialogue between emerging scholars whose work engages both black and queer studies.

Co-sponsored by The Center for African American Studies, The Program in American Studies, The Graduate School of Princeton University, The Department of History, The Davis Center for Historical Studies, The University Center for Human Values, and the Lewis Center for the Arts.

Don’t Put Up My Thread and Needle: a few thoughts on archives, unbinding and digital books

Of course, unbinding is about the process of breaking down– of designating what does and does not belong, what is kept in, what is left out; or what is left in, what is kept out.

This year, while working on The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education, I have been exploring the possibilities of unbinding material and digitally publishing archives that are nimble and can freely circulate.

I turn to  the work of translating notes on Lucy Martin Donnelly (1870-1948): a biographical research project which began with a small collection of citations and material in Special Collections, was then collated into a ten-page paper, and is being currently re-envisioned as an iBook.

Figure 1. Title Page of iBook (see notes below for further information)

While researching Lucy Martin Donnelly, who was first an alumna of Bryn Mawr and then ended her tenure as head of the English Department, I began sleuthing through the files in Special Collections. I chose to work on constructing a small biography of Lucy Martin Donnelly, because it seemed that many of the history books and biographies I was reading on Bryn Mawr College’s history had glints of Donnelly’s influence though never more than a paragraph or two. The chosen epigraph for the title page  (shown in Figure 1) reads, “For many years hers [Donnelly’s] was the most influential voice in the planning for the English Department–and none the less influential because it was a quiet voice.” The words are in the “Memorial Introduction” honoring Donnelly’s career given by former Bryn Mawr President Katherine McBride. My foray into researching Donnelly’s life began with the question of how to highlight this powerful voice in a fashion that complements McBride’s description.

Donnelly’s archival material mostly consists of remnants from relationships through recollections of friends, saved dinner invitations, and letters that were sent to her. These documents were in most cases related to prominent figures in  Bryn Mawr’s history: Helen Thomas Flexner, Bertrand Russell, Edith Hamilton, Edith Finch, M. Carey Thomas, Marianne Moore, or the Bryn Mawr English department.

Instead of pulling apart these facets, I found myself following the desire to bind; to create a collation of these materials which could provide a composite portrait, to provide depth through the heft of compilation. My process began with collecting the materials, references, and citations to create a fuller portrait of Donnelly.

Figure 2. A screenshot from the iBook with a group photo including Donnelly

I began to think about how the work of unbinding requires us first to recognize the necessity of boundaries. Before I could imagine what digital possibilities were for the materials I was working with, I needed to understand them in the context of one another; I had to bind them together in a narrative.

What I found when constructing these pieces through an analogue biography, is that rather than following a chronological narrative, the materials seem apt to push against the boundaries of a linear chronology. The different references to Donnelly were specific to each person and privileging one account over another would only overshadow what I saw as a core facet to Donnelly’s history: her ability to reach out to many people and ideas and to connect them. Donnelly’s impact arose out of a desire to create ties between people long before social media 2.0. She was in a sense, the creator of a 19th century Facebook-type network. For example, Bertrand Russell was quoted in the July ’36 Alumnae Bulletin article “Miss Donnelly Retires” as saying: It is nearly forty-two years since I first met Lucy Donnelly and during those years we have discussed many topic literary and other. We disagreed about Matthew Arnold and the first sentence of The Golden Bowl but, passionate as the argument was on those two weighty subjects, it did not impair our friendship. It was from Lucy Donnelly that I first heard of [Joseph] Conrad, who afterwards became my friend and my son’s godfather.”  
This brief praise from Russell illustrates his affection for Donnelly’s friendship, her breadth of knowledge and intellect and also her ability to connect.

It was through the constraints of the page that I was able to better grasp why Donnelly’s biography seemed so intangible and resisted archiving on a traditional page. The kaleidoscopic narrative of Donnelly’s life, a life tangled with serendipitous meetings, threads of interwoven tête-à-têtes, and lasting influences, was one that required a networked representation.

Figure 3. A screenshot of the iBook side bar displaying multiple pages

I wanted to think about how to create a record of Donnelly’s life that echoed its vibrancy through many strands. Part of the benefit of the multi-vocal, sometimes conflicting accounts is that we see the multiple versioning of Donnelly as the archives of her life are constructed through the memories of others. Some, like Russell, may remember Donnelly’s passion for literature and philosophy, others might recall her work in an administrative capacity like founding the Chinese Scholarship committee but all accounts provide a rich rendering of her impact.

I turned to the iBook– a newly developed platform by Apple which would allow me to collage pictures, sound, and hyperlinks. As Figure 3 demonstrates, the iBook platform allows me to create a series of portraits that would recount Donnelly through the profiles of people she worked with and influenced. Through this dynamic text, it was possible to design a flexible path that would illustrate multiple accounts and perspectives for the reader to tie together–binding and unbinding her portrait of Donnelly as she read.

Yet, even with the new flexibility of these features and their platform, I created an area of boundedness:  one of hardware. Even while the interface became haptic and multimodal, it necessitated an iPad to circulate and MacBook to create.

While the kinds of binding may have changed, even with fluid, digital networks, we are creating ties and facing fixed boundaries. It is then our work to do the unbinding and rebinding so that we stretch wider towards the possibilities that are just beyond their margins.

Notes on this blog:

The images above are screenshots from the iBook in progress “Lucy Martin Donnelly and the Power of Female Networking.” All materials featured  are courtesy of Bryn Mawr College Special Collections.

These thoughts were inspired by a symposium recently held at MIT, Unbound: Speculations on the Future of the Book. It is the conversations and presentations resulting from this symposium that influenced my sense of boundedness and the productive processes which tether and unravel it. This blog is cross-posted on the Unbound blog.

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle is from an Emily Dickinson poem, 617, “Don’t put up my Thread and Needle –”

Of course, unbinding is about the process of breaking down: is a an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s opening line in his essay, The Crack-Up: “Of course all life is a process of breaking down”