BLAIS Presentations at Radical Archives Conference

Barnard Digital Archivist Martha Tenney and Zine Librarian Jenna Freedman presented at the Radical Archives conference at NYU on April 11, 2014. They were on the Disrupting Standards, Remaking Interfaces panel.

Martha's talk was Digital Approaches to Archival Absence
What role can a college archives play in the representation of an institution’s past and present? How can archivists make accessible the history of a place, in all its complex, and often troubling, fullness? Can we avoid tokenization while allowing space for speech from the margins of our past? As Barnard nears its 125th anniversary, the Barnard Archives and Special Collections is embarking on a digital program to provide broader and deeper access to its collections. Canonical narratives about Barnard, recorded in secondary sources and reinforced in the folklore of the college, are necessarily limited, and researchers hoping to find--for example--the early histories of women of color at Barnard are often faced with archival silences--absences instituted during the creation of the records, then reinscribed during archival selection and appraisal. If we digitize according to the same logic of the existing collections, we run the risk of reinforcing these original absences. This talk discusses some potential strategies to surface marginalized narratives in a digital collections environment.

Jenna's was The Feminist Archives Ethics Into Practice: Privileging Creators
Barnard Zine Library policies and procedures are intended to be responsive to and reflective of zine community ethos. Honoring a zine maker's request to remove her zine from one's collection can provoke ethical fisticuffs in a zine librarian/librarian zinester's heart. To whom is the feminist archivist of living authors' materials more responsible, the authors themselves or researchers from the future? And to distant researchers? If we want the voices represented in the Barnard Zine Library--default female, as often as not queer, often young, usually radical, women of color emphasized, etc.--to be part of the archival narrative of the late 20th/early 21st century is it a mistake to privilege the zines' creators wishes? As Kate Eichhorn posits in The Archival Turn in Feminism can "…item-level cataloging of marginal materials holds more potential for subversion than simply digitizing the same materials." even for remote users of our collection? This paper will explore how, influenced by our location in an institution peopled by faculty and scholars that integrate intersectional feminisms into their lives and work, it is ultimately reasonable to have a creator-centric philosophy inform our decision-making.

Barnard professor Tina Campt (Africana {chair} and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies) also presented at the conference. Her talk was Hands in/on the Archive: the Fugitive Touch of Archival Photography.