Access to the Abhorrent
By Nicole Menchise
A few weeks ago I took a phone call from Regina Feeney, Local Historian and keeper of the archives at Freeport Memorial Library. Feeney and I speak often as she is the point person for the library's New York Heritage Digital Collection's (NYH) website content. On this particular day she had a special request. Would I add the following phrase to the metadata of all of the items in the various digital collections (8338 items totaling 17,971 records): "This material may include outdated attitudes, language and cultural depictions that could cause offense"? I have to admit it took me by surprise. Continued on page 3.
Long Island Archives - July/August 2020 - p. 1
"Native Americans", 1976. Holding Institution: Freeport Historical Society & Museum. Access at nyheritage.org
Ask An Archivist: Making Enclosures for Preservation
Learn how to create polyester enclosures to protect documents and photographs.
Friday, July 17 (12:00PM-1:00PM)
Ask An Archivist: Film Conservation with Robert Anen, Moving Image Archivist and NYU Research Fellow
A conversation about what you can do now and in the future with your film collections. Demystify some of the challenges you may face when taking care of film collections. Issues we will discuss include: film formats, macro and micro environments, mold remediation, and handling and storage.
Friday, July 24 (12:00PM-1:00PM)
Digitization Best Practices & Metadata Basics
This workshop offers the attendees the resources to begin a digital project and introduces commonly used metadata fields. This class is for anyone wishing to learn more about digital projects and is required for joining the New York Heritage digital collections website.
Wednesday, August 5 (12:00PM-3:00PM)
Volume 27 Issue 4
Long island Archives
Gotta Second? Take A Quick Trip Through Time!
Rockville Centre Public Library's 90 Seconds in Time offers stories of a community's rich history. Creator Alene Scoblete, RVCPL Archivist and Local History Librarian, tells LI Archives how she is accomplishing this during an unprecedented shutdown.
How do you pick your topics?
I choose my topics looking for high interest and high availability. Will the topic be of interest to people? Do I start out with enough media?
Why 90 seconds?
TikTok appeals to a wide audience in part because the videos are 60 seconds max. Originally, this project was called 60 Seconds in Time, but I found that I couldn’t tell a whole story in one minute. Two minutes seemed too long, but 90 seconds turned out to be just right.
How much preparation is required?
Even though I start with available media, it does take hours to completely research the topic, find additional media, write a succinct, flavorful script, and then create the video.
These videos are sleek and well produced. How'd you do it during the recent stay-at-home order?
I use iMovie on my MacBook Air. I had learned the program by trial and error creating Stories from Rockville Centre interviews. Those interviews were interrupted by COVID-19, but 90 Seconds in Time could be produced without interacting with anyone else. Also, home turned out to be a lot quieter than the Library!
Are the images used in the videos from the RVCPL's archive? What other digital repositories do you utilize?
I definitely start with our Archives, including our digitized newspapers, photos, and the historic postcards Frank Seipp has lent us. When I need additional media, I contact people in the field that I know. If necessary, I get royalty-free photos from places like pexels.com or Google Images. For example, a storm photo came from pexels.com, a silhouette of a couple dancing came from Google Images.
This is such a fun glimpse into RVC's history. What's on the horizon?
Just about everyone can spare 90 seconds, so I will continue that series in the hopes of attracting a wider audience to RVC history. Once it’s safe, I’d love to continue interviewing RVC locals for Stories from Rockville Centre. Plus there are so many more fascinating goodies in our Archives that I plan to digitize and make available to the public.
See our Archives page at rvclibrary.org/research/archives. Videos can be found on our Time Travel playlist on YouTube at youtube.com/channel/UCfTa76mogDelPl_JQmm0aYQ/playlists. Keep stopping by, as I am always adding new material.
Long Island Archives - July/August 2020 - p. 2
The task itself wasn't difficult. What surprised me was that no one had seemed to think of doing this before.
When Feeney approached me with the idea, I had told her that I had been doing a lot of thinking about how cultural institutions handle the sensitive materials in their collections. Do we hide it away and pretend it doesn't exist or do we face the challenges head-on? Feeney explains: "History can be uncomfortable, ugly, and problematic. Historical records contain plenty of materials that can offend. So how do we handle digitization with items that could be deemed offensive? By not digitizing these records are we embracing censorship or revisionist history? If we choose to not digitize painful history are we losing an opportunity for potential scholarship that could provide context and help society move forward?"
In addition to placing the statement in the collection metadata, we discussed different ways to present potentially offensive content in New York Heritage. I decided to pull the images as they were (standing alone, and clearly visible) and re-publish them as 'compound objects' - like a postcard front and back. I added a warning label as the first image displayed. It took some doing, but in the end we were both very happy with the results. The title and description are visible, but the viewer then has to select and open the full record to see the image(s) and metadata (example below). No more stumbling upon shocking photographs or phrases.
From a technical standpoint, it is far easier to create a compound object at the start, then to try and retro-fit a warning label. Going forward, that is what I will encourage other NYH participants to do. Warning labels can be applied to oral histories with derogatory language, objects (mammy cookie jar), and documents (slaves 'given' as part of an inheritance).
Feeney is now reviewing other images that portray ethnic groups and nationalities as stereotypes.
I encourage all NYH participants to consider displaying the items that you have held back due to their content. Maya Angelou famously said, "history, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again." Together, let's navigate the shadows and come into the light.
Long Island Archives - July/August 2020 Editor: Nicole Menchise, Digitization and Archives Coordinator
LILRC - 627 N. Sunrise Service Rd., Bellport, NY 11713, www.lilrc.org.