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Mapping Language Through Digital Research Tools

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(The following is a guest post by Bianca P. Napoleoni Gregory, Mapping and Visualization Intern, Hispanic Division.)

Bianca P. Napoleoni Gregory, Mapping and Visualization Intern, Library of Congress Hispanic Division.

As a recent Master of Arts graduate, I wanted to strengthen my research and writing abilities before tackling a PhD in Education or an EdD. The unpredicted changes brought on by a global pandemic included fewer research or professional growth opportunities for recent graduates like me. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ (HACU) National Internship Program and the Library of Congress (LC) gave me the opportunity and space to grow as an academic and professional during a time full of worry and uncertainty. Interning with the Hispanic Division has been an elevating experience that allowed me to learn more about the Library’s Latin American collections and develop my research skills. It was particularly satisfying to be able to expand and apply my knowledge of Puerto Rican history and culture and create two open-access projects that celebrate Puerto Rico’s unique linguistic heritage.

In a digitally forward era, the Hispanic Division aspires to create and develop digital resources that will promote user engagement with the Library’s collections. As a Mapping and Visualization intern, my task was to create a visualization tool to highlight Hispanic collections and draw on my knowledge of language, colonization, and education in Puerto Rico.

I chose to develop two research tools: a story map and a research guide. The story map, “On Language and Colony: A Linguistic Trajectory of Puerto Rico’s Identity as the World’s Oldest Colony,” draws primarily from the Library’s digitally accessible content related to Puerto Rico and presents it through a perspective grounded in linguistic history and knowledge of colonial structures. I supported this engaging narrative with images from LC’s Prints & Photographs Online Catalog with the aim of reaching higher education scholars.

Jack Delano, photographer. Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. Family of a sugar worker living in one of the company houses behind the mill. All these people live in the same house. 1942. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The research guide, ”Yo Soy (I am): The Historical Trajectory of Language in Puerto Rico,” likewise highlights LC material related to Puerto Rico. Specifically, the guide explores how Spanish colonization and US occupation of Puerto Rico impacted language policies and language development on the island. (You may also want to take a look at the many other guides offered by the Hispanic Division.)

To create the story map and research guide, I consulted the LC Online Catalog and collected, analyzed and organized resources related to the Puerto Rican history and culture. I learned about the story map platform through a four-week training course offered by staff of the Geography & Map Division. I also participated in two webinars taught by the director of the Policy, Training, and Cooperative Programs Division. After the courses, I continued to familiarize myself with both formats. After drafting the story map and research guide, I participated in several rounds of content review and revision to ensure the accuracy of information presented in my projects. I analyzed and applied feedback provided by experts from the Hispanic Division and the African, Latin American and Western European Division of the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate. Finally, both tools underwent a technical review before their publication.

Jack Delano, photographer. Untitled photo, possibly related to: San Juan, Puerto Rico. Street scene. 1941. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

The production of a story map provides researchers with an interactive narrative and expands access to Hispanic collections in a variety of formats, such as images, print material and audio recordings. The Research Guide allowed me to connect the Library’s primary sources to contemporary scholarly publications that expand on the influence of colonization on linguistics in Puerto Rico. By providing researchers with a digital tool kit for continued study, I hope that these resources will enhance researchers’ user experience with the Puerto Rican collections at the Library.

Edwin, Rosskam, photographer. School room in rural school. Cidra, Puerto Rico.1938. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Creating a visualization tool increased my knowledge of technical skills and challenged me to explore a new narrative writing format. As a future Phd or EdD student, this project helped me develop the methodological and procedural skills needed for any research or writing project. Moreover, as an educator in a technological era, the creation of the story map allowed me to implement new teaching techniques and design strategies for future courses.

I accomplished my goal for this internship by creating digital resources for the Hispanic Division that I hope will motivate scholars and learners to explore the LC’s amazing collections. The story map and the research guide provide researchers and students with tools that connect them to the abundant information about Puerto Rico found in the LC collections. My hope is that these projects will not only aid the research process, but will also draw attention to the linguistic and cultural diversity of the Hispanic collections at the Library of Congress.

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