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CCDI Junior Fellow Spotlight: Joshua Ortiz Baco

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The Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) is extremely pleased to introduce to you one of our CCDI Junior Fellows: Joshua Ortiz Baco. The Junior Fellows Program at the Library of Congress has been in existence since 1991, and this year, CCDI funds two participants in the 10-week program.  CCDI Junior Fellows will work remotely to develop digital approaches, tools, and connections for Library of Congress digital content.

Describe your background.

I was born and raised in the metro area of Puerto Rico between the suburbs of Guaynabo and San Juan. Now I split my time travelling to and from San Juan, Charlottesville, and Austin. I will be working remotely from all three places during the summer.

Joshua Ortiz Baco
Joshua Ortiz Baco

What is your academic/professional history?

My academic background is in Caribbean and Brazilian cultural studies, ethnic studies, and digital humanities. I am currently a PhD. candidate in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Texas at Austin, and I am writing my dissertation on the print networks of abolitionist newspapers by Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Brazilian immigrants in 19th century New York. Aside from research, I have worked on capacity building, digital collections, and curriculum development projects as part of the Latin American Digital Initiatives of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. Now that I am not working at my home institution, I participate in an architectural heritage recovery project in Puerto Rico.

How would you describe your internship project to other people?

Through my internship project I am borrowing from the expertise of Library staff to identify collections and materials that speak to the histories of minority communities but that, for whatever reason, are not easy to find amid 170 million items and the more than 400 digital collections currently available. At the same time, I want to get the conversation started with different organizations, efforts, and projects that are using their cultural heritage in the Library to recover and share the lived experiences and histories of Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. I hope to learn about a lot of these projects and, considering the short time I have as a junior fellow, I will also select a few of them for in-depth interviews with curators, specialists and librarians about how they envision the Library serving their work and interests.

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress and CCDI specifically?

What initially attracted me to the Library was the amazing Chronicling America collection because it demonstrates how the Library brings together the daily lives of so many parts of the country to show “history’s first draft.” ChronAm is also an example of the innovative use of technology in cultural heritage institutions that repurposes materials and data into, for example, digital storytelling projects or machine learning interfaces. CCDI builds on the idea of a more expansive version of history and combines it with the latest digital approaches to give minority creators the opportunity to write new drafts of history.

I was especially drawn to the focus on creative and artistic work – digital exhibitions, videos, photography or music – as an essential part of the initiative. Reimagining materials from the perspective of ethnic or racial minorities is another way of providing access to people that may not see themselves and their communities represented in the Library. I think that making the collections and the Library’s resources even more accessible and approachable for underserved groups will lead to groundbreaking projects and deeper connections between the Library and local communities. I am thrilled to be a part of establishing these partnerships.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Library of Congress?

The fact that the Library has international collections with materials in more than 460 languages and that the majority of the books and serials are in languages other than English were the two most surprising facts so far. At least for me, it is something I would have never imagined in a traditional library and even less so in a national library.

What is something most of your co-workers don’t know about you?

I like to spend some of my downtime on the weekends watching soccer and taking care of my little apartment garden. I also love indie and foreign language films so I will be in every movie theater I can once they are all open again in my area.

Get involved! Please send us your ideas for organizations and projects that we can learn from to [email protected]

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