This blog post is the fourth in a series that features the Connecting Communities Digital Initiative (CCDI) Junior Fellows from the Library’s 2023 Junior Fellows program. These posts highlight each fellow and the projects they developed. CCDI funded six interns in this year’s virtual 10-week program. CCDI is part of the Library’s Mellon-funded Of the People: Widening the Path initiative.
This summer, CCDI’s Junior Fellows created guides that examine Library collections and demonstrate how to use those collections to develop creative projects such as zines, textiles, and collages. They explored topics that ranged from Black and Asian American activism, to the LGBTQ+ Latinx movement, to community-based collaborations, to art and expressive culture, including Asian textiles and African American hair history. As part of their work, they interviewed Library staff and other users to discuss their research topics and to learn more about the Library’s collections.
This guest post, written by Victoria Dey, a 2023 CCDI Junior Fellow, introduces her project, “Guide for Institutional Work With Underrepresented Community Members/Partners.” Victoria is a third year PhD student in the World History program at Northeastern University.
You can read her guide here.
The fast-paced nature of academia and its pursuit of higher knowledge and scholarship is an adrenaline rush of sorts. Most are familiar with the increase in endorphins when pressing submit for a paper assignment or meeting a publishing deadline. The details of the process to complete the task become blurry with time, but what is remembered is the final product – the tangible item that can be shown to the world. The process, however, is a valuable and non-fixed component which serves as a guide for future work in the field. The neglect of the process works like a vicious cycle in which it is rushed just to make it to the product’s finish line.
This is repeated over time as the process becomes less and less important because the institutional product still remains successful. Take for example, the planning process for large institutional events that are public facing which often consist of adrenaline rushed teams eager to reach the finish line and make the event a success. In the aftermath of the event, the team realizes that they had neglected to adequately document the process and challenges they faced during the planning and execution stages, Thus, there are no comprehensive notes on the obstacles they overcame, the creative problem-solving that took place, or the teamwork that made it all possible. This cycle of rushing from one success to another without documenting the process had unintended consequences. The lack of proper documentation meant that the team missed out on valuable insights and best practices that could have been applied to future events. Furthermore, it created a missed opportunity for learning and growth within the organization.
The lesser value of the process is also evident in the attention we give in reflection to analyzing products. Take for example a research paper- a reader is concerned with the introduction which frames the argument and grounds for study but then immediately scrolls to the analysis and result section. There is less attention to the process of building the project and its meticulous methodology and more focus on extracting the conclusive result from the study or research.
As you can see, institutional deliverables are diverse in nature, and extend beyond purely academic products with public events, projects, exhibitions and many other outcomes that make these suggestion event more relevant. I offer a few solutions to combat the process or product debate through experience with institutional teams and projects.
Document. Documenting the process is a crucial aspect of digital humanities projects focused on underrepresented histories. The process itself can be seen as a form of art, and it is important to capture and preserve it for future use and reflection. This can be achieved through various means such as taking detailed notes, capturing images, recording audio, and filming video footage. By documenting the process, we create a valuable resource that allows us to revisit and analyze the project’s development, outcomes, and lessons learned.
Analyze. Analysis is a vital component of documenting the process. In addition to interim and exit surveys for the project team, equal importance should be placed on reflective analysis such as the questions below.
- What strategies were effective in achieving the project’s goals?
- What strategies proved to be ineffective? What were the major challenges encountered and how were they addressed?
- What aspects of the project were particularly successful?
These questions help to extract valuable insights and lessons from the project, providing guidance for future researchers in the field. The analysis should aim to capture both the successes and the areas for improvement, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth.
Replicate. The process should be designed to be replicable by multiple teams and institutional structures. This requires a detailed documentation of the process that is characteristic of that specific institution but also has replicable abilities by a myriad of different institutional structures and organizations.
These are just a few suggestions to balance process and product with institutional deliverables in an effort to highlight the process as a source of guidance and direction for other studies and research. It is not just a means to an end; rather, it is an integral part of the journey, providing essential lessons, insights, and reference points for those who follow. By documenting, analyzing, and replicating the process, we can strike a harmonious balance between the process and product, fostering a culture of continuous improvement and knowledge sharing in the academic sphere. So, let us cherish and honor the process, for it is the foundation upon which our greatest achievements are built.
Check out Victoria’s guide here!
CCDI is part of the Library’s Of the People: Widening the Path program with support from the Mellon Foundation. This four-year program provides financial and technical support to individuals, institutions and organizations to create imaginative projects using the Library’s digital collections and centering one or more of the following groups: Black, Indigenous, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and other communities of color from any of the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and its territories and commonwealths (Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, American Samoa, U.S. Virgin Islands). Learn more about CCDI here.