Undergraduate Fellows

Piecing Together the Puzzle

Let me begin by announcing we have finally received the Hills family diaries that accompany the photograph albums! The father, Professor Hills, did not keep a journal, but his wife and daughter both kept diaries.

Moreover, since my last post, I’ve been working on sharpening my understanding of how I want my project to take shape. Particularly, I’ve been focused on a guiding argument and type of interface.

Colonialism still plays a huge role in my project, but I’ve also been considering ideas of regulation, objectification, voyeurism, and what Curtis Keim likes to refer to in his book Mistaking Africa: Curiosities and Inventions of the American Mind, the “Real Africa.” Specifically, I’m looking at the ways photography, film, and words, regulate our ideas of what we envision as the “Real Africa.” This Real Africa is a space rampant with tropes and stereotypes that make a spectacle of difference and deny Africans agency through practices of objectification. I want to show that even this collection of family vacation materials is not neutral. Rather, there is a particular function it serves in a broader social and historical context.

To articulate this point, there are several projects I want to incorporate into a larger exhibit. The webpage I am constructing uses Omeka as an interface, allowing me to separate my materials into a neutral collection with raw materials and a processed collection with an analysis of my findings. These are some of the main projects I aim to achieve:

  1. Digitization of materials (scanned photos, transcribed diary pages, mp4 files)
  2. An interactive map of the journey, tying the materials into a singular, cohesive, and visual narrative
  3. Trope mapping (which may take several shapes)
    1. Trope frequency through a word cloud
    2. The relationships between tropes with the inclusion of examples (picture a spider web map)
    3. Historical tracing of tropes and connections to hierarchy (how a history of colonialism has constructed Africa as a continent of different and singular representation)
  4. A virtual reconstruction of Africa as imagined by the Western eye

The fourth project I listed is very tentative and largely dependent on time constraints. However, I’m going to try to be as thorough as possible. I also want to make a point of demonstrating why exactly my project is important, so I will have a section discussing the consequences of misrepresentation.

I’m really excited about using Omeka, I think the layout will help streamline variation, pull everything together, and section it off in an accessible way. One of the Omeka based projects I’ve been admiring is Swarthmore College’s Black Liberation 1969 Archive. Finally, some of the software programs I’m looking at to help me create the individual projects are Neatline and Bocoup data visualization.



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