Engaging Learners in a Digital Landscape

SALALM 61, Panel 3, May 11, 2016, 11:00am-12:30pm
Moderator:  Mary Jo Zeter, Michigan State University
Rapporteur:   Christine Hernández, Tulane University

Panelists: Sarah Aponte, CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Library
David Woken, University of Oregon
Gustavo Urbano Navarro, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral

Mary Jo Zeter convenes the panel at 11:02 am.  She welcomes the panelists and introduces the first speaker, Sarah Aponte, Chief Librarian at the Dominican Studies Institute Archives & Library, at the City College of New York.

Sarah Aponte begins her presentation titled, “Dominican-Related Digital Projects: The Spanish Paleography Digital Teaching and Learning Tool and First Blacks in the Americas Interactive Website,” with an explanation of the goals of the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute to develop digital projects focused on Dominicans as early Americans.

Her presentation will cover two projects.  The first concerns the development of the Spanish Paleography Tool is open source, interactive online digital platform designed to make Spanish colonial documents about Dominicans accessible to users who lack training in reading colonial texts and/or lack access to the original documents.  The tool is meant to democratize the study of historical materials by making the documents and their contents more readily accessible to people from all walks of life in both the classroom and the home.  The project began thanks to a Start UP grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2011.  Anthony Stevens Acevedo, colonial historian and assistant director at the Dominican Studies Institute led the initiative that involved a team of librarians, archivists, scholars, and students.

The Spanish Paleography Tool currently contains 40 manuscripts dating to the 16th and early 17th centuries from Hispaniola held at by the Institute.  Collectively, they exemplify the scope of four scribal writing styles.  Some of the themes include royal letters, tax collecting accounts, powers of attorney, cargo manifests, and legal depositions, to name a few.  Additional links to digital image visuals documenting early Dominican history stored in a shared shelf commons in Artstor enhance the tool.  The paleography tool can be used to study Spanish in documents originating from any of the Spanish colonies.

The Institute hosted workshops in 2014 to train people in the use of the Spanish Paleography Tool.  Planning for future workshops is ongoing.  Sarah gives a brief demonstration of how the tool works on a sample text.

She then moved to discuss the second project aimed at building the First Blacks in the Americas portal website.  Featured on the website are images of original colonial manuscripts, transcriptions, translations, commentaries, maps, and photographs that document the arrival of the first generations of Africans and their descendants to inhabit Hispaniola. The Institute began this project with an exhibit 16th century Hispaniola: Glimpses of the First Blacks in the Early Colonial Americas featured in the New York Times.  The project is funded by grants from two sources:  the New York Council for the Humanities and the Office of Human Resources Management for Movement and Diversity, CUNY.

The bulk of the materials featured on the site come from the Portal de Archivos Espanoles (PARES) a database centered in Nueva Castilla, Spain created with the goal of increasing the dissemination of Spanish documents preserved in its network of regional archives and digitized for greater dissemination.  The goal of the website is to reveal the lives of the first Africans installed into the New World.  The materials create a window into the time and place of the first Africans in the America and the beginning of African-American history.  It is will also be a place to study the creation of Dominican identity.  The website is still a work in progress.  It will be fully bilingual in English and Spanish and is built to be interactive.

With this, Sarah finishes her presentation.

Sarah Aponte is followed by David Woken, Coordinator of the Library Instruction and the Librarian for Latin American Studies at the University of Oregon Library.  David discusses the Spanish Heritage Learners Program (SHL) in a presentation titled, “Heritage Learners in the U.S. Latino Archive: Challenging the Hegemony of the Pioneer Narrative in the Pacific Northwest.”  He begins his talk describing the goal of the program which is to bring people into archives and to employ archival documents for language instruction.  The primary source materials used for the Spanish Heritage Learners program come from an archive of Oregon Latino farm laborer movements that span four decades.  The goal of the program is to incorporate archival materials into Spanish language instruction.  The Spanish Heritage Learners Program in Oregon provides Spanish language courses to not only teach Spanish literacy to native Spanish speakers but also to integrate culture and history into their language education in a way that valorizes all forms of spoken Spanish found today in the United States.  The faculty members who participate in the program incorporate critical theory into curriculum with the goal of helping students understand their history as residents of Oregon.

David discusses a commonly told mythology of the western United States being conquered, pioneered, and built solely by a “white America.”  He reminds the audience that although Oregon was never traditionally part of Spanish America, it did sit on the northern border of New Spain and was first explored by Spanish explorers coming north from Mexico.  He then goes on to briefly discuss the history of Latinos in Oregon.  Latino history in Oregon begins with their arrival to the state as members of discovery expeditions and muleteers coming from California.  In the 1920s and 1930s, they came as migrant farm workers cycling up from New Mexico, Texas, and California following the seasonal round of harvests.  Between 1942 and 1947, the Brasero program brought large numbers of Latinos to Oregon where they established immigrant communities or colonias that served to support and maintain a constant influx of immigrants to the region.  Thus, the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in present day Oregon is Latino.  Many of the most recent Latino immigrants moving into Oregon are from Mexico, including growing numbers of indigenous peoples from Mexico.  The result of this migration is that many Latino residents in Oregon do not feel like a part of the collective memory and history of the state.  Oregon has a very strong, overt anti-immigrant sentiment.

David goes on to describe the perspective of the founder of the Spanish Heritage Learners Program, linguist, Dr. Claudia Holguin Mendoza.  Her goal for the program is to valorize the “Spanglish” and other forms of spoken Spanish in North America.  Valorizing spoken language also politically empowers people.  A principal method used in the program is to have language students engage with multiple forms of text to help teach them code-switching.  Archives can provide samples of such texts that also have important historical content that engages students.

David then moves on to discuss the origin of the archive and materials used in the courses developed for the Spanish Heritage Learners Program.  The materials come from the archive of the rural workers union called PCUN or Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noreste.  The union and its archive came about from the work of early Chicano veterans and affiliates who provided legal services early on for rural Latino farm workers but expanded its mission in the 1980s to do active labor organizing.  The PCUN followed the UFW (United Farm Workers) model and those of other radical Chicano organizations like CASA to represent both native and undocumented farm workers.  After 1985, PCUN has helped to found other organizations for workers and to build strategic partnerships with other civil rights movements.  The union archive contains a diverse range of materials documenting this late 20th century history.

David explains that archival materials are used in three different kinds of class sessions:

1)      Language classes
2)      As primary sources in a variety of history classes
3)      To teach archival practices

Primary source materials that David uses in class sessions include Spanish language newspapers, posters, correspondence, reports, artifacts, photographs, and comic books.  To prepare, students are given select readings about Latino history in Oregon.  In class, they work in groups around a specific item and given typical primary source critical thinking questions to answer.  Activities also include asking students to think about the physicality of items, to think about the social context of items, and to find connections to larger historically significant events or personages.  David also mentions that sometimes relations with people from other ethnic groups in the state arise from the discussions of archival materials and that photographs often help students discover connections to their own personal history.  This leads David to discuss how he and other librarians continue to learn more about the archive from students.

David concludes by describing future goals for the archive and the Spanish Heritage Learners Program which will include digitizing archival materials and creating class sessions geared for use in high schools and venues outside of the Eugene campus.

Gustavo Urbano Navarro, 2016 ENLACE recipient and Director of the Archivo Historico de la Patagonia Austral of the Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral, Unidad Academica San Julian in Santa Cruz, Argentina gave the final presentation titled, “Fomento  de la resilencia comunitaria por la construcción del Archivo Memorias de la Patagonia Austral:  Evaluación preliminaria mediante de un taller de diálogo.”

Gustavo begins his presentation with a brief history of the development of the Patagonian region via oil exploration and mining and local resistance to these industries.  Populating of southern Patagonia began in the early 20th century with Spanish, Croat, English, and Danish immigrants.  A second wave of immigration of laborers related to the oil industry came from neighboring countries like Paraguay, Bolivia, and Uruguay.  The latest large influx of people began in the late 1950s in association with mining and most recently with the construction of hydroelectric dams.  These waves of immigration have also brought with them social conflicts, strikes, and demonstrations.  The historical documentation of Patagonia’s development is held in small regional archives that are challenged to process and preserve their holdings.

Gustavo describes the mission of the University’s project which is to find a way to assist financially the personnel at these archives to process, preserve, and make this material more accessible.  Three bodies contributed to a project, the University at Santa Cruz, UNESCO, and the International Association for the Preservation of Sound.  UNESCO gave $19,000 grant to buy equipment and to hire and train personnel to process and digitize these materials.  Open Access software was developed as well through cooperative work with experts at a university in the United States.

To date, the project has been very successful culminating with the creation of a website called, “Memorias de la Patagonia Austral.”  Members of the project have taken advantage of regional events like book fairs and local festivals to promote the project and provide workshops and crowdsourcing opportunities to the public.  They also encourage individuals to preserve and make available their personal holdings with instruction on digitizing and posting images on the Internet.  The Memorias de Patagonia Austral continues its work though it is severely limited by the small annual budgets provided public universities in Argentina.

Gustavo concludes by mentioning some of the more recent project activities.  One of which involves entering into formal agreements with local high schools in southern Patagonia to introduce the archives and their materials to students through organized workshops focused on specific themes within the larger history of Patagonia.  Another recent activity is to use Netline software developed at the University of Virginia’s digital lab to connect historical maps to modern ones and create accompanying timelines for the website.

Question & Answer period

Daniel Mateo Schoorl, Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI) puts the first question to David Woken.  He asks about teaching students about searching practice using terms in Spanglish.  David responds that the Oregon faculty members in the SHL program deal mostly with the details of teaching Spanglish while he focuses on providing the primary sources that contain examples of Spanglish and teaching students how to work with archival materials.

Peter Johnson, SALALM Treasurer asks that the entire panel reflect on how oral histories could be used in their respective projects to earn the confidence of community members to contribute more oral histories.

Gustavo Urbano Navarro responds that there is a give and take between users and the oil and mining companies that finance and hire people in the community.  Peter asks if there is a fear of retribution by these companies if community residents give interviews.  Gustavo answers that there is no fear.  Peter asks about the impact if any of Chinese-owned companies.  Gustavo answers that there is no impact.

David Woken responds to Peter Johnson’s question about oral histories.  He says that different faculty members at the Latino Roots institution teach a methods course on film documentary, oral history, and ethnography methods class and new data collected and produced through this course is deposited in the University of Oregon’s digital repository and this material contains Brasero oral histories.  PCUN oral histories collected apart from the SHL program were deposited at the University of Texas.

Gustavo Urbano Navarro responds that the Braseros are like the miners in southern Patagonia.

Sarah Aponte responds that the Dominican Studies Institute is in the process of collecting oral histories.

Donna Canevari de Paredes, University of Saskatchewan Library asks Sarah Aponte if the paleography tool is open access and what does she think about the future of expanding the website.  Sarah thanks her for the question and responds that she would like to see the paleography tool expanded to work for documents from other countries and to expand the website.

George Apodaca, University of Delaware Library asks Sarah Aponte if the software used to develop the paleography tool software was developed “in-house.”  Sara responds that the Institute received a grant of $50,000 to fund the development of the software platform.  George asks if the Institute hosts the website.  Sarah responds yes, the Institute hosts the website and receives help from CUNY technicians.

Nelson Santana, Rutgers University thanks the panelists for their presentations.  He comments on the paleography tool and questions about just how long it takes for an untrained person to learn to use the tool in order to schedule time to train on it.

Nelson Santana then asks David Woken if perhaps he could take his history about Latinos in Oregon and publish it as an article.  David responds that he has a busy schedule.  He notes that the history of Latinos in Oregon should be of the larger history of the state.  David admits that he prefers to make information available to scholars who could better tell Oregon’s history.

Lorry Bridges comments that people in Oregon are ignorant of their own history.  David Woken agrees and expounds on this point.

Sarah Aponte, Dominican Studies Institute responds to Nelson Santana’s earlier question that lay people can begin to learn paleography using the online tool with as little as one hour a day.

Peter Johnson, SALALM Treasurer, asks Sarah Aponte about the paleography tool if there is available information about the distinct scribal hands and abbreviation conventions present.  Sarah responds yes.

George Apodaca, University of Delaware Library, asks Sarah Aponte if the workshop sponsored by the Dominican Studies Institute offers training in paleography.  Sarah responds yes.

Peter Johnson, SALALM Treasurer, asks both David Woken and Gustavo Urbano Navarro about the impact of the Church and religious ideology on their work.

David Woken responds that he needs to explore this question more with the community he works with as religion can be a complicated issue.

Gustavo Urbano Navarro responds to Peter that migration to southern Patagonia was accompanied by the Jesuits.  His project is currently digitizing and processing unique materials from Jesuit colleges.

Mary Jo Zeter concludes the session at 12:30 pm.

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