Applying Digital Archive Skills: The Birth Control Review as Case Study

Gainesville THATCampers have proposed sessions on creating digital archives, making exhibitions for those archives, and learning TEI editing for documents within said archives. These promise to be excellent sessions and I hope they all make the cut. With that said, I’m sure many of us are hands-on learners who would benefit from a session in which we further apply our newly learned skills about digital archives with (hopefully) the benefit of some more-experienced individuals on-hand to help us think through the technical steps as well as any ethical, legal, and aesthetic issues that might arise.

Here’s what I propose: I’ll make myself a guinea pig and offer up my still-in-beginning-stages Digital Archive of the Birth Control Review (a little magazine run by Margaret Sanger from 1917-1929) for experimentation, critique, and play. By looking at an archive that is in the early stages of development – and designed by a neophyte – rather than one that is polished and exemplary, this session will provide a useful counterpart to those proposed by Patricia Carlton, Mark Kamrath, and Lourdes Santamaria-Wheeler.

I will begin the session by briefly introducing the archive, mentioning some of the questions and pitfalls I faced in getting the archive to this stage, and explaining the concerns I have going forward. Then, depending on the interests of the group, we could break into smaller groups to discuss/work on/play with discrete topics such as digital archive design (what works and what doesn’t about this particular archive) or TEI editing one of the magazine’s issues.

Full disclosure: I am not an expert in digital archives, coding, or preservation techniques. Yet I think my lack of knowledge is actually an asset here. In talking through the steps that led me to begin the Archive of the Birth Control Review, and getting feedback on the site from experts and novices alike, my hope is that non-tech-savvy individuals such as myself will gain inspiration for and insight into the process of starting up a digital archive.

The Archive of the Birth Control Review can be found at birthcontrolreview.omeka.net/. This archive aims to make the periodical more accessible by housing a searchable index of all issues (no comprehensive index currently exists), as well as guided collections of articles from the magazine on topics such as eugenics, race, suffrage, and WWI.

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Categories: Archives, Session: Make, Session: Play |

About Aimee Armande Wilson

I am an instructor at Florida State University and a PhD candidate in the English Department. My research interests include transatlantic modernism, periodical studies, and theories of gender and sexuality.

3 Responses to Applying Digital Archive Skills: The Birth Control Review as Case Study

  1. Thanks for your generosity in ‘offering up’ this project as a way to think through TEI and archive questions in the DH. Great opportunity here also to probe the important nuances in the scholarly activity of archive-making as it relates to graduate training, etc.

  2. Aimee, this will be a useful session for me. I am currently thinking about a new digital archive of post-9/11 Othering. So far, I have been working on its theoretical underpinning, but your session will give me a transition into its conceptual and technical framework. Looking forward to meeting you!

  3. Aimee Wilson says:

    Dhanashree, that sounds like a great project. I’d love to hear more about it. Sophia, good point about graduate training. It might be useful for everyone to share their experiences – or, more likely, lack of experiences – in grad school that led them to DH and archive-making.

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