“this dynamic website will provide curated access to digitally archived materials that are organized into a researched historic narrative to address public, academic, and educator audiences”
When we first started developing a project description for APLA (for grant applications, partner meetings, etc.), my supervisor encouraged me to use to the phrase “curated access” to explain what we hoped to do with digitally archived materials. I found the implications of this phrase for archives to be interesting. The central goal of the Lowcountry Digital Library is simply to provide organized online access to information about archival materials (such as images of materials and metadata). But images and metadata cannot tell the whole story of why different archival materials are important. This is where “curated access” steps in. A topical history exhibition creates a stage for content experts to pull materials out of a collection and give historic context for why they are important. What is the relationship between this object or document and the people who created and used it? What was their relationship to society? How does this fit into a cohesive historic narrative? By addressing these questions exhibitions activate archival materials to become accessible as educational, public history resources. And as I will explain in later blog entries, online exhibitions in particular have the unique ability to introduce materials and historic contexts in new, interactive forms, through a wide range of multimedia and augmented reality features.
In short, working as a curator for an online history exhibition is a really interesting job, not unlike treasure hunting. I dig through collections to find the perfect object or document to exemplify a broader historic topic. In addition, as we also described in the project description, the history of African American slavery in Charleston itself still remains largely hidden in the area’s public history. On multiple levels, this project serves as an online public history excavation.
For this blog I would like to highlight a few of the archival digital materials we plan to feature in APLA from our own Lowcountry Digital Library collections. We also plan to explore a wide range online repositories for materials, but here are a few of our “treasures” so far:
The McLeod Plantation Cemetery Collection contains beads found in 1996 during the construction of a fire station in James Island, South Carolina. Construction of the fire station, which was to be located between Folly Road, Country Club Drive, and Wappoo Creek, was aborted when workers unearthed unmarked graves. The human bones found were believed to be the remains of slaves that had once lived on McLeod Plantation.
Pewter slave badge produced for a servant in Charleston, S.C. It was common to counterfeit badges to avoid paying taxes, and this particular one was not issued by the city, but created in the stamped year. The face is stamped “Charleston 1862 Servant #4.” Back side contains no markings.
This slave pass, or permission note, is one of three found in 1934 in a Book of Common Prayer. The book was donated to the College of Charleston by Daniel Horlbeck in 1875. For reasons unknown this pass was extensively scribbled over.