Undergraduates in the Archives – Powell 1
Timothy B. Powell
1How have you worked with undergraduates in archives and/or special collections?
Timothy B. Powell
Director, Native American Projects – American Philosophical Society
Senior Lecturer, Department of Religious Studies – University of PennsylvaniaEditor, Gibagadinamaagoom: An Ojibwe Digital Archive
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 I am fortunate to hold positions at three major cultural institutions in Philadelphia. I teach in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Pennsylvania, work as a Contributing Scholar at the Penn Museum, and, as Director of Native American Projects at the American Philosophical Society (APS), I oversee one of the finest collections of Native American archival materials in the country. I have directed three large grant projects at the APS to digitize images and audio recordings related to Native American culture. Once in digital form, the material becomes much more accessible to students. I am, therefore, in a unique position to provide my students with access to a wide variety of archival materials, many of which are linked in surprising ways.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 For most of the twentieth century, Penn was home to some of the greatest anthropologists working on Native American cultures: Frank Speck, A. Irving Hallowell, Anthony F.C. Wallace, and Dell Hymes. All of these scholars gave their papers to the APS, while Speck and Hallowell also donated artifacts to the Penn Museum. The collections fit together very nicely, even though the institutions do not have a formal collaborative relationship. My Penn students thus have many opportunities to connect the two collections in a variety of interesting ways that are beneficial to the APS, the Penn Museum, and Native American communities.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Much of my own research involves how digital technology can strengthen outreach to Native American communities. I have overseen six grant projects that share the aim of returning digital surrogates of archival materials to their communities of origin. In 2005, I started a website entitled Gibagadinamaagoom: An Ojibwe Digital Archive that houses digital materials and is used by Ojibwe high school and tribal college students throughout the state of Minnesota. Several years later I started a sister site, Digital Partnerships with Indian Communities, which allows the students to “publish” their work. When their work is polished enough, which usually entails some substantive editing, it is then made available to Native communities via the Digital Partnerships website. Both sites are designed with the Drupal content management system and are maintained by the School of Arts and Sciences Computing at Penn. This provides long-term sustainability. Because Drupal is so flexible, students can learn how to design digital exhibits that incorporate highlights of the archival materials and make them more accessible to Native communities. This requires training and outstanding students, many of whom receive grant support from Penn or other sources to work with me on these projects.
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