Archives go digital

Last February, several librarians from the Baldwin School (Pennsylvania) attended Women’s History in the Digital World, a digital humanities conference at Bryn Mawr College’s The Albert M. Greenfield Digital Center for the History of Women’s Education. The scholarship and energy at the event inspired the Baldwin School to start its own Digital Archives project.

From the planning through the execution and ongoing promotion, the broader digital humanities mindset has informed Baldwin’s Digital Archives project, with students engaged alongside faculty not only in the role of content experts but also as makers in the digital space in a way that has real-world visibility and utility. The Baldwin Digital Archives include photos, documents, ephemera, and memorabilia that date from the school’s founding in 1888 through the present day and connect the school’s story to the larger story of the education of girls and young women. In all, the archives provide a fascinating window onto American sentiments at key moments in our country’s history.

Jane Bradley, scholars intern (The Baldwin School Class of 2017), reviews school artifacts for possible inclusion in the digital archives.

The project’s interns took on the sometimes tedious and always dusty work of mining the school’s physical archives for pieces that would become part of the digital collection. The intern team included Lolly Anapol (’16), Madeleine Marr (’17), Jane Bradley (’17), and Carly McIntosh (’18). Central to the students’ learning experience was the process of connecting the dots backward through various documents and objects to determine the significance of each artifact. They had to make decisions about what to include and what to exclude, considering the scope and goal of the project; the relative value, quality, and novelty of each item when measured against other similar items; and the overall interest to the school's audiences.

“Their passion was never more clear than when I received an email with the subject heading: ‘AMAZING FIND!!’” says Lisa Lopez-Carickhoff, director of libraries and information services and director of the Digital Archives project at Baldwin. “It was from one of the interns who had discovered that Ida Tarbell, the well-known journalist associated with the muckrakers, was the keynote speaker at Baldwin’s 1920 commencement.”

The student interns continue to shepherd and promote the project today, guiding teachers and students in using the digital and physical collections, assisting alumnae with research, and participating in meetings and presentations with researchers and professionals from local college and library organizations.

“I hope the archives— the words as well as the faces and places — deepen and strengthen our understanding of what it means to be Baldwin,” says Lopez-Carickhoff.