Panel 2, May 30 2011, 2:00 pm-3:30 pm
Moderator: Holly Ackerman, Duke University
Presenters: Bix Gabriel, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (not present); Pamela Graham, Columbia University; Patrick Stawski, Duke University; Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez, Princeton University
Rapporteur: Melissa Guy, Arizona State University
Holly Ackerman presented Bix Gabriel’s paper titled “Remembering Guantanamo: How Can We Build a Public Memory of this Site’s Century-long History?” which focused on the Guantanamo Public Memory Project, an ongoing project of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience (ICSC).
The Guantanamo Public Memory Project highlights the reality that Guantanamo as a place of detention has a long, complex past. Today, nearly 200 prisoners remain indefinitely detained at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, but prior to 2001, Guantanamo also housed detainees. In 1991, the George H. W. Bush Administration held Haitian refugees fleeing the Aristide regime. In 1994, the U.S. government created camps to house Cuban refugees who had attempted to flee to the United States. The Clinton Administration created Camp X-Ray as a separate facility to house those refugees who “caused trouble” in the camps, which remained open for over a year.
Gabriel found that Guantanamo has had many “ends,” and each time the camps are closed, public memory fades. The Guantanamo Public Memory Project, which began in 2009, seeks to preserve memories of Guantanamo. The ICSC began the project to encourage individuals connected to Guantanamo to tell their stories. The short term goal is to “learn how it has been used and re-used,” to imagine its future, and become involved in determining the outcome of what happens there today. The long term goal is to establish comprehensive documentation about activities, individuals, and policies associated with Guantanamo. The project seeks an “ongoing forum for truth-telling, dialogue, and collective accountability.”
The ICSC is a network of about 250 historic sites of contested history. All sites of conscience are based on the idea that “preserving and interpreting history is as much an act in support of human rights as is waging a campaign for justice.” In 2009, the organization held its first international working group to develop a framework for the Guantanamo Public Memory Project with various stakeholders including historians, librarians, detainees and their lawyers, members of the military, and directors of sites of conscience. Four principles emerged: 1) the entire history of Guantanamo should be included in the project; 2) it must include multiple perspectives; 3) the project should avoid considering Guantanamo a “closed” history; 4) the coalition should be international in scope. Already the coalition has identified more than 1,000 resources (books, archives, films, etc.) on Guantanamo. The creation of a virtual site is also in progress, since the actual camps at Guantanamo are not accessible. Ackerman is a member of the Advisory Board of the project. More information can be found on the ICSC website at: http://www.sitesofconscience.org/activities/guantanamo-public-memory-project
Pamela Graham followed with her presentation titled “The Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research: Collecting, Preserving, and Promoting the Record of Human Rights.” The Center at Columbia was built around the acquisition of the archives of several major human rights organizations beginning with Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, and Human Rights First. The records of these organizations were originally acquired and organized at the University of Colorado, Boulder by Bruce Montgomery in the early 1990s. In 2004, the collections were transferred to Columbia where they have undergone additional processing, arrangement, and description. These particular archives are on deposit at Columbia; the human rights organizations continue to own the records.
In 2005, Columbia founded the Center for Human Rights Documentation and Research to extend the scope of the collections acquired from Colorado, to expand the focus to the library’s general collection, and to develop digital projects. Archival materials are managed by the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library while the Center focuses on programmatic collecting and promotion of materials. Graham runs the Center and collaborates with library staff including subject specialists in global area studies; processing archivists; the oral history research office; web collection curators; technical services; and the digital program division.
Collections include archival primary sources, published scholarly materials in the general collection, and born-digital material. This particular presentation focused on the archival material; a separate presentation in Panel 9 described the Center’s efforts to archive born- digital material on the Web.
Within the archival materials, the records of greatest value are those that document “what advocacy looked like.” Examples from the Amnesty USA collection include: circulars distributed to country groups, records related to disappeared persons in Chile, and correspondence from the Executive Director and Executive boards. Human Rights Watch/Americas Watch records reveal connections among NGOs including the Committee to Protect Journalists (whose records are also housed at Columbia) and also contain news releases, field notes from hot spots, and legal testimony.
Graham concluded her presentation by describing some of the challenges associated with collecting in human rights, including creating the actual archives, since the organizations are focused on advocacy, not records management. Legal and privacy issues are unique with human rights records; balancing those concerns with the desire to make the records accessible to users can be difficult. Preservation issues are always a concern, particularly with regard to born-digital materials and the shift to online production of records.
More information on the Center for Human Rights Documentation & Research can be found at: http://library.columbia.edu/indiv/humanrights.html
Graham’s presentation was followed by that of Patrick Stawski, the Human Rights archivist at Duke University, whose presentation, “History in Action: Connecting Students, Scholars and Community to Human Rights Histories & Practice” focused on human rights archival collections and outreach efforts at Duke. The collections at Duke focus on human rights activism of individuals and NGOs. Their 25 collections are format-neutral and global in scope.
Major Latin American holdings include the records of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and those of Coletta Youngers, a WOLA associate. The WOLA records span the years from 1974 to 2005 and contain information on human rights abuse cases, documentation of the organization’s efforts to lobby U.S. officials for policy change, and evidence of WOLA’s collaboration with local human rights organizations in Latin America.
Duke also houses the Marshall T. Meyer Papers, which document the Argentine rabbi’s role as a human rights activist, religious leader, and scholar from the 1950s through the 1990s. The records also detail his involvement with CONADEP, Argentina’s truth commission, of which he was the only Argentine-born member. A traveling exhibit highlights materials from this collection.
The collection at Duke also contains materials that focus on human rights issues in Latino communities in the United States. The Student Action with Farmworkers records document working conditions of immigrant communities and activism among labor and student groups.
Other collections at Duke include the records of the Center for International Policy and the papers of Patricia Murphy Derian, the first Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs under President Carter.
Outreach for these collections focuses on creating a bridge between students, faculty, the community and records creators and includes, among other things, the WOLA/Duke book award and a documentary film series. More information on the human rights archives at Duke can be found at: http://library.duke.edu/specialcollections/human-rights/
Fernando Acosta-Rodríguez completed the panel with his presentation, “From Underground to Open Access: Civil War, Society and Political Transition as Documented by the Archive of the Guatemala News and Information Bureau,” which focused on the transition of records from microfilm to open access digital material. The records of the Guatemala News and Information Bureau (GNIB) have been housed at Princeton since 2002. GNIB was created in 1978 in San Francisco as an activist group that sought to call attention to issues such as labor rights, indigenous rights and movements for peace and justice in Guatemala through informational campaigns, lobbying of U.S. officials, as well as educational and cultural programs.
Princeton had the collection microfilmed in 2004 with Primary Source Media. Nine academic libraries in the United States (including the Center for Research Libraries) own the 112 reels of film. In addition, Princeton donated a complete set to the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica (CIRMA) in Guatemala. Documents range from the 1970s to the present and include records related to the civil war in Guatemala and the peace accords of the 1990s. The microfilm is comprised of four sections: 1) grey literature and ephemera (about 60%); 2) serial runs (141 titles); 3) studies and reports (56 titles); and 4) news clippings (less than 1% of total.)
Princeton is now in the process of creating an open access digital collection of the first section of the GNIB archive. The first section (grey literature and ephemera) will be the only portion digitized due to its research value and unique content. Only the Guatemalan section of the NACLA archive comes closest to matching the richness of the GNIB records, but Princeton’s materials are unique in that they cover the years preceding and immediately following the peace accords. Section one of the GNIB records also complements the records of the National Security Archive project on Guatemala.
The open access digitization project was the result of conversations between the library and Princeton’s program for Latin American Studies about alternative access models for the Latin American political ephemera collection as a whole. In those conversations, five models of access emerged as possibilities:
1) Outsourced microfilming and commercial distribution (already in place)
2) Outsourced digitization, publishing, and distribution
3) Outsourced digitization, internal publishing, and non-commercial distribution
4) Internal digitization, internal publishing, and non-commercial distribution
5) Consortial agreement with costs and responsibilities shared among participating institutions
Ultimately, Princeton decided to substitute the first, already established option with a combination of options three and five: outsourced digitization, internal publishing and non-commercial distribution as part of a consortial agreement. The GNIB archive was chosen as a pilot project because of its research value, the structure of the archive, the types of materials it contained, and its potential to reach wider audiences on a global scale. The ultimate goal is to create a searchable website for section one of the GNIB materials with contents described at the item level and open access to all images.
Partial funding for this ongoing project has been provided by the 2009 Cooperative Digitization of International Research Materials Project, sponsored by the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and a four-year TICFIA grant.
Acosta-Rodríguez concluded that the project has been complex and labor intensive, but also worthwhile. He believes that a consortial open access model for digitization is the best way to move forward with similar projects, and he hopes that SALALM and LARRP will be involved in future endeavors.
Questions & Comments:
Paula Covington (Vanderbilt University): “Fernando, who funded this project?” Acosta-Rodríguez responded that funding came from a U.S. Department of Education TICFIA grant: $45,000 with matching funds plus labor from Princeton. James Simon (CRL) confirmed that TICFIA stands for Technological Innovation and Cooperation for Information Access.