Redd Center for Western Studies Summer 2008 – Summer 2010 Provo, UT Project Manager
One of the things I love about archives is that they tend to preserve the smaller, everyday aspects of history and of communities. The ephemera and artifacts: handwritten letters, books filled with marginalia, scrapbooks and home videos and more. Once, when researching a Chicago bartender from the 1920s, I happened upon an arrest slip—from the time he tried to play euphonium and the neighbors complained.
Documents like these can breathe life into historical records, and give insight into the people behind them. Their absence in an archive can mean an absence of such insights, especially for a person or community that institutions tend not to catalog. This is why I helped found an online archive dedicated to gender and LGBTQ+ activism at Brigham Young University. While there is a rich, robust history on this topic, very little of it has been researched or even academically discussed due to the collective memory lost through student turnover.
For this role, I created an online wiki-style database for securely acquiring and cataloging relevant, sensitive project material. In this case, contributors to the archive could risk losing their student status or position at the university, so ours needed to be a database that supported anonymous contributions and access management.
The sensitive nature of this project in particular would later inform my work on other sensitive projects: The AustKin Project in Canberra, Australia, and my current role in IBM mainframe security. With the collection itself, my co-founder and I presented an ethnographic overview at the Society for the Anthropology of Religion Conference in 2009, “Anthropology of Faith and Home: Gender Activism at the Mormon University.”
Thumbnail photo is from “Population 800” by Christine Armbruster