I propose a two part collection project about the McBride Scholars Program’s history and cultural relevance. First, I propose a creation plan for a more comprehensive digital archival repository of all things related to McBride history and experience. This archival project will include processing of our current collection, creation of a finding guide that is accessible online and integration of existing online data that is currently not centralized. This piece will also include an independent website/blog (such as WordPress) where pieces of the collection will be highlighted and contextualized. The second part of my proposal is for a collection event called the “McBride Monologues” where oral histories of McBrides can be collected, shared with the larger community, and put McBride history into the broader on campus public conversation about our campus histories and experiences.
Part 1: Digital Collection
I propose that Special Collections continue the research I have done within their own collection and the school resources they have access to. This project would include the processing of our existing holdings on McBride experience. There are currently 8 folders and 3 VHS tapes in the McBride box that need to be digitized and made public. I also propose the production of a comprehensive finding guide that is accessible through triptych and the proposed public blog. I have done a rough draft of starting the work of creating a finding guide and my notes can be found in the appendices.
After the digitization of all official holdings, I propose the addition of the diverse yet inaccessible online information about the McBrides. I have collected almost 100 images by using the Internet Archive’s ‘Wayback Machine’. The online presence of the McBride program can be traced back to 1997 and include a vast amount of information about the history of the program. This information was not archived by anyone at the college and the information of this information will help to determine what organizational documents and publications are in need of collection. I argue that the addition of resources like Wayback screenshots would also extend our collections ability to contextualize the programs structure, the changes it underwent through the past 30 years, and answer more questions about the areas of significance identified for this project. My original research should be transformed into whatever medium Special Collections identifies as necessary and because they are digital they are easily converted into different formats or platforms.
The WordPress site I have created as an example of the publicly accessible portion of this project is currently located at https://mcbridecollection.wordpress.com/
This site consists of the rough draft of a comprehensive timeline of McBride history from 1986-2016, information about the founding, & resources or plans for future of the program. The website will have several sections that should be determined by current voids and those that are identified after the processing of our collection. This timeline will help current McBrides find information about the program’s history and demonstrate the pattern of instability and uncertainty surrounding the program. This site will also host a section of links to articles about, writings by, and online information about McBrides. We will also link to studies and writings about the allied programs for nontraditional students at the other Seven Sister schools. The connections between our programs will help McBrides understand that they are not alone even though their experience is incredibly marginal in the context of these elite institutions. I hope by making these findings public others, like myself, who are interested in the overlap in experiences will be able to connect with McBride Scholars. I also hope that others may have a similarly cathartic experience when they first come into contact with writings that reflect their lived experiences and solidify them as relevant to public history about class and higher education.
I have written a sample of what a blog entry could look like. In this post, I created a 6 image gallery of things found in Special Collections’s holdings, described their contents, contextualized some of the information, tagged the post with several categories (ex: “Purple Lantern” “Traditions”) to make drawing connections between future posts easier and to help establish documentable patterns.
Sample blog: Founding of Purple Lantern & Lantern Night Politics
(see more at: https://mcbridecollection.wordpress.com/2016/05/07/53/)
Part 2: Oral History Collection through McBride Monologues
I also propose a preliminary plan for collecting oral histories to learn about experiences McBrides have had on campus and to combat their archival silence. This event was inspired by a similar annual event hosted by Smith’s Ada Comstock Scholars. The Ada Comstock Scholars host a public performance (inspired by the Vagina Monologues) where current students narrate a story about their Ada experience that is important or special to them (McGuire, 2016). This performance is also used to connect and raise awareness about the unique experience-and often struggles-of being a nontraditional student at an elite institution. I propose that an initial event of this kind be held at the upcoming 30 year reunion gathering of McBride Scholars in late May 2016. I believe that this event should be a joint effort and production of Special Collections, the Deans Office (through their allotted programatic funding for McBride events, and interested current McBride scholars and alumnae. By having multiple stakeholders with institutional clout (like Special Collections), this event may dually be a space of activism about our current programmatic barriers and historical collection site that combats the ongoing struggle to document our contributions and experiences.
This event should be open to the public and advertised broadly to students, faculty, and administrative staff. The stories that are shared should be filmed and added to the digital archives. This can be done for a relatively low cost and when shared through a free platform like Youtube, I hope they can function as a lifeline for nontraditional students feeling isolated and misunderstood. There is already an ongoing effort to collect McBride history during this reunion weekend but I am unaware of any events specifically like this. I believe both the project I am proposing and the other initiatives could benefit through this site being a collection event.
Special Collections staff should be on staff and able to quickly collect information or physical memorabilia that McBrides bring to this event. If McBrides do not want their collection permanently donated they can still add to this initiative by letting project coordinators photograph or scan what they bring with them, on site as the performances are happening. Because much of the work done by MBs in the past 30 years has been through digital means it is also important that this site offer a way to transfer or copy digital information to our expanding collection. During the recruitment process we should ask participants to prepare a flash drive or other medium that we may quickly copy using laptops or external harddrides at the event. We are emphasizing the digital collection of materials due to the relatively recent founding of the program in an era where student’s schoolwork and other relevant data would have been created digitally. I also argue we should emphasize this because I believe that most of what remains will be in this format as it is unlikely for paper copies to have been saved unless they held special meaning to their owner.
To recruit participants, I will use the interpersonal network of McBride alumnae who are active in the affinity alumnae group and/or the online Facebook group of McBride alums. There are currently almost 100 members which represents just under half of all McBride alums. We could also contact the Alumnae Association’s affinity director to see if they would be willing to send out the our pre-survey and call for collection to the entire alumnae list. However, access to this particular complete list is a complicated, bureaucratic process and the McBride community itself does not have easy access to all of our predecessors. We will send a pre-survey to this list that is based off of the survey sent in 1994 during the first collection of McBride oral history. I have converted this from images I took during my research through Optical Character Recognition software online into an easily sharable .pdf file. We will ask questions about their experiences and suggest that those interested in sharing a story during the performance should use our questions to guide their performance preparation. From there, I will contact those who are willing to participate and work out how their story fits into the larger narrative the event aims to expand on. I hope that there will be equal representation over different time periods. The program has undergone many changes over it’s 30 year history but there has been a constant theme of resilience that is important to make a part of the public conversation and will hopefully be highlighted at this event.
The oral history component of this project should include multiple performances, multiple private interviews for those unwilling to share in during a public event, and the transcription of at least half these videos. After transcription the interviews should be deposited to in our official repository/archive and made searchable to interested parties. I hope that this event can become an annual space for these dual purposes. I also hope that the successes reported by the Ada monologues will also come of our adaption. As one Ada Comstock scholar reflects, “The Ada Monologues are important because it’s one of the few times of the year, maybe the only time, the Smith spotlight is focused solely on Ada Scholars. It allows the audience to see how very precious, valuable and unique Ada Comstock Scholars are as people and how integral the Ada Comstock Program is to Smith College and the Smith community as a whole” (Wu, 2016).