What is the main focus of this Forum?


Technological tools empower us to take action to capture and preserve the voices and history of disenfranchised and marginalized communities. Some might create community archives based at their local activist group or church, others might work to create collections within universities or museums. We (the Digital Scholarship Group, based in the Northeastern University Libraries) are partnering on an increasing number digital projects involving these kinds of archives, and we want to do it responsibly.

This grant, along with our prior experience in this area, gives us an opportunity to bring people together to discuss these issues and synthesize what we learn into a set of resources share with the cultural heritage community. We have questions like: How is naming and representation in our cataloging or data modeling influenced by power? What ethical decisions should be made before exposing digital collections to automated harvesting, analysis, and broad re-use on the internet? When tools and interfaces guide interactions with documents and items, are those interfaces responsive to community needs, or do they force a diversity of ideas into ill-fitting and harmful boxes?

Our goal is to produce a teaching and learning toolkit that will provide a framework for investigating these issues. This toolkit will enable practitioners to investigate and teach the problem so that future infrastructural work proceeds in a critical spirit. The toolkit framework will provide a way of investigating design problems and asking the right questions that lead to more thoughtful outcomes.

In addition, while issues of social justice, community partnerships, and diverse collections are becoming more visible in the education of library, archives, and museum workers, the information and system design aspects are not yet a core part, and we want to prompt new educational developments in that area.

How can I be involved?


First and foremost, we want to recruit participants widely: practitioners, educators, researchers, and students in cultural heritage and related fields. We need many different kinds of expertise to make this project successful.

We use the word “practitioners” deliberately, to include a broad range of people and organizations, whether part of a large formal organization or smaller, grass-roots community efforts. We welcome community historians and other cultural heritage practitioners as well as those working in the library, archives, and museum world and those in related fields such as digital humanities, public humanities, and digital history.

Work will be led by members of the DSG staff with expert input from our Advisory Board. We are also recruiting a Toolkit Design Group with a wide range of expertise to develop the bulk of the toolkit as well as Critical Review Partners to provide valuable in-depth feedback to the Design Group.

We will record and, if possible, stream all public forum events, and encourage online participation such as Twitter, edits and comments on shared collaborative documents, surveys, and other feedback mechanisms.

We welcome in-person participation via our two public events, which will be free and open to any attendee. Some funding will be available to support travel costs. The Opening Forum will explore the range of existing work and identify remaining challenges. Participants will create a large base of theory, ideas, and sources for use in developing the toolkit. Members of the Toolkit Design Group and Critical Review Partners will then develop an initial framework and rough draft of the teaching toolkit, building on the work accomplished in the Opening Forum. The Concluding Review Forum will present the draft teaching toolkit and white paper for critique and feedback to a larger audience and recruit potential partners to test and refine the toolkit in the future. We will also circulate the toolkit online for additional broad discussion and critique before the final version’s release.

When will this happen, and how can I learn more?


We expect to release more details in Spring 2017, and forum preparation and key events will start Summer and Fall 2017.

However, we are currently actively recruiting participants of all types and striving to make our participant group as inclusive as possible. It is essential to this project that our participants bring diverse experiences and skills — this means you!

To hear more, please contact us at DesignforDiversity@northeastern.edu, or contact either of the two co-PIs directly: Julia Flanders (j.flanders[at]northeastern.edu) or Amanda Rust (a.rust[at]northeastern.edu).