Monday, April 6, 2009

Educating Change: Latina Activism and the Struggle for Educational Equity

This small collection, though appearing to follow some conventions of Brown University’s Center for Digital Initiatives (cited on some of the pages), appears to be the product of a group of students’ summer research project. The site produces an interesting narrative about the Chicano movement in California in the 1970’s, its connections to farmworker activism and advocacy for education, and the effect the movement has on present-day Providence, Rhode Island, where Brown University is located. Interviews with three women forms the core of the collection materials. Socorro Gómez seems to be the catalyst for the study, because she was born in Jalisco, Mexico, moved with her family to California, where she went to college, then moved to Providence, Rhode Island in the 1990s to become principal at a local elementary school. This history provides a unifying narrative for the arc of the collection.

The collection description only vaguely explains theme-based selection criteria: “This archive for Educating Change constitutes materials initially collected during our summer research project in 2004. […] The material primarily relates to the walk outs from Coachella Valley schools in 1976, but also covers related issues such as the farm workers movement, bilingual education, immigration, and the Chicano/Mexican American civil rights movement.” The creators do not describe who they are, and, though they assert that the collection is growing, they don’t explain how. It appears that the research group located the three women, interviewed them, archived pieces of their interviews as well as the transcripts of the full interviews, digitized some personal photographs and ephemera the women shared, and then located copies of newspaper articles and took photographs of sites of historical events significant to the women’s narratives.

Like the selection criteria, the metadata appears to be based in narrative. Visitors to the site can search the collection or can browse the collection by creators and contributors, by title, or by theme (education, farm workers, immigration, politics, women). When a visitor locates an object to view and clicks on it, the page lists the title, source, and date for the object and offers a statement from Brown University on use restrictions that implies that these objects are archived at Brown. The page also offers the option to “View Description,” which links to a longer page of metadata including other titles, publication/creation, creators/contributors, description, and host collection (here identified as this website collection, Educating for Change). The description includes a physical description of the object’s type and size as well as an abstract which offers a narrative about the content of the object. This is all good information, but because the collection is so small and overlap between themes is so great, it is difficult to browse through and get a sense of the information. (Additionally, images included on the narrative pages of the exhibit do not include any metadata and do not link to any information, which is frustrating.)

For limited information on the digital objects, from the object page viewers can also look at the “Document Map.” The Document Map offers a link to the metadata in xml as well as links to the object’s thumbnail file, low resolution jpeg, and high resolution jpeg. Low and high resolution are not defined. Also, there is a source TIFF file, but it is not viewable. The video clips are in mp4 format and the objects carry with them information about the video. The size of the video image is 320x240 pixels, and the bit rate varies from about 190 to 350 kbits/second while playing.

Because the collection depends for its value on the narrative laid out by the site, it appears that its ideal audience is probably activists working on initiatives for educational resources for Latino children in Providence, Rhode Island (there is a substantial narrative about Providence demographics and the changing educational environment that the site esbtablishes is underserving the Latino children there). The fact that the site is also available in a Spanish-language version would also be of use to a Latino activist audience in Providence.

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