Research Begins!

by Tucker Shelley

Tucker Shelley is a rising senior at UR from Burlington, Vermont. He is a member of the Theta Chi fraternity on campus. In his free time, Tucker prefers staying active and listening to good music. This is his first summer working on the Race & Racism Project and will continue similar work next semester for Dr. Maurantonio in the “Digital Memory and the Archive” course.

This week our team of archivists for the Race & Racism Project here at the University of Richmond began our research. We have been tasked with creating a spreadsheet of descriptive metadata referring to archival documents. For those who don’t know, metadata is a word that means data about data. In the spreadsheets, we have been recording the title of the source, a short description, an identifier, a citation for the source, a screenshot of the text, and a list of subjects that the source relates to. Our team has started with old Collegian articles and yearbook pages. Personally, I have taken on a large list of Collegian articles.

I was sent a long list of Collegian articles by Irina Rogova, project archivist and Team Archive mentor. These articles have ranged from movie reviews to articles condemning the KKK and include topics both relevant and seemingly irrelevant to the Race & Racism Project. My research up to this point hasn’t needed typical research skills as I was essentially handed a list of articles and haven’t searched out articles myself. However, I have been honing skills relating to transcribing these newspaper articles. I have learned how to properly identify and cite these sources. I also have become proficient in briefly describing the articles and assigning appropriate subjects to them.

Reading against the grain is what one must do while reading archival documents written by those in power–often white men. It is a way of gaining meaning from an article based on how its written, the language used instead of the message that the writer attempted to deliver. Often, what isn’t said can be more telling than what they decide to write. The topics that worried about race were fairly straightforward, one of them blatantly condemns the KKK’s ignorant ideals. But another question that stems from articles such as the one about the KKK is “why was this written?” Was there an event on campus in 1957 that involved the KKK? I plan on looking a little more into this year and the happenings on campus.

Oftentimes these articles contain information that is more than relevant today. In the same KKK article, the writer mentions in the last paragraph that the KKK had been discrediting news outlets such as the New York Times as propaganda. That sounds rather familiar in the year 2018. The writer dubbed the KKK as “the blind (ignorant) leading the blind.” Attempts to discredit the news media–a tactic used by the KKK in the 1950s–is being used by our government even today.

It has been really interesting going through a time portal to earlier days of the university through these articles. However, I am extremely excited to get more particular with my articles and focus on things said by men in power such as the Board of Trustees.