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Nikki Silva


October 12, 2015

Cultural Heritage and Politics: Dealing with the Closure of the Illinois State Museum

October 12, 2015 | By | No Comments

On October 1st the Illinois State Museum (ISM), and its affiliates, closed its doors to the public. The staff is still going to work, but no one is able to visit the 138 year-old museum system. I have spent the past three summers working as a graduate assistant on the Morton Village Archaeological Project, an ongoing collaborative research project between MSU and the Dickson Mounds Museum (DMM), an affiliate of the Illinois State Museum. Since 2008, Dr. Jodie O’Gorman, Chair of the Anthropology Department and Associate Professor at MSU, and Dr. Michael Conner, Associate Curator of Anthropology at DMM, have trained undergraduates and volunteers in excavation and laboratory techniques at the Morton Village site, located within 2 miles of the DMM.


image credit: ‘Save the Illinois State Museum’ Facebook page

The museum closed because the Republican Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, and the Democrat-led Illinois legislature cannot agree on a state budget (Evanston Now, 2015). Rauner vetoed the legislature’s proposed budget and instead suggested a cut of $400 million from various state organizations, including the ISM (Cosier, 2015). This closure will only save the state approximately $4.8 million, only 1/10 of the state’s projected deficit (Cosier, 2015). According to the ‘Save the Illinois State Museum’ Facebook page, the ISM only costs an Illinoisan 64-cents per year in taxes. Over 386K people visited the ISM last year, and tourists spend $33 million in local communities each year. In addition, the ISM brought in $2 million in grants and contracts from agencies such as the NSF and the Army Corps of Engineers.

I found out about the impending closure while conducting pre-dissertation research at Dickson Mounds this summer. It was devastating to see friends and colleagues that I have formed relationships with over the last 3 summers fear for their jobs and begin cleaning out their offices, while preparing the collections for an uncertain future. Since this summer a few things have changed, the unionized curatorial staff remains employed, but non-union employees will be laid off, and at least 10 science staff has announced their retirements. All the human resources and fiscal department employees were laid off 2 weeks ago (Cosier, 2015).

The public outcry against this closure has been incredible, marches and candlelight vigils have been held and a Facebook page set up to make the public aware of events or changes to the current situation. However, this public outcry does not seem to be swaying the Governor to allow these institutions to remain open to the public.

The Dickson Mounds Museum (image credit: Kelvin Sampson)

The Dickson Mounds Museum (image credit: Kelvin Sampson)

How does this relate to the CHI fellowship?

For my CHI project, I will collaborate with CHI fellow Autumn Beyer. We have both worked closely with the incredible staff at the ISM and DMM, Autumn during her Master’s program at Illinois State University and I during the summer working on the Morton project. Our CHI project will focus on making a portion of the Morton Village archaeological project available to the public, but we would also like to show our support for the Illinois State Museum and Dickson Mounds Museum. We are working on the details, but we hope that with our project we can continue to promote awareness of the incredible work that the ISM and DMM have done to protect the cultural heritage of Illinois.

What can you do to help?

The 2015 Morton Village field crew (missing a few people)

The 2015 Morton Village field crew (missing a few people)


Cosier, Susan: “Amid budget fight, Illinois State Museum prepares to close”, Science Magazine, 30 September 2015, <>

Evanston Now, “Biss decries museum closures” Evanston Now, 30 September 2015, <>

Lott, Laura L., “Statement by Laura L. Lott, President and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, on the closure of the Illinois State Museum System ‘Illinois’ Treasures Trapped Behind Shuttered Doors.’”  American Alliance of Museums, 1 October 2015, <>

Autumn Beyer


October 5, 2015

A Quick Trick: How to view the HTML coding for any website

October 5, 2015 | By | No Comments

For this week, we had a challenge assigned to create a website. There were several stipulations, the website needed to contain a landing page, several subpages (one for each team member), and a way to navigate between each page.

My team, Jon, Santos, and myself, worked together to create our lovely website. The most important thing I learned through this challenge was taught by Lisa Bright, one of the returning CHI Fellows. I learned that it is possible to view the HTML coding from any website, so you can see how they set up the page. Now, with her help, I have the skills to do it and I would like to share the trick with all of you! Inspect Element

For Mac users, on Safari, you need to go to your Safari Preferences tab. Under this tab, choose Advanced and check the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option. Now, when you are viewing any website, highlight a section of the page, right (or double) click, then choose “Inspect Element.” This trick will open up another window or sidebar, allowing you to view the HTML coding for the page, with that element highlighted!

Take a look at these screenshots from my team’s webpage. The first one shows that I highlighted a portion of the website header. I then chose the “Inspect Element” option and the sidebar appeared, which can be seen in the photo below.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 8.47.33 AM

I hope you all found this little trick helpful! It turned out to be extremely useful when our team was working on creating our website challenge.

Lisa Bright


October 3, 2015

Ethics and Digital Archaeology/Osteology

October 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

Recently Alison Atkin (@alisonatkin) put a request out on Twitter, asking for examples of how individuals have dealt with ethics and digital osteology.   When it comes to what osteologists choose to share online, there really isn’t a set code of rules or guidelines. Alison was giving a presentation on this lack of protocol at the last BABAO conference, and summed up her talk on her most recent blog post.

What to share online, and what to keep private, is something that is often a delicate balance between the source of the information, and the personal ethics of the individual creating or curating the digital resource. This was something that I had to decide when I created Mortuary Mapping for my CHI project last year, as well as the archival updates I complete this summer.

When I worked excavating the cemetery, I had permission to take photos for personal and teaching purposes. I’m in possession of many images of skeletal remains that would have been relevant to the Mortuary Mapping website. However, I made the personal decision not to include any images of human remains (other than one photo that appeared in a local newspaper article) on the website. I did this out of respect not only to the individuals that were buried there, but for the extended and direct living relatives that may still be in the area.  Read More

Bernard C. Moore


October 1, 2015

CHI Fellow Introduction: Bernard C. Moore

October 1, 2015 | By | No Comments


My name is Bernard Moore. I am currently a second-year M.A. student in MSU’s African American & African Studies program. I received a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Fordham University in New York, and prior to coming to MSU I worked as an assessor for the City of New York’s property valuation division.

Since 2011 I’ve been heavily involved in Namibian Studies, very much on the periphery of African Studies (which itself is on the periphery of academia). In 2012, I completed a number of documentary films on Namibian history which were broadcast for the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation for Heroes’ Day 2014, Black History Month 2015, and for the 2015 Inauguration of President Dr. Hage Geingob. The film From Windhoek to Washington (co-produced with Matthew Ecker) has been screened on a number of occasions in the USA and Namibia. The interviews for the film project were archived at the National Archives of Namibia in Windhoek and the Basler Afrika Bibliographien in Switzerland. I also assisted in the conferral of an honorary doctorate for Namibia’s president, Dr. Hage Geingob, from Fordham University, where I screened a short film on his activism at the United Nations.

Read More



September 30, 2015

CHI Fellow Introduction: Jorge Felipe Gonzalez

September 30, 2015 | By | No Comments

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I am a second year PhD student in the Department of History at MSU. I received my undergraduate degree in History at the University of Havana in 2007. During a couple of years after graduation, I taught different courses at my Alma Mater. After a research stay as a fellow at the Iberoamerican Institute in Berlin, I started working as a researcher at the Fernando Ortiz Foundation in Cuba. The first digital project I was involved was a digital database about the liberated Africans community in Cuba during the 19th century. I coordinated a team of scholars working in Cuban archives, collecting, processing, and adding data to a software created for this project. Currently, I am developing with a colleague another digital database (hosted at MATRIX at MSU) based on baptism records from the black population from Cuba, Brazil, and the US. This project will gather substantial new information about slaves and their descendants in different regions in the Americas. This fellowship is a great opportunity to enrich my knowledge about digital tools that historians can apply for processing, preserving, and sharing data. CHI is undoubtedly related to my research interests.

My PhD dissertation focuses on the Atlantic connections among slave traders from Upper Guinea, Cuba and the Southern States in the US in order to explain the origins of the Spanish slave trade at the end of the 18th century and the emergence of the region of Galinhas in Africa as an important port of embarkation during the 19th century.  My fields of specialization are Atlantic History, Caribbean/Cuban History. I am currently pursuing a degree as Africanist at MSU. I am also codirecting a project at the  Afro-Latin American Research Institute at the Hutchins Center about the connections between Cuba and the US in the Atlantic slave trade.



September 29, 2015

CHI Fellow Re-Introduction: Santos F. Ramos

September 29, 2015 | By | No Comments

Coyols Unapologetic Survival

I am a returning fellow for the program, last year having developed a digital project documenting Xicano culture in the Great Lakes Region, Indigenous food sovereignty, and MiXicano visual art. I am now in my second year of a PhD program in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric and American Cultures, focusing on Cultural and Indigenous Rhetorics. My research takes an ethnographic approach to examining the intersections of pedagogy, Indigeneity, and social movements, and I also try to spend as much time as possible supporting local community education programs geared toward Indigenous youth—such as the Indigenous Youth Empowerment Program and the Native American Youth Association.

One of my primary interests is looking at cultural continuance as a form of resistance to assimilation with Western modernity and considering the relationship between academic research and non-academic Indigenous communities who engage these types of practices. Especially as a Xicano person living in Michigan, much of my attention is also focused on inter-Indigenous relationships and with negotiating the often-conflicting markers of “Indigenous” and “migrant.”

I am excited to be back for another year in this program because it has created many opportunities for me to think about all of these fun/complicated topics in a different way than I am typically used to. By developing a website to explore these subjects, new questions come up about the way that cultures are being influenced by the intense emergence of digital platforms.

Here’s to another solid year as a CHI Fellow!

Update: the image used above was created by Angélica De Jesús and was used in my project for last year, The Xicano Cookbook: Survival in the Great Lakes Region.



September 28, 2015

CHI Fellow Introduction: Jon M. Wargo

September 28, 2015 | By | No Comments

Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 4.22.21 PMHello! My name is Jon M. Wargo. Currently, I am a doctoral candidate in Teacher Education specializing in language and literacy education and receiving a graduate certificate in qualitative research methods. Prior to coming to Michigan State University I received my B.A. in English and Gender Studies at Indiana University and taught/field-instructed K-12 English language arts in Colorado. I am very excited to round out my graduate school career by being a CHI fellow!

Anchored in interdisciplinary study, my work engages with qualitative and humanities oriented research to explore the intersections of language and literacy education, technology, and cultural rhetorics. Given the increasing presence and seemingly ubiquitous status new media and digital technologies have in mediating contemporary lives, my dissertation project examines how LGBT and queer youth engage in these varying levels of mediation as they navigate and negotiate communities, construct visibility, and orchestrate convergent identities across online/offline contexts. Emerging from my interests in youth multimodal composing, my research continues to be informed by the haptic practices of writing in digital environments. Leveraging audio as the mode of primacy, I hope to utilize the CHI fellowship to interrogate how community literacies and cultural rhetorics are written through and with sound. Ultimately working to connect digital soundscapes around the globe, one of my larger goals this year is to develop pedagogical materials for humanities teachers interested in working with sonic composing. Through this participatory archive and knowledge base I hope to build materials that hear, recognize, and sustain community and help attune educators to the rhythms of culture.

Sara Bijani


September 25, 2015

CHI Fellow Introduction: Sara Bijani

September 25, 2015 | By | No Comments

National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year. "The Spirit of Houston: The First National Women's Conference: An Official Report to the President, the Congress and the People of the United States." Washington: U.S. Government. Printing Office, 1978.

I am a historian of the contemporary United States, with research interests in the areas of gender and political culture. This fellowship presents an exciting opportunity to learn methodological skills that will strongly enrich my future work, as the temporal and social dimensions of my research are well suited to the unique narrative structures that digital scholarship provides. More specifically, my dissertation project explores the interactions of activist coalitions, federal urban policy, and municipal governance in the late 20th century United States. Within this context, I study the intersections of formal politics and outsider identities in large municipalities, with an emphasis on those coalitions and politicians whose activism reshaped structures of governance in several large cities during the culture wars of the 1980s. I am principally interested in a small wave of women who were elected to mayoral offices in large U.S. cities during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the local coalitions that made these elections possible. I argue that these women mayors in the late 20th century U.S. demonstrated a spectrum of sensitivity to sex, gender, race, and other identity based experiences of injustice that cannot be simplistically reduced to their own individual sex identity, but that also cannot be entirely disassociated from the situated cultural experience of being sexed in a particular time and place. Uncovering these experiences—many of them retained by living people—requires the development of a toolkit that incorporates but goes beyond the archival methods traditionally employed by historians.

I recently completed an intensive and inspiring two week summer institute in oral history at Columbia University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics, where a fair amount of the workshops emphasized the unique challenges and opportunities of digital curation within oral history archives. As Doug Boyd compelling (and repeatedly) warned the fellows at this institute, the promise of digital access is still very much a work in progress for most archives, as the sheer volume of the collections makes accessible curation extremely difficult. As a CHI fellow this year, I hope to develop a pilot version of a recyclable digital gallery interface for oral history collections here in the Michigan State University libraries. Recognizing that this is a very lofty goal, I do hope to produce something that will add to the library’s ongoing digital initiatives in a useful and meaningful way. Stay tuned to find out what that looks like!

[image: A “pro plan” delegate at the 1977 National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas clipped from the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year. “The Spirit of Houston: The First National Women’s Conference: An Official Report to the President, the Congress and the People of the United States.” Washington: U.S. Government. Printing Office, 1978.]


September 25, 2015

CHI Fellow Introduction: Laura McGrath

September 25, 2015 | By | No Comments

My name is Laura B. McGrath. I am a fifth-year doctoral candidate (ABD) in the Department of English at MSU. I am very excited to be a CHI Fellow for 2015-2016. IMG_1211I study literary modernism and digital humanities. My dissertation, tentatively titled Modernish: Modernism and Literary Distinction in the 21st Century, uses traditional, ethnographic, and digital methods to explore modernism’s symbolic capital in the field of contemporary publishing. I have also served as Project Manager for the Digital Humanities and Literary Cognition lab (DHLC) in MSU’s English Department. In my capacity as Project Manager, I have written and received a number of grants (including the ACLS Digital Innovations Grant), mentored our undergraduate student researchers, and taught DH methods with the aim of developing our centerpiece project: a study of the neuroscience of reading Jane Austen. I have been fortunate to represent our work at the Literary Lab at Stanford University, and was invited to be a member of the Graduate Student Caucus at the University of Chicago’s Cultural Analytics conference, hosted by the Neubauer Collegium.

I am very much looking forward to my year as a CHI Fellow. I am looking forward to launching a large-scale, text analysis project on the Armed Services Editions. The Armed Services Editions are a collection of ~1,500 novels, repurposed for American soldiers during WWII. These texts were collected by the Council on Books in Wartime, a short-lived (and scary-sounding) office in the Department of Defense. The idea, so the CBW’s story goes, was to select only the most “democratic” novels in order to help American soldiers “fight the war of ideas.” Through a literary-sociological corpus study, I want to figure out what a “democratic” novel or style is– at least, according to the Department of Defense in 1942. This project has the potential to open up some fascinating questions about the intersection of politics and literary form, and hopefully give some insight on the literary field during a crucial period in American culture.

My written work has appeared in SymbolismPerspectives, and Books and Culture.




September 25, 2015

CHI Introduction Fellow: Joyce-Zoe Farley

September 25, 2015 | By | No Comments

Joyce FarleyMy name is Joyce-Zoe Farley; I’m a second-year doctoral student in African American and African Studies (AAAS) with a graduate certification in Advance Journalism. My research focuses on riots, rebellions, civil disturbances and uprisings of the 20th century with the catalyst of the research being Detroit 1967. I will be the first non-traditional dissertation in AAAS producing a documentary film instead of the conventional book. I’m unlike most emerging Black Studies scholars, as oppose to having a background in history, I have a Bachelors in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Business Management from Hampton University in Hampton, VA. Hampton University is a Historically Black College/University (HBCU) with a rich history of advancing the lives of Black people through education. Additionally, I completed a Masters in Oral History with a concentration in African American studies from Columbia University in New York City. Scholar-entrepreneur-innovator is a title that I enthusiastically embrace and will more than likely be the trajectory of my career once I’ve attained my doctorate here at Michigan State. This path has necessitated a unique set of skills—coding, programming, project development and etc. all found in the Cultural Heritage Informatics (CHI) Fellowship. I’m thrilled to be a 2015-2106 CHI Fellow and explore the digital world.

Check out my latest film from my study abroad this summer at the University of Leiden in Leiden, Netherlands. It is a cross-cultural analysis of two continents through the eyes of an emerging scholar, journalist, independent critical ethnographer and thinker.