Feminist Archive Exhibits: Highlighting Open Feminist Knowledge through Undergraduate Research

Guest post by Dr. Julie Shayne, teaching professor in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell

My Digital Scholarship Faculty Fellows grant was a tremendous success for the University of Washington Bothell as an institution, the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences in general, as well as Gender, Women, & Sexuality Studies, and my students. As outlined in my proposal, I worked with IAS student Jesse Blaire and Digital Scholarship librarian Denise Hattwig to develop Feminist Archive Exhibits, a project related to my class, Histories and Movements of Gender and Sexuality. Jesse was tasked with learning the digital platform Omeka so that they could serve as a student teaching assistant in the class. Denise and I co-created a new assignment for students to build digital exhibits showcasing artifacts in open feminist archives.

In order to create their exhibits, students were given a collection of existing open feminist archives to browse, like the ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives and the Digital Transgender Archive, so they could uncover histories that go unheard unless preserved by activists archivists. Students were then tasked with creating their own Omeka “exhibit” by stitching together the story they wanted to tell from across a minimum of three archives, including the Feminist Community Archive of Washington (FCA-WA). Students were required to include the FCA-WA because that archive is the result of this same class’s students from the past six years. The individual exhibits were then combined and curated to create the Feminist Archive Exhibits site. Jesse assisted the students throughout, in all things technical and then after the quarter ended in curating this final exhibit and writing or co-writing most of the framing text (some of which I borrow here.) While Denise, Jesse, Penelope Wood (GWSS librarian), and all the student contributors are incredibly proud of the work within the exhibit, really, so much more came from it than is housed here.

Jesse learned several skills from working with us on this project, primarily the digital platform Omeka and public writing. As a result of the latter (combined with being a student in my course The Power of Feminist Writing) Jesse recently published a piece on the UWB home page titled “Fighting to be seen, fighting to be heard.” Needless to say, Jesse was a talented writer prior to the project, but working on the text for these exhibit added to their writing genre repertoires. Additionally, three other students in the class presented about their exhibits in my subsequent class, Interdisciplinary Inquiry, as an example of what undergraduate research can look like, especially if you take yourself seriously. One of those students, Audriannah Horne worked with me this summer to help me develop a new Discovery Core class for incoming pre-majors called “Revolution and Feminism in the Americas.” One task Audriannah plans to undertake is to create a lesson plan about feminist research where she will lead a class in the fall, teaching students how to use archives to learn about the hidden histories of revolution and feminism that mainstream texts often don’t communicate. Finally, I will be presenting about the assignment at the National Women’s Studies Association in November of this year.

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