Friday, October 12, 2012

Young Lords in Lincoln Park

Hello world! Happy Day of Digital Archives!

A team of us are writing from the library and archives at Grand Valley State University. For the past month, we've been collaborating with faculty, staff, and students on an exciting new community-based oral history project chronicling the history of the Young Lords.

"The Young Lords in Lincoln Park" is a new digital collection at GVSU that highlights the ongoing struggle for fair housing, self-determination, and human rights that was launched by Mr. José "Cha-Cha" Jiménez.

Who are the Young Lords?

Founded in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, José“Cha-Cha” Jiménez, currently a non-traditional student here at Grand Valley State University, transformed the Young Lords from a street gang into a formidable political organization in 1968. Under Mr. Jiménez’s leadership, the Young Lords solidified their platform and became a militant voice for Puerto Rican nationalism, opposing urban renewal, and supporting revolutionary and anti-colonial movements around the world. They formed an alliance with the Black Panther Party, joined the Rainbow Coalition, and published a newspaper, successfully uniting poor African Americans, whites, and Latinos to protest substandard housing, police brutality, and political corruption in one of the most segregated cities in postwar America.

A rich video collection of nearly 100 born-digital oral histories of the founding members, friends and family is now available online. Plans are in the works to digitize the highlights of the remainder of the collection, consisting of historical photographs, papers, and clippings documenting the origins of the Young Lords Movement.  Mr. Jiménez’s unpublished manuscripts from his campaign for alderman of Chicago’s 46th ward, founding of the Lincoln Park Camp, and KO Club as well as photos, documents, clippings, and related ephemera donated by other individuals who have been interviewed as part of this project will be included.

A quick background

We’re not new to this process. We already have a content management system, digital storage space, a decent workflow and experience with both digital audio and video (see our Veterans History Project and JohnsonCenter for Philanthropy Archives collections, for example).  We even have a neat little script that runs over the top of our collections that allows us to display both the PDF transcript and video for a resource.

We’re not a large staff, though, and none of us are bilingual. We ran into a number of challenges along the way that were exacerbated by a looming deadline. 

What went wrong not-so-right

  • Digital video files are huge!
We really underestimated the amount of time it would take to create master and access files of Mr. Jiménez’s videos. The camera he used recorded multiple Blu-ray files per interview. Transferring the originals over to the archives, creating master copies and editing and compressing multiple access files (for every browser) took a very long time. We are still looking into ways to embed provenance information in these files.
  • The collection is bilingual, and its language is colloquial
Library of Congress Subject Headings have let us down. The people in the community for whom this collection was created related their experiences using both Spanish and English slang and vernacular. They expect to be able to search the collection in the same way.

Translating the biographies and the transcription and translation of the interviews has taken a lot or coordination and collaboration. We have had to reevaluate how we incorporate the user’s needs. These are issues we are currently working through.
  • OMG! Sunday is Grito de Lares and we have a deadline to meet!
The online “unveiling” of this resource was a much anticipated event for the community. In our exuberance, we made promises to them that were difficult to keep. We agreed to an unrealistic deadline and were constantly pressed for time. We made a few compromises to make the collection available, and we’re now trying to retrospectively create a workflow for this project so that essential administrative and technical tasks are completed.

We'll be sure to slow down next time.

The collection: Young Lords in Lincoln Park

Project website: Young Lords

MLive article: Grand Valley State University finishes first part of Young Lords Latino history project

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