A Special Collection: Activist Women’s Voices

Activist Women’s Voices

A Report on the Special Collection

The Activist Women’s Voices Oral History Project and Archive project is in the process of being reformatted to an easy-to-access digital medium.

The Digitization includes preservation of materials by reformatting the collection into digital assets for ease of use and in preparation for an online exhibition.  Permissions gathering includes communication with the participants to alert them of the plans for an online exhibition of the collection; and lastly, a creation of an Online exhibition will catalog the collection for digital and off-site access.

For the transition of the Winter 2012 to Spring 2013 semester, as Digitization is almost complete, a decision was made to enter split the responsibilities between an intern and volunteer in order to both gather permissions and initiate the online exhibition.

Spring 2013 Intern and Volunteer

Yasreen Ijaz, a library student from Queens College Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, completed her internship in January 2013. During her six-month stay, Yasreen received training from CUNY-TV on digitizing audio. Through this collaboration with CUNY-TV, digitization equipment was on loan to digitize the oral histories of the collection.

Erika Herzog, Spring 2013 Special Collections Intern

Erika Herzog
Spring 2013
Special Collections Intern

Yasreen cross-trained the Spring 2013 intern, Erika Herzog, a recent graduate from Palmer School of Library & Information Science, on the digitization section of the project.  Erika will complete the remaining audio digitization and then will sort duplicate copies, conducting general quality control of the digitized audio. In preparation for the Online Exhibition. Erika is in the beginning stages of capturing metadata contained in the collection.

The Special Collections Volunteer, who has worked in international broadcasting for many years, has joined the team to begin to work on permissions gathering. 

Special Collections Exhibition in Library


Joyce Gelb, Donor of the Activist Women’s Voices Collection and Oral History Project, Visits the Exhbition

A visual display on the first floor of the Graduate Center Library was mounted at the beginning of the Spring semester to commemorate the six months of hard work of the intern, Yasreen Ijaz, and to build momentum about the collection as it is being digitized.

Shawnta Smith, Yasreen Ijaz, and Polly Thistlethwaite in front of the main poster

Shawn(ta) Smith, Yasreen Ijaz, and Polly Thistlethwaite
in front of the main poster of the lobby display

The lobby display is structured so that each Activist has her/his own section. Three organizations are also featured.

Erika’s description of the display:

If there were photographs of the Activist in the project binders, those were included. Other ephemera which varied from newspaper clippings to book covers were also included.  
After the 21 Activists panels — which spanned 7 displays — three Organizations from the project (Community Voices HeardLesbian Herstory Archives, and Maura Clarke-Ita Ford Center) share the last display panel.

One of the most striking takeaways I observed from seeing all of the Activists and Organizations presented in one continuous visual display is that these women represent a wide diversity of various community-based organizations. The Activists worked in community organizations that vary from domestic violence, labor organizing, neighborhood development, aging women, job training, welfare reform to arts and culture. The diversity of New York City is also represented both geographically as well as in a diverse representations of the many ethnic communities that make up our city.

Special Collections Blog

The Mina Rees Library now has a Special Collections Blog, housed here as a page on the Mina Rees Library Blog.

The Spring 2013 intern (Erika Herzog) will post periodic updates on this new Special Collections Blog. Expect to learn about continued progress towards the digitization of the Activist Women’s Voices Oral History Project and Archive.

About the Author

Shawn(ta) Smith-Cruz is an Assistant Professor and Head of Reference at the Graduate Center Library.