Students Study Race

With support of an integrated library and information technology services team, Bryn Mawr was able to pivot phenomenally well to provide continuity for student's work.

What did Bryn Mawr students think about racial justice a century ago? Digital Scholarship Summer Fellows Cindy Chea ’22 (English), Hilana El-Mekkoussi ’21 (biochemistry), Peyton Moriarty ’21 (history), Tino Nguruve ’22 (computer science and math), and Elizabeth Zhao ’22 (sociology) spent the summer exploring this question through a multimedia exhibit.

The Students Study Race project, directed by Vanessa Davies, centers on two student-led conferences on race relations. In 1924, Mawrters helped organize a conference at Swarthmore that brought together Black and white students from colleges all over the East Coast. And in 1931, the College hosted a symposium that featured prominent Black intellectuals such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Alice Dunbar Nelson, and Walter White.

Carrying out research and designing and building the site required deep collaboration and careful planning. Guided by Digital Scholarship Specialist Alice McGrath and Digital Scholarship Graduate Assistants Andrea Samz-Pustol (archaeology) and Molly Kuchler (classics), the fellows learned the basics of front-end web development, data management, and geographic information systems (GIS).

Along the way, they built personal websites from scratch; experimented with tools for mapping, data visualization, and visual storytelling; and participated in workshops on digital scholarship topics such as text mining, web accessibility, and design thinking.

With archives closed during the pandemic, the fellows combed digital collections for documents related to the conferences. They were especially interested in the logistics of how Black participants traveled to Bryn Mawr at a time when people of color were denied access to travel amenities. They also asked what it was like to discuss racial issues on campuses where Black students had not been welcome. 

“Although I would love to see everyone on our team face-to-face, I think remote working has been very productive for me.” —Cindy Chea ’22

“I’ve always been kind of intimidated by the idea of programming. It’s really validating and satisfying to be able to create something real like my personal website.” —Elizabeth Zhao ’22

“The digital scholarship skills that we are learning (text analysis, map software, use of digital archives, website design and coding, etc.) are invaluable tools for the modern museum-inclined worker that I am.” —Peyton Moriarty ’21

Stay Creative and Carry On!

With support of an integrated library and information technology services team, Bryn Mawr was able to pivot phenomenally well to provide continuity for student research projects, new forms of engagement with collections, spring course transformation, and preparation for the fall academic program. 

—Gina M. Siesing, Ph.D., Chief Information Officer and Constance A. Jones Director of Libraries

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