The Archives & Special Collections at the University of Connecticut will host the first traveling installment of the exhibition Our Comics, Ourselves co-curated by Jan Descartes and Monica McKelvey Johnson. Premiering at the Interference Archive in Brooklyn, NY in January of 2016, this exhibition featured comics selections from the Interference Archive collections as well as private collections on loan. The exhibition includes comic books, graphic novels, DIY comics, and various comics paraphernalia primarily from the United States, 1945 to present. The works range from autobiographical to sheer fantasy, and explore feminism, abortion, racism, cultural identity, social activism, veterans of war, sexual abuse, immigration, public health, civil rights, gender and sexual identity, and more.
This guest post by Archivist Assistant Cristobal Ortega-Berger details his work with the U. Roberto Romano Papers which document child labor in still photography and documentary film. This collection is a massive resource for film makers like Cris, as well as human rights and photo-journalism researchers. Selections from the Romano Papers are on display in May and June of 2016 in the John P. McDonald Reading Room at the Archives & Special Collections.
The unlock tone rang, I inhaled sterile air, and slid the rubber lid off of a box. Silver and dark hard drives line the inside of six boxes; scores of video cassette tapes and DVDs populate the rest. Data storage’s ubiquity almost make me forget these media preserve evidence of child labor, and progress from it. The question I asked on my first day of work is a simple one that archivists alongside humanitarians ask:
“What are we working with here?”
- Roberto (Robin) Romano worked as an international news and documentary producer and photographer. A prolific filmmaker and photographer, Romano worked commercially under Alan Kaplan Studios for private clients like Budweiser, AT&T, and Coca Cola. Romano also worked as a visual journalist for Sept Jours, a Canadian news show, and as a photojournalist for Impact Visuals before he took on his pivotal work Death of the Slave Boy (1997). The two-hour documentary investigated the life and death of Pakistani Iqbal Masih, an outspoken 12 year old child slave and activist.
We are working with files from a well-traveled humanitarian who was as comfortable filming in an illegal quarry as he was researching child labor laws in his cigarette-smoke stained studio.
Romano ignited his work on global child labor. He soon traveled to Mexico, Pakistan, Kenya, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and inside the United States to interview and photograph working children. The result was the beginning of a movement. Romano Productions and Galen Films premiered Stolen Childhoods in New York on May 20, 2005. The same day, Dana Stevens, of the New York Times, wrote about the film “The bleakness of ‘Stolen Childhoods’ is not completely unremitting; the film also celebrates the efforts of a few successful programs to combat the scourge of child labor around the world.”
We are working with a collection of dangerously and meticulously documented voices and faces that changed legislation, and may continue to do so. Romano left behind photos of child laborers, hidden camera interviews with traffickers and victims, filmmaking budgets, working film scripts, and professional correspondences. During the last decades of his life – Romano made professional relationships with non-profit organizations like RugMark, Goodweave, Human Rights Watch, and other humanitarian organizations. RugMark: Faces of Freedom photo exhibition is one of Romano’s signature projects that shatters preconceptions of human, and especially, child trafficking.
My first work as an archivist is on the Robin Romano collection; my background is in documentary visual journalism. At the time I was approached to work on Romano’s collection, I was editing a documentary about human trafficking called Free Time. In it – academics and prominent leaders who tangibly challenge human trafficking explain the problems in understanding what is human trafficking and its forms.
Human trafficking is discussed using an established visual grammar. Films like Taken (2007) show white, adolescent, rich female tourists who are kidnapped to sell for sex work in Eastern Europe. This is not entirely inaccurate, but repeated exposure to this visual pattern allows others to devalue and ignore hundreds of millions of stories like those shown in Stolen Childhoods. Romano’s evidence disproves the single narrative approach of human trafficking, and the single narrative approach to solutions.
I am not going to be the first photographer filmmaker researching Romano’s collection. As a young visual journalist, I am learning about professional workflow by ingesting and archiving documents like a list of questions for a subject, an equipment budget, or a photo contact sheet. Given the gravity of the collection, I have been forced to ask new questions about perspective and agency: how does one reconcile their privilege as a documentarian relating with the subject or interviewee, how does a filmmaker ask a child questions that conjure up memories of skin-peeling work? Will this collection of child labor ever be obsolete in describing contemporary social problems?
Len Morris, Romano’s co-director for Stolen Childhoods and longtime friend donated the majority of Romano’s physical and digital collections to the Archives and Special Collections in 2015. Morris recently premiered The Same Heart, a documentary discussing solutions to child labor, and used many of Romano’s final moving images. Posthumously, Romano’s work may continue to work to educate and challenge ignorance about poverty, policy, prejudice, and profit.
–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), recently completing his internship at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.
The Balkans are once again becoming a highlight in international news with the upcoming appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Of the 9 nominees from throughout the world, 5 have originated from the Former Yugoslavia, reflecting the importance of the region and its role in sculpting leaders that are prepared to lead one of the world’s most crucial international security organizations. The news could not put more light onto the region and my current work at Archives & Special Collections in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Through my research that has analyzed the various intricacies of the region, I have come across numerous UN resolutions and other documents written by Amnesty International that had been written by Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, one of the current nominees to the UN head position. With his nomination, we see that the plethora of archives possessed by the University of Connecticut have a deep and critical importance not only in the historic realm, but also in contemporary human rights and international relations sphere. These documents demonstrate Türk’s dedication to peace and an end to human rights violations early on in his political career and this nomination has evidently confirmed his fit for one of the most important positions for human rights.
Having spent four months on my research guide, I have taken the hundreds of documents, which are found in the Human Rights Internet archives, and broken them down into topics that easily pinpoint any reader to specific topics of the war. Many underlining factors for example lead to the Yugoslav war, and under my research guide, one can find information relating to the Polish Solidarity movement and how it had triggered revolt and unrest in Yugoslavia. In addition, Yugoslav-Soviet relations and the economic crisis of the 1980s, which had undercut stability in the country also had a detrimental effect to the incitement of the war. The indicators of violence and economic downturn before the outbreak of the war illustrate the factors that all together sparked a horrific genocidal and bloody war in Yugoslavia.
In addition to helping understand the underlying factors of the war, the research guide also has given a fundamental understanding of the wide amounts of advocacy that had been calling for an end to the war and the mass amounts of human rights violations. Amnesty International for example had initiated global advocacy for a cease-fire. Being able to gather all the advocacy reports and systematically break them down into specific topics within the over 50-page guide was very difficult, but it gave me the skills to analyze quickly and effectively within a very organized structure. Without a doubt, the time spent in the Archives had not only made me more knowledgeable about such a complicated history, but further provided skills that are critical for my future career as an International lawyer, such as efficient reading skills, an ability to apply the knowledge attained to the current contemporary events in relation to that part of the world.
I believe that one of the highlights of this internship must be the clear bias that western agencies have when covering an international conflict. The documents at the archives center, without a doubt, are heavily biased. Had I no background in the topic, I would have left this internship believing that the blame for the eruption of war was solely due to Serb aggression. Nevertheless, if we look into history and understand that for example there had been massive Serb emigration from Kosovo due to ethnic discrimination and cleansing of Serbs in Kosovo for hundreds of years, one should have a very different perspective on the current status of the quasi state. The sheer lack of documents that touch on the NATO bombings of Serbia and how thousands of innocent Serbs died essentially by American aggression is one of many examples that help us see this bias. While there may have been a few documents that touch on the topic, most Amnesty International documents avoid to discuss the horrific deaths of women in labor when NATO had “mistakenly” bombed hospitals.
In all, I would say that this internship has well prepared me for my future career and has allowed me to spread awareness of the importance of the region, and advocate for the halt of human rights violations, especially acts of genocide. Furthermore, the ability to organize a very complicated research guide that arranges various topics and hundreds of documents has benefited my skills to research and will further facilitate research for scholars in the future.
Len & Georgia Morris will be screening their film on child poverty The Same Heart this Wednesday, April 20th 2016 from 4-6pm in the Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The film, screened as part of the Human Rights Institute’s Film Series, follows a growing number of global economists, joining their voices with moral leaders of the world. They agree that an extremely small financial transaction tax, “The Robin Hood Tax,” could for the first time, place the needs of children at the heart of the global financial system. Suggesting a sustainable approach,The Same Heart also follows a dynamic Kenyan community organizer who devotes his life to making programs work from the bottom up.
This film connects significantly with our U. Roberto (Robin) Romano Papers in the Archives & Special Collections, recently donated by Len Morris. Robin Romano, credited as Cameraman in The Same Heart, directed and shot several films on child labor and global income inequality. Although he passed away in 2013, his creative legacy involves a focus on human rights violations experienced by children around the world. His complete body of work including photos, films, and interviews, is now archived with at the Archives & Special Collections.
Wednesday, April 20th, 2016
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Thomas J. Dodd Center, Storrs Campus
–This is a guest post by UConn Senior Matthew Kosior (Political Science and French/Francophone Studies Major and a Human Rights, Spanish and International Studies Minor), currently interning at the Archives & Special Collections, focusing his work on the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection.
With ever normalizing relations between the Balkan states, especially with the recent Serbia-Kosovo talks as well as Montenegro’s invitation to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), from an outsider’s perspective the progress made in the region seems ordinary. One cannot however ignore the fact that the former Yugoslavia has endured violent waves of wars that would permanently strain relations between the various ethnic groups and nation-states that would emerge from the chain of conflicts. The complicated history of the region and its path towards stabilization can be found through the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet Collection (HRIC) found in the Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, which contains a plethora of articles, resolutions, and books relating to the former Yugoslavia. Continue reading
Currently on display at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, a recently acquired set of Celebrate People’s History Poster Series from the Justseeds artists cooperative. The Archives & Special Collections has added this poster series to its collection because of the strong linkages to the Alternative Press Collection which contains posters, flyers, pamphlets and newspapers about the movements depicted in the series.
This collection was organized and curated by Justseeds founder Josh MacPhee for distribution to all corners of public and social spaces:
“The Celebrate People’s History posters are rooted in this do-it-yourself tradition of mass-produced and distributed political propaganda, but detoured to embody principles of democracy, inclusion, and group participation in the writing and interpretation of history. It’s rare today that a political poster is celebratory, and when it is, it almost always focuses on a small canon of male individuals: MLK, Ghandi, Che, or Mandela. Rather than create another exclusive set of heroes, I’ve generated a diverse set of posters that bring to life successful moments in the history of social justice struggles. To that end, I’ve asked artists and designers to find events, groups, and people who have moved forward the collective struggle of humanity to create a more equitable and just world. The posters tell stories from the subjective position of the artists, and are often the stories of underdogs, those written out of history. The goal of this project is not to tell a definitive history, but to suggest a new relationship to the past.
CPH posters have been pasted up in the streets of over a dozen cities. Each time I receive emails from people wanting to know more. Our streets can be a venue for asking these questions, and the CPH posters can play a role in answering them. Soon after the first poster was printed, educators began asking for posters for their classrooms. It’s been great to see the posters become part of curriculum, and to see lessons built around them. Once when giving a talk about CPH, I was approached by a student in training to become a teacher. She was first introduced to the posters when they hung in one of her grade school classrooms, almost a decade earlier. Now she intends to use them in her future classes. I hope that these posters can continue to act as some small corrective to the dominant narratives told in schools, and that more teachers engage students in alternative ways of understanding the past.”
This exhibition will be up in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center from February 1st – April 15th, 2016.
At the Archives & Special Collections, we have been ramping up our interoperability. What does that mean exactly? Twinkling screens, chatter of audio recording and tactile interactions with materials on exhibition. Currently, we are featuring collection materials from 50 years ago in the archives to help highlight the year 1966. These selections contain personal correspondence and work from famous artists and activists like Ed Sanders, Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima and Abbie Hoffman. Popular culture and ephemera from comic books to Life magazine relating to the politics of War in Vietnam, LSD, the rise of Black Power and the battle against Communism.
Included in the exhibit are Alternative Press Collection materials documenting the War in Vietnam ranging from the scholarly to the ephemeral. The Poras Collection of Vietnam War Memorabilia contains posters, death cards, publications and satirical army culture objects demonstrating the antagonisms of war at home and abroad. From a personal collection of Navy Corpsman Cal Robertson, his correspondence from Vietnam in 1966 while deployed over two tours as a medic attached to a marine platoon, detailing the daily grind and uncertainties of waiting in the jungle and relaying safety concerns to loved ones back home. The Alternative Press also includes a trove of anti-war publications such as the Committee for Nonviolent Action.
The physical exhibit in our reading room is but one element of our program to promote access to collections through outreach. Media displays within the Archives Reading Room featuring additional photographs and videos demonstrate the interactive qualities of physical objects outside of a static display. Currently, the newest arrival to the reading room is a large tablet-like touch table which has digital content loaded from our Omeka exhibit on1966 which will be unveiled in the coming month on the web.
On June 18 2015, Dylann Roof, 21 years old, shot and killed nine African-Americans at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When Roof was apprehended, he wore the flags of Apartheid-Era South Africa and Rhodesia, former white supremacist settler colonial states in Southern Africa. Roof also had Confederate flags hung on his walls and frequented white power websites. These race based murders fueled an ongoing debate about Confederate symbolism and its usage in the private and public spheres. The Alternative Press Collection at the Archives & Special Collections is comprised of fringe publishing from both ends of the political spectrum such as White Patriot and Death to the Klan. The current debate around the Confederate flag draws on long standing uses of historical interpretation and cultural identity dating to the Civil War and Reconstruction era of 1861-1877. As demonstrated in this exhibition currently on display in the Archives through these selected materials from the Alternative Press, Northeast Children’s Literature and Labor collections, figures such as Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, abolitionists John Brown and Frederick Douglass serve as symbolic totems of heritage, spirituality and citizenship. Continue reading
My visit to South Africa on assignment for Global Affairs/UNESCO and Archives & Special Collections began in the first week of June in Johannesburg during an unusually cold winter (for South Africa). The purpose of the trip was to explore and convene on the archival landscape which had been mapped in 2000 through a partnership between the African National Congress (ANC) and the University of Connecticut. The initial archives project was funded by the Mellon Foundation to organize, describe and make accessible the ANC archives documenting its activities while in exile under Apartheid. These archives, located at the National Heritage and Cultural Studies Center (NAHECS) University of Fort Hare (UFH) in Alice, Eastern Cape, have been available in their reading room for public research since 2005. Between 2000 and 2005, UConn sent faculty, archivists, librarians and oral historians to UFH to hold training sessions and benefit from this skill sharing partnership. In conjunction, UFH sent archivists and librarians to receive training within the UConn libraries. Continue reading
In 1968 students at UConn demonstrated against the ROTC and military recruiting on campus as national uprisings began to foment against the war in Vietnam. Corporate job recruiting by General Electric and Olin Mathieson on Gilbert Rd. drew confrontations between protestors and state police along with President Homer D. Babbidge’s approach toward a business friendly posture for the university. The combative times of the UConn Crisis in 1968-1969 was the prologue to an even more eruptive year to come. Lyndon Johnson’s escalation of the war led to major backlash in the mid to late 1960s which President Nixon’s administration promised to diminish by quietly widening military campaigns into neighboring Cambodia.
Student demonstrations in over 1,250 college campuses across the country led to confrontations with local police and the national guard. On May 4th, 1970 protests at Kent State University in Ohio led to national guardsmen firing into demonstrators killing four individuals and wounding several others. The events of 1970 galvanized much of the public’s perception on the war in Vietnam however clashes at home along class and race lines similarly disrupted any clear consensus about the war at home and abroad. The days following the Kent State shootings on the University of Connecticut campus would produce the actions of students, faculty and administration which declared 1970 as the high water mark for social upheavel. The events below were extracted from the extensive archive documented by student organizations, administration and the Daily Campus: Continue reading
Currently being installed in the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center Archives & Special Collection’s Gallery, an exhibit We are the Armenians. A two month community exhibition celebrating the history, strength, vibrancy, and accomplishments of New England’s Armenian American community. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, the exhibition will showcase artifacts, photographs & family heirlooms belonging to members of Connecticut’s Armenian community and the Armenian Museum of America (Watertown, MA).
We are the Armenians, an exhibition sponsored by UConn Global Affairs, is part of the 2015 Norian Armenian Community Exhibition Project. This project aims to provide a forum for individuals from the Armenian American community throughout Connecticut and the greater New England region to record, share, and preserve their stories, and in so doing, to contribute to the understanding of themes relating to immigration, cultural diversity, and identity relevant to the Armenian diaspora. The historical foundation of this outreach program was established with the Norian Armenian Oral History Project, directed by Bruce Stave and Sondra Astor Stave, which encompasses twenty interviews, archived in the Connecticut Oral History Collection in UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
March 12th – May 15th, 2015; 9am-5pm, M-F
Location: Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Storrs CT
Annual Alice K. Norian Lecture, March 24th, 2015; 6:00pm-8:15pm
“Remembering Armenia: A Journey through Historical Fiction & Memoir”
Author Chris Bohjalian and Professor Armen T. Marsoobian
Location: Konover Auditorium, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, Storrs CT
This summer, Research Assistant of Digital Media & Design Clarissa Ceglio and Archivist Graham Stinnett will be co-teaching two courses on Digital Humanities and Archives. The courses are for junior’s in high school intended to provide them with early education in University tools and resources such as libraries, archives and digital instruction. The course will focus its primary source work on the Joe Snow Punk Rock Collection at the Archives & Special Collections, where students will have a first hand experience with punk flyers, posters, stickers, pins and ephemera within the collection. Students will benefit from a behind the scenes experience with historical records and artifacts in an archives to prepare them for future research access in an academic setting. The archival experience will then be extended into the digital realm, where students will construct portals for digital content and description and analysis of primary resources on the web. Students will learn about techniques for manipulating digital content and interface tools to build contextual digital media pages. Providing students the opportunity to engage in archival resources at an early age promotes further investigation into historical documents as education and research continues at the University level and beyond.