–Matt Jones is a PhD candidate in the English department at the University of Connecticut. His work focuses on post-Enlightenment discourse in 18th- and 19th-century British literature. He has contributed to the processing and description of the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet and contributes research commentary on the collection to the Human Rights Archives Blog.
In a 1989 issue of Nicaraguan Perspectives Noam Chomsky discusses the extent of events that, for one reason or another, go unreported by the US media. Asserting that the media are in fact “corporations” themselves, he explains that “this and many other factors influence [the media] to produce a picture of the world that reflects the interests of owners, advertisers, and the privileged elements that occupy managerial positions.” To those aware of the greater American involvement in South America – and elsewhere – this claim would not have constituted a particularly eye-opening revelation. It, presumably, would be even less momentous in our post-Wikileaks society. Of course, what made Chomsky’s piece in Nicaraguan Perspectives informative were the insights of these events that he described, as these were inaccessible to a public reliant upon the Times and the Post for its news. Though Chomsky and many others continue to expose and disseminate information unacknowledged by major American media outlets, there is much more to excavate beyond what can be included in a single essay, or chapter, or op-ed.
University of Connecticut’s Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center holds the Laurie S. Wiseberg and Harry Scoble Human Rights Internet (HRI) Collection which contains an extensive amount of primary sources related to human rights concerns across the world that fall into the category of “unacknowledged” by prime media outlets. Remaining within the example of 1980s Nicaragua, among the HRI materials are local reports on human rights abuses, accounts of living conditions under the Somoza Family Dictatorship and of the Sandinista movement, and expansive lists of political prisoners and missing persons. The Collection contains similar materials for countries, disputed territories, and oppressed groups of people across the world, from Turk and Caicos Islands, to Seychelles, to Tibet, to Russia, to the rural United States. The HRI’s contents include ephemeral materials – in the form of pamphlets, correspondence, court documents, and others – that are not preserved elsewhere, and certainly are not catalogued in local or university libraries. Indeed, they are a record of events that were not covered by the mainstream media when they occurred, which in many ways doomed them to obscurity.
The materials range from the early 1960s through the present day, with much dating from the 70s and 80s. Thus, the Collection is a picture of the world that did not benefit from the instantaneous permanence of the World Wide Web (and the equally-important ability to distribute information on events as they are occurring). The international human rights materials are complemented in the collection by an intimate record of the HRI’s evolution from its inception. These materials reveal the obstacles that are present even for those seeking to preserve the chronicle of human rights abuses across time. One other component of the collection that functions to counterbalance the poignant nature of much of the publications are the materials related to the progressive movements of many human rights organizations (these include scholarship recipients, conference presentations, and NGO publications). The HRI represents the entire spectrum of the human rights struggle, and its holdings are a testament to the ongoing and unknown details of this struggle. However, its preservation invites research that will lead to a closer understanding and a wider audience.
— Matt Jones, Student Library Specialist