Jean Nelson

About Jean Nelson

Jean Cardinale Nelson is the head of the UConn Libraries' Public Programming, Marketing & Communications efforts.

The Activist Archivist

Grace Lile at WITNESS has written a great post on their blog about Activism and Archives.  It’s definitely worth a read.

From the post:

In 1970, at the annual meeting of the Society of American Archivists, gadfly historian Howard Zinn gave a seminal speech* in which he challenged one of the core foundational principles upon which modern archives practice was built, that of neutrality.  The whole notion, said Zinn, was a “fake,” a cop-out, a dangerously passive avoidance of the inherently political nature of the archival endeavor.  Neutrality allowed the archivist to perpetuate the status quo, to reflect and reinforce society’s economic and political disparities, and to preserve the interests of the rich, powerful, literate, or otherwise privileged, at the expense of the less so.

“The existence, preservation, and availability of archives, documents and records in our society are very much determined by the distribution of wealth and power.  That is, the most powerful, the richest elements in society have the greatest capacity to find documents, preserve them, and decide what is or is not available to the public.  This means that government, business, and the military are dominant.”

Zinn challenged his audience to question their own unwitting acquiescence to entrenched power, to campaign against government secrecy, and to acknowledge and confront the societal biases that ignore the marginal, the poor, the non-literate, and even the ordinary; in essence, to embrace an activist rather than passive mindset.

This generated a considerable amount of controversy at the time, but in the 40 years since, numerous writers and participants in archival discourse have invoked the word activist in calling for new approaches to a range of archival concepts and practices, including ownership, diversity, non-textual cultural heritage, information rights, community archives, the definition of the record, user participation, ethical codes, and the responsibilities of the archivist.  Author and former SAA President Rand Jimerson wrote:

“Archivists should use their power—in determining what records will be preserved for future generations and in interpreting this documentation for researchers—for the benefit of all members of society. By adopting a social conscience for the profession, they can commit themselves to active engagement in the public arena. Archivists can use the power of archives to promote accountability, open government, diversity, and social justice. In doing so, it is essential to distinguish objectivity from neutrality. Advocacy and activism can address social issues without abandoning professional standards of fairness, honesty, detachment, and transparency.” [emphasis mine]

Read the rest over at the WITNESS blog:

International Day of Peace Events, September 21, 2010

The UConn Honors Council is organizing a screening of the documentary, “The Day After Peace,” which chronicles Jeremy Gilley’s 10-year journey to establish an annual Peace Day on September 21, and his attempts to convince countries around the world to recognize the day with nonviolence and ceasefires in their conflicts.

Screening of “The Day After Peace”

11:30 AM,

Class of 1947 Room

Homer Babbidge Library

Refreshments will be served.

The International Day of Peace was envisioned as a day of global ceasefire and non-violence, an invitation to all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities.

The UN website for the International Day of Peace has information about peacebuilding events and news, and ways you can get involved.

Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) has a resource guide for the International Day of Peace, with links and learning materials for educators and students. 

Peace One Day, created by filmmaker Jeremy Gilley, is also celebrating the day, with ways you can take action, and information about his documentary film, The Day After Peace. 

In the words of Albert Einstein, ”Peace cannot be kept by force.  It can only be acheived by understanding.”

Lecture and Performance by Cambodian American rapper, praCh

Album cover by praCh, who will be performing at the Dodd Research Center on September 16 at 4 pm.

The Cambodian American rapper praCh will be giving a lecture and performance at the Dodd Center on Thursday, September 16 at 4 pm in Konover Auditorium. 

Named by Newsweek as the “pioneer of Khmer Rap” and the “first Cambodian rap star” praCh first received international acclaim with his debut hip hop album, Dalama…The End’n is Just the Beginnin’ (2000). Over the course of a decade, he has emerged as a multimedia force, releasing two sequels to Dalama, in 2003 and 2010. Currently the CEO of Mujestic Records, praCh has been featured in international media outlets, including Cambodia Daily, Phnom Penh Post, Time Magazine, ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, FOX, PBS, Press-Telegram, LA Times, Hmong Times, OC Weekly, 562 Magazine, Asia Week, and

Born in the farmlands of Cambodia but raised on the mean streets of America, praCh is a committed transnational activist. He battles oppression via rhyme and lyrics, and by example, and makes clear the reasons why hip hop is global and will continue to matter.

For more information, go to the Asian American Studies Institute website.

Human Rights in the Americas Film Series at the Dodd Center!

The Human Rights Film Series is back!

Screen shot from "Children of Shadows," by filmmaker Karen Kramer.

This year, the theme is Human Rights in the Americas, and we’ll be kicking things off with a screening of Children of Shadows, featuring a Q & A and reception with filmmaker Karen Kramer on Wednesday, September 15, at 4 pm in Konover Auditorium at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.   More information is available on the Dodd Center’s website. 

In Haiti, many parents are forced by destitution and desperation to give away their children. The children, who may be as young as four years old, then go to live and work for other families as unpaid domestic servants, or slaves. They are known as “restavek” children. 

Children of Shadows follows the children as they go through their daily chores – the endless cycle of cooking, washing, sweeping, mopping, going to the market, or going to run errands. In heartbreaking interviews, the children speak openly and shyly about the lives they are forced to lead. Their “aunts” (adoptive caretakers) speak openly and proudly of the vast mountain of work that “their” restavek does for them. The camera goes deep into the countryside to interview the peasant families as to what kind of situation would force them to give away one or more of their children.

Voices of Rwanda Presentation with Taylor Krauss on April 20

Please join us on Tuesday, April 20, 2010 at 4 PM in Konover Auditorium for a special presentation by Taylor Krauss, Founder of Voices of Rwanda.


Voices of Rwanda:
A Conversation and Film Screening with Taylor Krauss

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
4:00 PM, Konover Auditorium


Sixteen years ago, in April 1994, genocide broke out in Rwanda. Over the course of 100 days, an estimated 800,000 people were brutally killed by their neighbors. Today, survivors, bystanders, rescuers, and perpetrators are all searching for ways to live with one another and with their difficult past.

Taylor Krauss, founding director of Voices of Rwanda, will be presenting clips from his filmed testimony  from survivors of the Rwandan genocide.  Krauss founded Voices of Rwanda in 2006 to record and preserve testimonies of Rwandans to ensure that their stories inform the world about genocide and help prevent future human rights atrocities.  Voices of Rwanda currently has a large film archive of testimony and is working with organizations and schools in Rwanda and the United States to make the testimonies available for education and research, as well as community healing.

To find out more information on Voices of Rwanda please visit:

Download the poster for the event (PDF, 1 MB)

Listen to a podcast with Taylor Krauss from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Voices on Genocide Prevention Podcast from December 17, 2009.

Archives & Special Collections Open House, April 14 at 4 PM

Please join us for an Open House at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.  The event will include interactive displays, presentations and one-on-one conversations to facilitate the discovery of the rich resources in the Archives that will help with your classes and your own personal research. 

Wednesday, April 14
Dodd Research Center

You are welcome to come and go as your schedule allows, but if you have a particular interest in the presentations, the schedule is as follows:

4:30-Exploring the collections with our new search feature
4:45-New tools for using our digital resources
5:00-The distinctive sounds of the Victrola

Refreshments will be provided.

Think Tank Working Papers

In addition to using the library’s subscription databases such as CIAO (Columbia International Affairs Online), to find white papers and publications from think tanks and NGOs, there are a number of good websites to look at as well:

WorldPress (not to be confused with wordpress!) has a searchable library of international NGOs and think tanks, listed alphabetically:

Here are a few examples:

FRIDE is a think tank based in Madrid that aims to provide the best and most innovative thinking on Europe’s role in the international arena. It strives to break new ground in its core research interests of peace and security, human rights, democracy promotion, and development and humanitarian aid, and mould debate in governmental and non-governmental bodies through rigorous analysis, rooted in the values of justice, equality and democracy.

FRIDE’s working papers:


International Development Research Center

IDRC is a Canadian Crown corporation that works in close collaboration with researchers from the developing world in their search for the means to build healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies.

IDRC Working Papers


Harvard Kennedy School of Government Faculty Working Paper Series

Faculty working paper topics include human rights, advocacy, economics, international relations/globalization, security, conflict management, legal issues, and welfare, health care and social policy.

New Films in the Human Rights Film Collection

The Human Rights Film Collection at Babbidge Library has over 470 films in it.   Here are a few of the most recent additions to the collection:

12.511, Caso Rosendo Radilla: Herida Abierta de la Guerra Social en México.  Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH): WITNESS, c2008.  [English Subtitles]  Call number: HV6322.3 .C37 2008

“In 1974, Rosendo Radilla Pacheco disappeared at a military checkpoint in southern Mexico. As a prominent activist and mayor, Rosendo fought for access to health and education in Atoyac, in the state of Guerrero–a region historically plagued by hardship and neglected by authorities.Decades later, Radilla’s unresolved case reached the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a emblematic example of government activities during the Dirty War–a period when the autoritarian regimes of the 1960s and 1970’s employed miltary tactics to crush opposition movements. Now Mexico faces charges of crimes against humanity. The video tells the stories of Radilla’s daughter, Tita, and other families who have disappeared relatives. They show us how seeking the truth in the past strengthens justice in the future.”

Between Two Fires: Torture and Displacement in Northern Uganda.  WITNESS and Human Rights Focus, 2006.  Call number: JC599.U36 B48 2006

Human Rights in Burma.  Burma Issues and Witness, 2007.  Call number:  JC599.B93 H863 2007

Rights on the line : vigilantes on the border / produced by American Friends Service Committee, ACLU, Witness ; writers and producers, Tamaryn Nelson, Ray Ybarra.  Call number:   JV6483 .R54 2005  disc.1-2

Bought & sold.   a Witness production in association with the Global Survival Network ; produced and directed by Gillian Caldwell.  Call number:   HQ281 .B68 1997

Rise: revolutionary women re-envisioning Afghanistan.   A Witness production in collaboration with the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan ; written and produced by Ronit Avni.  Call number:  HQ1735.6 .R57 2002

The Drilling fields.  A Catma Films production for Channel Four ; producer, Poonam Sharma ; director, Glenn Ellis ; writer/researcher, Kay Bishop.  Call number:  DT515.45.O33 D75 2008

 Expelled.  A Witness production; written, produced and directed by Michael Granne.  Call number:  HD8039.S86 E89 2001

 Missing lives : disappearances and impunity in the North Caucasus.  A co-production of: Memorial & WITNESS.  Call number HV6433.C49 M566 2007

Crying sun : the impact of war in the mountains of Chechnya.  A co-production of: Memorial & WITNESS.  Call number DK511.C37 P63 2007