Looking back on the Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement project four years after it ended in December 2012, one is struck by the number of outcomes it generated, both public achievements and more invisible, behind-the-scenes developments. The complexity of the collaboration and its experimental nature might have made the results harder to see in their totality, although its influence continues. The occasion of the final post before archiving of the blog prompts a brief summary of the work produced under a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which ran from 2008 through 2012 (three years plus a two-year renewal).
- Following are the public-facing achievements:
- SOHP conference. An influential conference organized by Professor Jacqueline Hall and the Southern Oral History Program, “The Long Civil Rights Movement: Histories, Politics, Memories,” which took place from April 2 to 4, 2009. The conference brought together many scholars working to redefine and expand the study of the civil rights movement.
- CCR conferences. Two important conferences offered by the Center for Civil Rights, which were partially funded by the grant: “Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South and the Nation” (April 2, 2009) and “The Unfinished Work: Advancing New Strategies in the Struggle for Civil Rights” (November 1, 2010).
- An experimental online collection of civil rights scholarship that was freely available to the public for 15 months. It demonstrated the multifaceted potential of interactivity in scholarly publishing and the value of aggregating university press monographs online, a new phenomenon at the time. Before building our own platform, we evaluated about a dozen other tools and platforms, from commercial (BePress, MarkLogic, etc.) to nonprofit (HighWire, JSTOR, OJS, etc.). Some notable features:The content was full-text searchable.
- Multiple genres of content were included (books, articles, papers, and reports).
- Bibliographies were activated with DOI links.
- A scholarly design feature that was admired by other publishers was the page-turn icon that unobtrustively marked the page breaks in the original books, for citation purposes.
- Registered users could add comments, and this function was used in five university courses. In addition, comments contributed by archivists that included outbound links inspired the LCRM Project’s later focus on enhanced e-books connected to archival materials (“portal books,” see below).
- A series of reprints of archival slave narratives and other compelling nineteenth-century texts, published under a new imprint called DocSouth Books, named for the Library’s Documenting the American South online program. DocSouth books are newly typeset for readability but otherwise unaltered from the original publications, with the original page numbers preserved. One of the first books chosen for the program was Twelve Years a Slave, which we subsequently were pleased to find out was soon to be made into a movie.
- Multimedia enhanced/portal e-books, which demonstrated how current e-book publishing can include multimedia primary source materials and link to online archives. (Those with outbound links we dubbed portal books.) The books balanced embedded audio and video interview excerpts and documents with outbound links to full collections, pioneering a new collaborative way for publishers and archives to collaborate, enliven history scholarship, and activate hidden collections.
- Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues by William Ferris included the author’s original video recordings of blues artists.
- Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron included documents, audio interviews, and outbound links to collections at UNC and the Avery Center in Charleston.
- Blowout! Sal Castro and the Chicano Struggle for Educational Justice by Mario T. García and Sal Castro included video interviews and documents.
- Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South 1865-1960 by Rebecca Sharpless contained 100 pages of primary-source documents.
- The LCRM blog, to which all the collaborating partners contributed. The category “This Day in Civil Rights History,” researched and written by Allie Shay at UNC Press, was especially popular, while posts about enhanced e-books, and how to produce them, were read the most widely over time.
Following are some of the less visible, behind-the-scenes results:
- Ingest interface. The online platform, which we called Voice in honor of its commenting functionality, was built on Open Source software. Its back-end content management and ingesting tools were as usable and organized as the public-facing interface. Content could be made Open Access or restricted. The code is available on GitHub under the name of Constabaris. https://github.com/UNC-Libraries/Constabaris
- XML book production. One of the reasons for the usability of the online collection was the excellent TEI XML schema devised for scholarly books by the Press-Library collaborative production team. It is available through the TEI Scholarly Publishing Special Interest Group (SIG).
- Library-press publishing workflows. In addition to the smooth process for ingesting books in the online pilot as described above in item 1, DocSouth Books, which are available as e-books and print-on-demand paperbacks, made use of a new XML-to-typesetting automated tool developed by a vendor called CodeMantra. This Library-Press publishing workflow was formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties; this new publishing partnership helped to inspire a new program in Publishing Services at the Press and could serve as a model for other library-press publishing collaborations.
- Digital oral histories. The SOHP developed a new direct-to-digital interviewing process, which involved not only employing new digital voice recorders but also a new process for applying metadata (including latitude-longitude pairs and field notes) and working with archivists to ingest interviews into the Library’s collection more efficiently.
- Mapping of oral histories. The SOHP worked with the Digital Humanities Lab to map a growing set of interviews (50 by the end of the grant period), creating a model project, “The Long Women’s Movement,” for the new DHPress toolkit then in development.
- Enhanced e-book workflow. The UNC Press team produced documentation for production of enhanced e-books, including an XML-Early workflow and author guidelines. Several other university presses consulted the LCRM team for information on how to produce enhanced e-books.
- Item-level digitization at the Library. The Library developed a new on-demand digitization process, which allows partial digitization of collections to the folder level; newly digitized finding aids highlight the materials that are available online. This system also makes it more efficient to connect e-books with primary-source materials.
- Extended LCRM digitization project. The project inspired a subsequent Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Triangle Research Libraries Network (TRLN) digitization project of North Carolina civil rights materials, in which 38 collections from UNC, Duke, NCCU, and NCSU were digitized. In all, 360,252 documents were digitized by this impressive collaboration.
Following are some interesting numbers that were compiled during the final months of the LCRM Project:
total number of scholars, legal experts, educators and activists who attended SOHP and CCR conferences
posts in the LCRM Project blog as of October 2012
visits to the blog in November 2012, a 473% increase in visits over November 2011 (5981 in 2012 compared with 1043 in 2011), and a 741% increase over November 2010 (which had only 711).
faculty (272) and librarians (116) who completed the 30-page, 10-part survey that helped us develop a working prototype of the “Voice” publishing platform
new LCRM oral-history interviews recorded, with 50 more in the pipeline
UNC Press books included in the online pilot collection
UNC Press books converted to TEI XML as a result of the workflow established by the LCRM Project; 152 directly Mellon-funded
registered users and 607 annotations at the close of the online pilot’s 15-month test period (July 15, 2011)
images from 18 LCRM-related document collections that were digitized at the Library, prompted by content in the online pilot
slave narratives and other nineteenth-century texts published in the DocSouth Books series by December 2012 (more have been published since)
enhancements to Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark by Katherine Mellen Charron, including 60 excerpts from interviews with 15 different individuals
Most-Viewed Posts in This Blog
Following are the most-viewed blog posts in the history of the blog:
- “Glenn Beck to Reclaim Civil Rights Movement,” by Seth Kotch (9439 pageviews; 6576 unique pageviews; 1:17 average time on page)—published August 27, 2010.
- “SNCC’s 50th: Thoughts from Sue Thrasher” (1886 pageviews; 1569 unique pageviews; 3:02 average time on page)—published May 10, 2010.
- “Enhanced E-books and Portal Books,” by Project Director Sylvia Miller (638 pageviews; 530 unique pageviws; 3:46 average time on page)—published August 5, 2011.
Interestingly, many of the challenges and opportunities that the LCRM Project collaborators recognized during the grant period are still very much alive and pertinent to current debates around the role of libraries and university presses in scholarly communications. While the need to aggregate university-press monographs online was met by both ProjectMuse and JSTOR, hidden primary-source collections still need to be made available and discoverable, while the increasingly multimodal work of scholars still needs versatile publishing solutions.
At the close of the grant, we reported in conclusion as follows:
“The ways in which all three project partners reach their audiences have undergone significant transformation since the start of the LCRM Project. The Mellon Foundation’s generous support over five years’ time has allowed us not only to produce some new and exciting demonstrations and prototypes but in so doing, to transform our internal workflow processes in innovative and lasting ways. We have become more technologically adept, and more flexible, with iterative change now a norm that we embrace. Last but not least, we have established relationships and deepened connections among our organizations and the work that we do. All three project partners recognize that our missions are ultimately similar, to share with scholars, students, and the general public the treasures of history and the stories they tell, via meaningful and useful curation, interpretation, and presentation—all of which might fit an evolving definition of publishing. Based on our experience with the LCRM Project, we are confident that by connecting and integrating our work both conceptually and concretely, we will continue to innovate and produce new forms of scholarly communication that will surprise and engage our audiences in new ways for many years to come.”
Principal Investigators. The Publishing the Long Civil Rights Movement Project was inspired by Professor Jacquelyn Hall’s essay, “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” in which Hall argued that the civil rights movement began in the late 1930s and continued well past the 1960s. Kate Torrey, then-director of the University of North Carolina Press, initiated discussions with Hall and the Mellon Foundation. The other two original Principal Investigators in the collaboration were the late Julius Chambers, the director of UNC’s Center for Civil Rights, and Richard Szary, Associate University Librarian and director of the UNC Special Collections Library. (In the second phase of the project, the Center for Civil Rights was not an official partner on the grant, though the online collection continued to feature their important work.) Toward the end of the project, Jacqueline Hall passed the SOHP baton to Professor Della Pollock, and Kate Torrey passed the Press baton to John Sherer.
Project Staff. Sylvia K. Miller, Project Director, guided the project through its exploratory, implementation, and renewal phases until it closed in 2012. Seth Koch led the SOHP’s contributions as Coordinator of Digital Oral History Initiatives. The Voice online platform was programmed almost single-handedly by Adam Constabaris; Brad Scott prepared the requirements document, and Jeremy Buenviaje was the designer. TJ Ward took over for Adam following the online launch to maintain and upgrade the platform. Kenneth Reed, Digital Production Specialist, devised the XML and metadata schema, the production workflow, and the ingestion interface for the Voice platform; Tom Elrod, his successor in that position, continued to develop new e-workflows for the Press. Russ Damian and Allison Shay were the versatile and able editorial assistants for the project.
Many others too numerous to name at each collaborating campus unit contributed their valuable time and expertise to make the project a success.
– Sylvia Miller