After a semester I have finally finished the project I started in January — Bad Books: An Exploration of Censorship! It is a digital exhibit, which you can check out here: https://badbooks.5colldh.org (it’s a .org, I feel so cool).
The project is meant to showcase censorship and the many different ways it can look. I knew when I started the project that censorship wasn’t just burning and banning books, but I had no idea where I was going to end up after doing my research. I looked at all sorts of materials – an expurgatory list (that’s a list of books to destroy), a ceramic stone, a couple letters between an art historian and a publisher, and countless pictures of Winnie the Pooh. And I read a lot of cool books and articles about censorship and information ethics – most of which I didn’t even end up using in my project. That’s the nature of research I guess.
Throughout the semester we had fellow meetings with the 5CDH team and the other fellows. I got to hear about the other projects and get inspired by the things my fellow fellows were doing. It was really helpful to have check in times, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have gotten very much work done. When I hit a wall or didn’t know how to do something the team would help me figure it out. Alex, our angelic and lovely 5CDH fellow, helped me fix a bunch of the code for my website to get it to do the things I wanted. (Her Slack response time is unbelievable, y’all seriously wouldn’t believe it.) Between her guidance and a lot of YouTube videos and articles about how to code, I made a website.
I also talked with people in Smith Special Collections every so often. I work there so I was sort of used to navigating our collections, but they helped me find more things than I could find on my own. I would go to the reading room and call up a book, or they would just let me go look around in the stacks—working in Special Collections seriously has its perks. Although I found a lot of cool things I could’ve used from the special collections across the Five Colleges they mostly talked about a certain kind of censorship. I wanted to look at censorship of the internet and arts, so I went online. The beauty of digital exhibits is you can access them from anywhere, and I did. I found a lot of my materials through museum and college library databases as well as the occasional google search in the dark. To learn more about the research I did check out the website. Seriously, the best of my work is on there.
To finish, I got to give a talk at the 5CDH symposium which was absolutely nerve wracking but I am so glad to have done it. If no one else sees my site I got to show it to the people in that room and answer their questions.
I honestly thought that my favorite part of the project was going to be the research but it turns out I love building websites. I spent so much time fiddling around with layouts, color palettes, and ways to navigate through the site. I built the website using Omeka, which is designed for exhibits, so I was limited a bit, but I’m pleased with the functionality. It was very user friendly. I learned a lot about censorship which was cool, but I think that the best result of this project was discovering all of the cool things that I could use technology for. I feel pretty confident that I can make a website now, and I’m excited to try some of the tech that the other fellows used – augmented reality has seriously blown my mind, it is like magic (thanks Evan!!!). I’m really glad I got the chance to make this project real.