My current research interest in developing digital archives is an interesting story that began many years ago in Puerto Rico and now encompasses all of the Caribbean region.
Then . . .
First as a graduate student, then faculty at the University of Puerto Rico in Río Piedras, I had many opportunities to travel throughout the small Caribbean islands visiting a variety of small museums and archives for research. American or European museums, many island collections were housed in historic buildings dating from the 17th century; this meant no air conditioning or climate control to protect the artifacts. Undaunted by hurricanes, insects, and humid conditions, curators of these collections met the challenges with a stoicism and determination to provide access to local cultural heritage. However, and ironically, access to many artifacts, histories and narratives was limited. Starting with the colonization and settlement periods, constantly changing colonial administrations had sent most historical records to larger European archives or private collections for conservation and preservation. The irony of island residents left without access to their cultural heritage sparked an interest centered on making these valuable histories more accessible.
Eventually, this interest in accessibility evolved into a fascination with the ways historical artifacts could be made available as digital representations. As I learned more about the history and culture of the West Indies, my curiosity led me to explore ways that digital representations engage with popular perceptions of the many cultures and people scattered throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.
Now . . .
Several years ago, while developing a course on writing and digital media, I encountered the following passage from Katherine Hayles’ book “Writing Machines” :
To change the physical form of the artifact is not merely to change the act of reading . . . but profoundly to transform the metaphoric network structuring the relation of word to world.
These words best describe how the interaction between the author, text, reader, and digital media as they operate in a symbiotic process. My research and projects aspire to recreate this experience through the Virtual Caribbean and Voyages archives linked on the Research Projects page. Both projects are works in process, but I invite you to explore the sites and re-discover the ‘New World’ through digital representations.