Reflections on Working with the Center for Women’s Global Leadership Exhibition

Post by Maira Asif. M.A., Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, 2024.

The Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) stood as a beacon of transnational feminist advocacy, leaving indelible marks on the world through its tireless efforts in promoting women’s rights internationally. CWGL was founded in 1989 by feminist activist Charlotte Bunch as a project of Douglass College and was instrumental in the ‘Women Rights are Human Rights’ Global campaign in the 1990s. As I reflect on my experience curating the CWGL exhibition and analysing its extensive resource collection, I am reminded of the profound impact of feminist activism and scholarship, as well as the challenges inherent in bridging the gap between academia and grassroots movements.

There are moments when your faith in the kind of work you want to do is affirmed. The inauguration of “The Transnational Feminist Advocacy of The Center for Women’s Global Leadership Exhibition” was a moment of profound affirmation for me, as I had the honor of moderating a panel featuring esteemed scholar-activists Charlotte Bunch and Radhika Balakrishnan. Their four decades of work at CWGL have shaped feminist discourse and activism worldwide, evidenced by the over 100 countries represented in the organization’s resource center publications. Collaborating with such inspiring individuals and witnessing firsthand the tangible outcomes of feminist social change reaffirmed my commitment to this transformative work. They humored my jokes, gave us feminist gossip and left us with hope that feminist communities are possible.

My delight and enjoyment is evidenced by the pictures from the event. The joy of working with inspiring people, of seeing evidence of feminist social change through archival curation and of finally sitting next to such role models was palpable. My co-curators and the amazing team of Kayo Denda, Ezra Downs and Nicole Blemur have taught me feminist joy of collective work. Joining this project was a serendipitous shoulder tap by Dr. Rebecca Mark at a party when Kayo was seeking assistance for its completion. It felt intimate, personal and powerful to be surrounded by archives, both written and living, of feminist activism. I know this is the kind of work I was to do for the rest of my life. One which makes a mark, one rooted in feminist ideals, one where I can make silly jokes and get compliments on my necklaces.

Curating the exhibition and analyzing CWGL’s resource collection provided me with invaluable insights into the intersection of academia and activism. As I delved into the diverse array of publications, from handbooks to conference proceedings to magazines, I was struck by the disconnect between academic scholarship and on-the-ground activism. While academic journals often dominate library databases and pedagogical training, the resources produced by grassroots organizations remain marginalized and inaccessible. The more I went through these publications, one comment from a paper I read stuck to mind about academia’s disconnect with on-the-ground work, “as if nothing has changed on the ground.” None of these books or articles in these handbooks, conference proceedings, radical aesthetic magazines, etc., would pull up in a search engine when we do our research. Only academic journals or likewise academically legible resources get the legitimacy to be part of library databases and, in turn, part of our pedagogical training and research.

So if you want to know what’s being done by organizations on the ground, you have to know the organization, check its website and work. In contrast, you can use keywords to pull up articles on academic research without knowing the researcher or journal name in advance. We assume we have found the divine literature gap when nothing comes up on these search engine results on our question. And why won’t we since the on-the-ground produced resources aren’t similarly centralized and accessible to us? Time is limited in our capitalist hustle culture. We have to churn out more work for work’s sake.

It raises questions for me on: How do we inform our research with praxis, how do we reduce the academia-activist gap, how do we legitimize work of activists and organizations as theory, when our academic institutions structurally limit such intellectual engagement? And likewise when activists and organizations consider theory arm-chair rambling? The disconnect is jarring. This disparity raises critical questions about how we inform research with praxis, reduce the academia-activist gap, and legitimize the work of activists and organizations as theoretical contributions.

As I am wrapping up my last semester of MA program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and starting to look for work and imagining what kind of work I want to do, the desire to keep this particular dilemma in mind of bridging the activist-academia divide remains an ever-present thought. Do I want to be a scholar-activist or an activist-scholar or neither or both? Let’s see what feminist futures await.

Analyzing CWGL’s resource center material also brought to light the pervasive exclusions present within academic discourse. As a Pakistani graduate student in an American classroom, I have experienced firsthand the challenge of advocating for the inclusion of non-Anglo American perspectives. The labor often falls on us, the outsiders, to educate the white classrooms. If your people don’t have epistemic or geopolitical power, your thought is probably not taught here, and without your physical presence actively championing its inclusion, it probably won’t be anytime soon. Chandra Mohanty, Gayatri Spivak have somewhat broken the barriers into conversations on South Asian thought. Gloria Anzaldua and Cherri Moranga have done the same for Latin America. But heterogeneity as peoples is largely absent in most discussions which centre the North American-European experience as the default human condition. In CWGL’s collection, I found books and reports from organizations working in and with many of these excluded people. We assume people aren’t producing theory and literature to discuss and debate in classrooms. But these thousands of titles said differently. Despite having these precious perspectives in our physical proximity at Rutgers, the challenge to make space for them in our classrooms is foreshadowed by poor funding to social sciences, shadow banning gender and sexuality rights research, teaching and work, and a neo-liberal university who structurally couldn’t care less. Inclusion is for college brochures.

However, CWGL’s collection serves as a testament to the wealth of knowledge produced by marginalized communities around the world. From organizations working tirelessly to amplify these voices, I discovered a treasure trove of literature challenging dominant paradigms and enriching feminist discourse. Yet, the challenge lies in translating this wealth of knowledge into institutional change within academia, where funding constraints and neoliberal structures perpetuate exclusionary practices.

In light of CWGL’s recent closure by Rutgers University, the importance of preserving its legacy and advocating for its invaluable contributions to feminist activism cannot be overstated. I was deeply honored to play a small part in safeguarding CWGL’s resources for future generations. By analyzing decades of advocacy work, I hoped to ensure that the spirit of transnational feminist solidarity continues to inspire and empower activists around the world.

In conclusion, my experience curating the CWGL exhibition and analyzing its resource collection has been a journey of discovery, reflection, and reaffirmation. However, this reaffirmation of feminist values is not just owed to the archives, but the active, warm, kindness of Kayo Denda, Ezra Downs and Nicole Blemur. It was only in the continuous presence of beautiful feminist community that I was able to explore the archives and the exhibition with the joyful gusto that I did. I am truly grateful to have been able to work alongside them all, and I owe the beauty of these few months to them first and foremost.

From L-R: Nicole Blemur, Maira Asif, Ezra Downs, Kayo Denda & Radhika Balakrishnan.

Kayo Denda, Radhika Balakrishnan & Charlotte Bunch.



Graphic Design Projects at the Foster Center

Hello everyone, my name is Laura Gonzalez, and I am a full-time student at Rutgers University, Mason Gross School of the Arts and a Douglass Residential College student. I am also the current graphic designer for the Margery Somers Foster Center, Douglass Library. For the past 2 years, I have been working for Kayo Denda, creating visuals for the Center including event posters, booklets, and infographics.

The first project was a multiple parts project for the retirement of Professor Mary E. Hawkesworth, a distinguished professor in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department at Rutgers University. I created the event program and the PowerPoint Presentation using design elements, book cover images of books authored and edited by Professor Hawkesworth, and images from her significant career accomplishments. The event posters used the images of the front (right) and the back (left) covers of the event program below.

The second project consisted of a set of Douglass Library’s signage with the purpose of orienting the students and visitors to their desired destinations, including study rooms, bathrooms, and computer labs, in order to enhance their experience in the library. The colors used are bright, warm, and welcoming to the visitors, with easy to understand and straight forward information, perfect for everyone.

The third project was a collaboration with a fellow co-worker Merna Ahmed, an amazing design student and friend. We designed the user manual for the new presentation technology in the Mabel Smith Douglass Room, with easy to understand, and clear step-by-step guide of setting up and using the new devices in the room.

The fourth project consisted of the creation a poster about the former Douglass College Dean Margery Somers Foster, as a way of honoring her legacy and accomplishments. I used photos from her deanship years from the yearbooks and archives.  The color palette of the poster is on a pastel side, and I used the existing decorative patterns in the room creating a sense of harmony to the room.

 The fifth project is a bookplate for the Celebration of Scholarship 2020 event that was scheduled in the Margery Somers Foster Center, but it was cancelled due to the novel coronavirus. However, the design is still relevant. The picture of the MSFC that I took depicts the beautiful room and an environment that makes the Center a great place to study, learn, and relax as well.

(Post by Laura Gonzalez)


Fall 2020 Online Workshops!

Hello everyone, my name is Whitney Kehl (pronounced like the vegetable, kale), and I am the current Graduate Specialist for the Margery Somers Foster Center. This summer I have been working on creating some original workshops for Rutgers students to participate in this Fall and I am very excited to see what type of engagement we get in them! These 3 workshops are a blend of presenting on certain information tools and discussing the use value they may hold for students in academic as well as personal life, while also giving artistic tutorials and providing an opportunity for students to express themselves creatively in multimedia. Blended into the conversations will be the topics of the politics of visuality, power systems within “free” digital technologies, differences in personal subjectivity, incidental blockages that happen during information sharing and knowledge production, as well as things like metadata, weeding library collections, self-promotion techniques and basic filming tips.   

I am a graduate student in the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, in the Master of Information program. My concentration is in Archives and Preservation and in the future I hope to work in as an archivist or a records manager, in a non-profit organization or government. My goal in creating these workshops was to blend instruction on information resources, with opportunities for communication and art creation for students. I have a background in the arts and art history, and when I was an undergraduate student working as a resident advisor, my supervisor used to tell us that our programs for residents could look and taste figuratively like cotton candy, but that we needed to disguise a nugget of education in the center of that, to try and pass along to the students. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do something similar with these workshops through the Margery Somers Foster Center. I hope participants will walk away with some tangible skills and ideas to reflect on, but ideally really enjoy themselves and feel inspired along the way.

Without further ado, here is the Fall 2020 Workshop lineup!

Exploring Google Street View: Learn Landscape Drawing with Virtual Mediation and Metadata 

Thursday, September 17, 2020, 7:00-8:15PM

Registration can be done here.

“Weeding” Books and Creating Your Own Blackout Poetry

Thursday, October 15, 2020, 7:00-8:15PM

Registration can be done here.

Augmented Reality: Bring Your Resumé and other Projects to Life with Zappar

Thursday, November 12, 2020,  7:00-8:15PM

Registration can be done here.

Dink Dykes Return to Douglass

“We weren’t speaking to the world. We were speaking to one another. The kind of collectivity that emerged at Douglass – a thriving lesbian community that gave a tremendous amount of cultural vitality and social vitality to the women who were part of it, but also to the world that it went out into. We did remarkable things.” – Kay Turner

Douglass student wearing a “dink,” the neon green hat all Douglass students were required to wear during orientation, in the 1971 Douglass Yearbook

A reunion of sorts was held on October 25, 2018 for the “dink dykes” of Douglass College (DC). In “Dink Dykes: Lesbian Culture at Douglass College, 1967-1977,” Kay Turner (DC Class of 1971) facilitated a roundtable discussion with Douglass graduates to reflect on the lesbian culture that emerged at and around the women’s college in the 1960s and 1970s. The panelists were Adria Evans (DC ’71), Barbara Lee (DC ’72), Gail Walker (DC ’73), Paula Schorr (DC ’74), Joanne Fuccello (DC ’75), and Rue Watson (DC ’77). Their former classmates at Douglass College, faculty and staff members, and current Rutgers students made up the audience.

Kay posed questions to Adria, Barbara, and Paula about their experiences at Douglass and Joanne, Gail, and Rue responded to these stories. The topics Kay presented to the women on the panel were cultural creativity driven by lesbians on-campus and off, Douglass campus politics, sex and love, faculty and staff allies, connections to evolving gay culture and political activism, local businesses, and post-college social bonding. The discussion began with discussions of each woman’s unique coming out process and the role the Douglass College played in understanding their sexuality. Barbara described her early moments at Douglass as “this time of change that everyone was going through” and many of the other women shared this sentiment.

Speakers invited to campus seemed particularly important to the lesbian culture of Douglass College in the 1960s and 1970s. Joanne described the importance of Adrienne Rich on staff at Douglass College. Visits to campus by Rita Mae Brown and Anne Sexton were particularly important to Ruth’s time at Douglass. Kay remembered a talk with Margaret Mead. Carol Sanchez was the woman behind many of these influential events. Ruth described Carol Sanchez as “the patron saint of Douglass lesbians.” Carol directed the Voorhees Assembly Board and worked with Douglass students to bring in many of the speakers and artists the women described as important to their own development and the lesbian culture of Douglass College. Gail stressed not only the importance of bonds with each other as lesbians at Douglass College, but also supportive relationships with faculty and staff. Geoffrey Hendricks from the Art Department and Gordon Clanton, Christine Downing, and William Doty from the Religion Department were named as especially supportive faculty members. Janet Yocum and Joan Hayward, in attendance at the event, were also highlighted as important Douglass administrators who supported the panelists during this time. Janet described the dissonance faced by herself and other administrators who wanted to support and accept the lesbians of Douglass College but did not want outside students to think Douglass was a “lesbian school.” “The lesbian community contributed way more to the college than the population at large” according to Joan and this declaration was met with a round of applause.

Music and the arts scene at Douglass College played an important role in the lives of the women during their time at the college. Paula discussed the importance of the New Haven Women’s Rock Band, where she saw a same sex couple kissing publicly for the first time, and Lavender Jane Loves Women. A show for the latter group was particularly important when a male attendee disrupted the performance and in response Kay shouted, “I’m a lesbian.” Paula and Kay both saw this as a turning point where the gay women of Douglass began to use and embrace the term on campus. Barbara discussed the founding of their own all-lesbian band, Slip of the Tongue, at Douglass College and their first performance outside of Gramercy Books on Church Street in New Brunswick. Paula described the bands, the Oral Tradition and the Lesbosonic Funk Force, and the power she felt when singing openly about gay love with the band. Many of the women contributed to Watermark, the Douglass literary magazine, and Kay’s journal Lady Unique: Inclination of the Night. The labor that the women put into writing, publishing, and distributing Lady Unique was an important bonding activity remembered by both panelists and some audience members.

The “Dink Dykes” discussion ended with audience members discussing the impact of the panelists and the lesbian culture that emerged and flourished between 1967 and 1977.

A full recording of the event can be viewed here.

An accompanying digital photo album for this blog post and the panel discussion can be found here.

Please contact Rutgers University Libraries if you would like to discuss donating materials related to lesbian culture at Douglass College.

This post was written by Dan Delmonaco, Graduate Specialist with the Margery Somers Foster Center.

The Story of Rue

Who needs an intro when I can simply say one word: Lesbian. Yes, I said it. This is about Rue Watson, a lesbian student who graduated Douglass College in 1977.  Her experience at Douglass from the point of view of a lesbian student is important and critical to the identity development of the modern day lesbian students at Rutgers. This interview, which was condensed and edited, was conducted by Camille DuBois (RU ’19), as a component of the Public History Internship during summer 2018. The interview took place at a house in New Brunswick.

Camille DuBois (left) and Rue Watson (July 2018).

Could you tell us where we are now and where are you from?

I owned and lived in this house since 1982. This house was home and social place for many of the New Brunswick Gay and Lesbian community members, and over the years, lots of people lived here. I was a DJ and in that role with music and dancing being a MAJOR social aspect of the Lesbian and Gay Community in that era. Dance parties and dance clubs were the primary places people relied upon for socializing, networking, along with the dissemination of pertinent information. My role promoting and throwing events for dances and parties is why I had the privilege to know so many people and to be involved in so much of the community activities.

My family was from Washington DC where I lived until I was twelve years old. My parents were looking for a summer home in Wildwood, New Jersey near Cape May. But during the sixties nobody would sell a house in Wildwood to Blacks. My parents learned from the realtor that many Blacks lived in McKee City, and they could buy a house there. We gave up on Wildwood and headed to McKee City, which is fifteen miles inland from Atlantic City. Many Blacks lived on the other side of the train tracks, but my mother refused to join them. After purchasing a bungalow on the right side of the train tracks, my father bought the chicken farm across the street, where I lived before attending Douglass.

What was your major at Douglass College?

Prof. Burrows (top row, upper right), Rue Watson (top row, second from right) and other students in his Photo Essay course.

My major was American Studies and I sort of minored in art, with a focus on photography. I was really into photography and enjoyed taking pictures all the time. I thought it was wonderful. I also thought American Studies was a great major. Professor David Burrows, from English Department, was great and open to students of all sexualities. Professor Burrows taught a Photo Essay course in which the students in pairs took photos of each other and wrote an essay or a poem about each other. I loved it!  He had a professional photo studio in Princeton. With his encouragement and guidance, I took many pictures of campus events and people. His class was certainly a safe place for lesbians.

Were you aware of the Student Homophile League at Rutgers?

Yes, once I was at Douglass, I was affiliated with the Gay Alliance, which later became Gay and Lesbian Alliance. If something good and fun in terms of social event was happening organized by the Alliance, everyone would attend the event. In addition to social events, the Alliance did outreach to different communities to increase understanding and to end discrimination of gays and lesbians. I did volunteer for a few sessions. I got the courage to participate in the outreach to the State Troopers. We lesbian students wore dresses and tried to look feminine just like your next-door neighbor girl. We felt that it was important to show the troopers that we were  ordinary and not threatening. My dad was a policeman, and I was comfortable with law enforcement officers. I wanted to help them understand that we were pretty normal people.

What effect did Stonewall have on you?

I think it was major impact for me because I found my community at the university. Coming to Rutgers not long after Stonewall, people were energized from it and established the Homophile League. I came to Douglass just by luck. The girl I was in love with in high school was coming to Douglass, which prompted me to apply. No one in my family had gone to college, so I knew nothing about college. If this girl had gone to a typing school, I would have followed her there. It was just the luck of the draw. I was following her around like a little puppy when I first came to Douglass. After the first three months at Douglass we grew apart and didn’t see much of each other. I found “my people.” She was into fraternities and was looking for a boyfriend.

How did your family take it when you came out to them?

I came out in high school during “The Supremes” concert at Chez Paree on New York Avenue in Atlantic City. My friend R had invited me to go with him to the concert. I was impressed and excited about this! The show started and these women who looked like “The Supremes” were singing. There was something quite different about this Supremes group…as it turns out, they were drag queens and they were incredible! I had never seen anything like that! R looks at me and goes” I’m gay” and I look at him and I go “me too.”  That is when I came out. R and I are still friends to this day.

When I came out, it was hard at first with my family. My mother said “you’ll be better off dead” and we didn’t talk for a while, maybe almost a year. But the reason why I have this house is because after they accepted my sexuality, they said “you are never going to have a husband and we need to get you a house so that you have a roof over your head.”

What kind of LGBTQ reading material was out there at the time you were in college?

I can’t explain it and don’t know how exactly it happened, but I was reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir in high school. It might have been a suggestion from my high school English teacher Ms. M, and she might have given it to me. Otherwise I am not sure how an African-American girl living in the countryside on a farm came by this book, but I read it and it was so informative. It helped me understand the fact that I was a woman, gay and Black, and I had to form my own identity.  There were so many negative opinions about Black people and most likely many people held negative opinions about gay people. I knew I was not a bad person and the gay people I knew were not bad either, so I pulled all that together. And reflecting on that book, I carved out an ideology that the powers that be, men in power especially, want to have you think negatively about women, and anyone who they deem to be different a threat. I was a good person, and as a woman, and Black and now a gay person. I was not going to be oppressed by or buy into the negative stereotypes that were being framed for me to take on. The book had a great impact on me.

Rue Watson photographed by Professor David Burrows.

I came to Rutgers in the summer of 1973, before college, as an EOF student to take classes in math. I lived in one of the river dorms on College Avenue Campus before moving to Douglass Campus. I went to Alexander Library and searched for “homosexuality” in the card catalog and found the name of Rita Mae Brown. I also learned of a place called “Village” in New York with many gays and lesbians.  I got on a bus and I went by myself to find the “Village.” Just by chance, I saw in front of a firehouse a sign that Rita Mae Brown along with now famous lesbian couple and activists Del Martin & Phyllis Lyon were doing a reading.

As it turns out the firehouse was a gay center in the Village. Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were the founders of the organization Daughters of Bilitis and its magazine The Ladder. They also wrote the book Lesbian/Woman which was a staple of every lesbian library. This book provides useful tips for people who came out as a lesbian, on how to host a pot luck dinner for networking and how to receive a copy of Lesbian/woman. It was an amazing day. I had no idea what Rita Mae Brown looked like and had my breath taken away as she did not look like any of the drag queens down on New York Ave in Atlantic City. Rita Mae Brown was quite beautiful! Poised and well dressed. She was also very down to earth and earnest. I introduced myself and we kept in touch.

In the fall, Rita Mae Brown invited me for other events in New York City.  She sent me an invitation to the launch of her book Rubyfruit jungle, which was in a loft in the “Village.” I went there with two friends. It was an exciting loft party with distinguished lesbians and cool people that made us feel less isolated and alone. And then Rita Mae gave us a copy of the book and signed it. What an amazing evening to get invited! I look back now and see it as a pivotal literary event—the publishing of one of the most iconic lesbian novels of all time, which became an overnight success with women everywhere of all persuasions. In 1977, Rita Mae Brown came to Douglass as a speaker thanks to the Vorhees Assembly Board [the Douglass Student Organization].

Douglass Timeline

Scroll over image to see it fully.

Oral History Project

Saskia Kusnecov is Research and Metadata Librarian at Fairleigh Dickinson University. 

This is a post by Saskia Kusnecov, who worked at the Margery Somers Foster Center while an undergraduate student at Rutgers University.

I learned of the opportunity to work on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project in my sophomore year in Douglass Residential College. At the first call for part-time transcribers, I leapt. As a history major and a lover of stories, I relished the opportunity to listen and document the narratives of Douglass alumnae.

From a technical perspective, the goal of this project was to digitize the cassette tape interviews with Douglass alumnae, so that they could be archived online and made accessible to the public. Part of this endeavor is creating written transcriptions for the interviews, which was my charge. I would listen along to the interviews, most of them hours long, and transcribe their conversations. While monotonous to most, I rejoiced in being able to listen along to the life stories of the incredible women who came before me.

These stories, housed on cassette tape, were of women who were some of the first in their families to attend college; women who had lived through the great wars, and saw society transform around them, in real time. I learned of the traditions that were kept at my very dormitory, in its earliest days, and was rocked by stories of discrimination in a building just twenty paces from mine. I was afforded the opportunity to present on my experience working with these interviews at the Women’s History in the Digital World Conference at Bryn Mawr College in 2014, and speak about my newfound belief that one of the most powerful tools we have for social change and cultivating a sense of common humanity is our own personal narratives.

After leaving the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project, I carried this conviction with me into everything I did. I recorded an oral history interview with my grandmother, a World War II survivor, and facilitated an interview for the Rutgers Oral History Archives (ROHA) with Ana Soto-Canino, a local artist and business owner. I wrote and presented on the intersections of storytelling and identity for the Institute for Women’s Leadership, and digitized dozens of Rutgers alumni interviews for the ROHA before deciding, ultimately, to pursue a Masters in Library and Information Science, so that I could devote my life to making these materials available to the public.

I am now in my first full-time position at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison, where I serve as the Research and Metadata Librarian, managing the university’s digital projects and teaching information literacy skills to students. Working on the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project was not only my first exposure to the library profession, but it was also the seed of my lifelong interest in public history, the power of storytelling, and the importance of making information freely available to the public. I will always to grateful to the Margery Somers Foster Center and the women who gave their stories, for giving mine.

Working at Douglass Library, Rutgers University

This is a post by Claire Marcil, Rutgers Class of 2018, and a student worker at Margery Somers Foster Center, Douglass Library.

Claire stands in front of panels from the UN Women and Slavery exhibition.
Claire stands in front of panels from the UN Women and Slavery exhibition.

I began working at the Margery Somers Foster Center in the fall 2015 with the expectation of sitting at the front desk playing Solitaire all day.

Surprisingly, it has been the exact opposite of that.

On my first day of work, I was asked if I would be willing to help with the transcription of video and oral interviews with Rutgers alumni. The project sounded interesting (and much more fun than sitting listlessly at a desk for hours on end), so of course I agreed. I didn’t come in with any expectations for the project, or for what I would get out of it. To me, it was just something that I was getting paid to do. But as soon as I started transcribing, I was hooked. The interviews are absolutely fascinating. Listening to the life stories of students who graduated long ago (some nearly 90 years ago!) and the obstacles that they had surpassed is incredible. Hearing them speak with such positivity, no matter the discrimination or hardships they faced, is so inspiring and is one of my favorite parts of transcribing. However, what I enjoy most of all is hearing about their lives after college. One of the earlier graduates, after working as a teacher for 30 years, decided to spend her retirement traveling around the world, and at the time of her interview had visited every single country, save a handful. Another alumnae worked as a dietician until World War II began, then joined the military and was sent over to Europe, where she was made head of her outfit’s hospital unit (and given two assistants!). These stories are perhaps even more important than those about life at Rutgers because of their historical significance. A woman in charge of a military unit in the 1940s! Who would’ve guessed? Without these interviews, the rich history that these students lived through would be lost, and our ideas about the past much more inaccurate. Transcribing the interviews has been such a rewarding experience, and I’m so thankful to be a part of recording history.

Working at Douglass,  I have also had the opportunity to both design the layout of and help install a museum exhibit. As an student of anthropology, the opportunity to get a bit of experience with the process of showcasing a an exhibit has been invaluable. We received over a dozen panels for an exhibit on Women and Slavery from the United Natons and chose to hang them in the rotunda at the front of the library, which was no easy feat. The first method we tried to hang the panels did not work, so we had to think outside the box – and ask for some expert advice – in order to display them. Though frustrating, the experience taught me that sometimes, you might have to employ some extra creativity to get the job done, and that it’s ok to ask for outside help. It was a really cool learning experience and has sparked my interest in museum exhibit design and curation (I plan on volunteering at the Rutgers Geology Museum next semester!). Overall, working at the Douglass Library has given me some extraordinary opportunities that I am forever grateful for. I truly love coming to work each day.

Transcribing Oral Interviews from the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project

It might be funny that I am making my first post about creating written documents when I’ve stated that I am working on a oral project. Yes, this is the Douglas Alumnae Oral History Project and yes, the primary documents that are to be highlighted in my work will be the multimedia interviews themselves; however, transcription, or the act of transferring audio information into its written form, is required.

Continue reading “Transcribing Oral Interviews from the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project”

Fall 2015 Intern for the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project

My name is Karen Loder and I am pleased to introduce myself as one of two new interns beginning this fall semester at the Douglass Library!

Not very good at smiling in pictures but at least I’m patriotic!

As two graduate students working towards our Master of Library and Information Science degree here in the SC&I building on College Ave, my partner Ally and I are working under the supervision of Kayo Denda, who has already proven to be a wonderful help and motivator, to provide access to valuable Douglass College records that perhaps you didn’t know existed and that you’ll hopefully find useful and easily by the end of this semester. This is my last semester at Rutgers before I receive my MLIS and I am very glad that I found an internship that suits my personal interests and encourages the development of my professional experiences!

My main project for this semester is to create an accessible and appealing web portal for the Douglass Alumnae Oral History Project, an audio project comprised of rich exchanges between past graduates of the New Jersey College for Women and Douglass Alumnae. Memories of college life, social and academic, and the inextricable larger political landscape of Rutgers, New Jersey, and the United States are shared by participating alumnae for the strengthening of Douglass College’s history through the students that lived through, shaped, and prospered from it. One of the most fascinating characteristics of this project to me is the perspective of the college that these interviews illuminate. Often we are able to trace the policies and attitudes of deans and professors who acted as figureheads of the institution, but little are we aware of how these actions influenced those who were the subjects of them. While I am personally interested in seeing what I could learn from these women, as an aspiring librarian, I am essentially devoted to seeing what the public can learn from these recorded interviews.

Maybe this perspective interests me so much because it is the one from which I have primarily experienced the world. I graduated from Fordham University with a degree in English and a minor in Creative Writing in 2014 so I love to read and write, though I’ve been finding myself a much more avid reader than writer recently. Much of my life has been spent in a book like how much of my life has been spent as student which, though I’m trying to change that now, is not something I would change about myself since I think I’ve collected quite a bit of material with which I act with tact and fact. To intake people’s thoughts–what they consider important, right, or reality–through their verbal instruction or from a written (or digital) record may never provide the most objective account, but will always reveal some piece of the truth that can illuminate the whole. I may truly have found the best project for me as a supporter for this oral history project since I am a great listener!

Throughout this semester I am going to keep you updating on my progress and the process of creating a web portal that should ultimately provide you with not only access to these oral histories but also with a site that contextualizes this project within the larger history of Douglass College and thus pronounces its importance. I will also try to provide some information regarding how to do what I’m doing in case you have a valuable oral history collection yourself that you want to make accessible and visible on the web. Stay tuned!