What We Did Here, One Year Later

About a week and a half ago, Facebook sent me a notification to let me know that I had a memory to look back on. I opened the app, and saw the message I had composed at the end of the We Won’t Stand for Hate movement, a student-led initiative to resist the hate speech on campus that spiked following the 2016 election. My post encouraged people to engage with a digital collection I’d helped to make with Musselman Library called “What We Did Here.” In the post, I encouraged students to “upload written testimony, audio, pictures, or video that reflect[ed their] experience as a Gettysburg student, no matter what [their] identity, political affiliation, or opinion” so that their voices could be “heard, respected, and responded to.” After that day, What We Did Here became an involved part of my life. For the remainder of the fall, I worked with library staff to improve the website as we started to receive submissions. It was encouraging to see that students and staff were contributing to the site, and that media from other movements on campus (such as a demonstration by students of color that had taken place the previous spring) were among the submissions. When I was abroad in the spring, I kept an eye on What We Did Here as another student movement took place: the Muslim Student Solidarity rally, which was held as a counter space to a talk being given at the same time by Robert Spencer. When I was back at the library over the summer, I continued outreach about the project on a number of occasions. I gave a presentation about the site at Keystone DH, a conference held in Philadelphia, PA, and encouraged alumni from the class of 1971 to contribute items over the course of alumni weekend. A small feature on What We Did Here was also featured in the Spring 2017 volume of the Friends of Musselman Library newsletter.

Despite the various contributions people have made on the site, I still feel like there is room for improvement and growth. Our Gettysburg DH cohort often jokes about the “log cabin in the sky” –a less grandiose reality of the “castle in the sky” you initially envision as the outcome of your project. When we initially designed the website, I thought that it would go viral, gain a massive following, and revolutionize Gettysburg all at once. But, something I’ve learned in my research, (and seemingly ignored in this instance), is that social justice initiatives take time, and often operate on a small scale, particularly on a campus such as Gettysburg’s. However, this doesn’t mean that these initiatives aren’t impactful.  At this time, I think future steps and development should be about increasing student awareness so that students are aware that they can engage with the site at any time, and that the items that they contribute have an important place in college history. What We Did Here has the potential to benefit the entire campus community, but only if we rethink and continue our outreach. As the semester comes to an end, I plan on working with the DH cohort and doing my own evaluation on the project to brainstorm new ways we can increase awareness of the site in the spring.

One Reply to “What We Did Here, One Year Later”

  1. I’m so glad you are thinking about this one year later. If you could have your site linked to from anywhere, what would you pick and why?

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