• Early Haitian Print Culture and Digital Preservation
    Marlene L. Daut (University of Virginia)
  • 20th-century Caribbean Periodicals: Accessibility, Legibility, and Impact
    Chelsea Stieber (Catholic University)
  • Virtual Reality as Narrative Medium: Potentialities and Problems for Caribbean Implementation
    Elizabeth Losh (College of William & Mary)
  • Moderator: Elizabeth Maddock Dillon (Northeastern University)

Early Haitian Print Culture and Digital Preservation
Marlene Daut (University of Virginia)

The Gazette Royale project (http://lagazetteroyale.com), launched by Marlene Daut in April 2018, addresses the problem of differently isolated Haitian historical documents. Of the 83 issues and 6 almanacs now freely available in both pdf and full text on the Gazette website, only one original can be found in Haiti today. Because these newspapers and other materials are located primarily in archives and libraries across the United States and western Europe, these precious relics of early Haitian statehood have until recently been mostly inaccessible to the Haitian people themselves.

Resisting Recolonization: Big Data, Vast Early America, and Black Digital Humanities
Chelsea Steiber (Catholic University)

The Revue de la société haïtienne d’histoire, de géographie et de géologie (1925–present) is the greatest repository of historical research produced on Haiti, from Haiti, and yet its contents are rarely used by scholars outside of the country. If researchers in the North Atlantic (US, Canada, and Europe) now recognize the centrality of the Haitian Revolution to the study of the Atlantic world, why have they yet to accord the same attention to Haitian historians? This is the problematic reality that Chelsea Stieber’s project entitled the RSHHGG Lab (http://rshhgglab.com/search/) seeks to address and rectify, in partnership with the Société Haïtienne d’Histoire, de Géographie et de Géologie (SHHGG) and the US Library of Congress. The project is designed as a laboratory because it allows users to search the contents of over 1300 articles and help to index them.

Resisting Recolonization: Big Data, Vast Early America, and Black Digital Humanities
Elizabeth Losh (College of William & Mary)

As humanities scholars use new digital technologies to revisit the established origin stories of British colonialism and the American Revolution, the central role of the Caribbean in the biopolitical founding of the U.S. nation state becomes undeniable. At the same time, privileging so-called “big data” over what Christine Borgman (2015) has called “little data” pushes the Caribbean experience back out into the periphery of the global digital record of human history and discounts its critical mediating role in the constitution of both the Global North and the Global South. In the field of the digital humanities, a more capacious understanding of the interdependencies of pre-digital culture has been facilitated by interdisciplinary approaches to infrastructure that include ecology, transportation, and migration as important factors for understanding human cultural heritage. At the same time, linked open data and new resource description frameworks promise to make more actors and artifacts visible, and more expansive initiatives for image, sound and multimedia archives, social network analysis, data visualization, GIS, and 3D scanning enhance understanding of the rhizomatic, diasporic, and creolized character of exchanges between and within the archipelago and the continent. This presentation focuses on the growing presence of Caribbean history and culture in the digital humanities efforts of the Omohundro Institute as a case study for thinking about four essential problems that arise when the concept of “raw data” is interrogated (Gitelman, 2013) and the regimes of the colonial archive are questioned (Risam, 2018; Wernimont, 2018). These problems include incomplete data preservation, skewed metadata standards, algorithmic bias, and assumptions about intended audiences. The Omohundro Institute is the oldest organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to advancing the study, research, and publication of scholarship bearing on the history and culture of early America, broadly construed, from circa 1450 to 1820. For example, in the story map of the 2017 Race, Memory, and the Digital Humanities conference, Jessica Marie Johnson and Marcia Chatelain pinpointed research sites in Dominica and Haiti as critical for their understanding of the binaries that shaped their own experiences of U.S. citizenship and the experiences of their research subjects. Similarly an ambitious multimedia work on long-term escaped slaves in late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Jamaica will appear in the venerable William and Mary Quarterly as it incorporates more imaginative forms of speculative digital humanities.