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Collections and Curations

In Silencing the Past, Michel-Rolph Trouillot reminds us that the past exists in its material traces, and that those material traces are produced—our past is a product, and so are its consequences. He goes on to place power at the center of that production: “inequalities experienced by the actors lead to uneven historical power in the inscription of traces… Sources are thus instances of inclusion, the other face of which is, of course, what is excluded” (p.48).

We are now experiencing a new, intense round of (re-)production of that past in the form of large and small digital libraries. We see the careful curation of texts in rich scholarly editions online, as well as shoddy mass digitization; we see profitable knowledge cartels produce substantial “databases” of remediated archival sources, available for rent, like Netflix for solvent research institutions; we see libraries, large and small, try to catch up by offering their own holdings open-access; we see shadow libraries, the gigantic ones produced with the pirate care of Eastern Europeans, as well as the handheld ones of Cuban sneakernets; in our Caribbean, we have the honor of enjoying one of the largest digital libraries of any region of the world, dLoC, as well as many smaller thematic collections, carefully curated by the scholars who most care about them.

The resulting artifacts of all of this archive-making, sampled below, lie somewhere in between the impulse to collect “the disjecta membra of this Great House” for profit or authority, and the impulse to curate, to care for our most precious household rebels. We believe, following the lead of Kim Gallon’s “Making a Case for the Black Digital Humanities,” that the “technologies of recovery” are central to the Caribbean Digital as well, and in these curations we find some of its most promising avenues.