Monday, June 27, 2016

Digital News:GLAM Café and Digital Paxton

The Library Company has ramped up its digital programming during the last two years. As a hub of Digital Humanities projects, LCP supports digital outreach through a variety of regional educational programs and events. One of the more popular events is the PhillyDH GLAM Café Meet-Up. GLAM Café, as it is known, provides networking opportunities to digital managers and digital support staff at Philadelphia area institutions. Our own DH manager Nicole Scalessa facilitated LCP’s partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, which allowed the Library Company to serve as one of four institutional hosts for this monthly meetup of digital humanists from Philadelphia area galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. This year LCP hosted GLAM Cafe in the Cassatt House on the second Tuesday of April, May, and June.

GLAM Café serves as an incubator of ideas and projects in the Digital Humanities (a fashionable term that refers to the merging of digital technologies and humanities research interests). In April, the Library Company kicked off the spring meetings with a guest speaker who introduced a new software platform with DH possibilities for museums and archives. Professor Will Fenton, who teaches at Fordham University (, discussed the Scalar platform he is using for the new Digital Paxton project, which flows from partnerships with both the Library Company and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Digital professionals gather for a PhillyDH GLAM Cafe Meet-up
You may be wondering: “What is the Digital Paxton?” According to Fenton, it is a new way to understand the meaning of Native-Colonial relations in Pennsylvania before the American Revolution. By compiling and digitizing original pamphlets, maps and historical essays, Digital Paxton will allow scholars, educators and students to re-examine a famous instance of borderlands violence in Pennsylvania (the so-called Paxton Boys Rebellion) through an interactive website. The Paxton Boys were a group of Scots-Irish Presbyterians who, angered by what they saw as Native incursions, attacked a group of Christianized Indians at Conestoga Manor in 1764. The violence and horror of the attack shocked Native as well as colonial figures. But the Paxton Uprising was no single event; in fact, it led to a series of battles, from a Lancaster jailhouse to the streets of Philadelphia. Benjamin Franklin eventually helped negotiate a settlement with the Paxton leaders. Yet over the next year Paxton critics (including Native Americans) and apologists continued to wage an intense public debate over colonial authority, Native-white relations, and governance in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  

The deeper dimensions of the Paxton saga are illuminated in dozens of pamphlets, political cartoons, and broadsides housed at both LCP and HSP.  But many of these documents are not digitized, which means researchers and teachers unable to get to Philadelphia are missing out on a truly important set of resources on the struggle. The Paxton Massacre, as some scholars have labelled it, illuminates many broader matters, from colonial/Native identity and race relations to the meaning of masculinity and religious association in 18th century America. Thanks to Digital Paxton, anyone interested in these and other topics will have access to a terrific set of resources.

With so much ground to cover – digitizing documents, gathering historical information, getting things in accessible online formats – it was only fitting that we tapped into our competitive summer Digital Humanities internship program for assistance.  LCP hired DH Intern Hunter Johnson, who will be digitizing pamphlets, broadsides, and political cartoons in June. He will also be assisting with the collection and entry of metadata (descriptions of the resources used); transcription of some original documents; and providing research insights on various authors, printers, and pamphlets in the Digital Paxton archive. Supervised by Nicole Scalessa, Digital Humanities Coordinator, and Nicole Joniec, Digital Collections Librarian, Hunter has already proven to be an integral part of the project team.  Building out Will Fenton’s wonderful idea, LCP’s DH team will help bring Digital Paxton to life and make it a compelling and important website for anyone interested in this tragic frontier event.

To learn more about Hunter Johnson's experience at the Library Company this summer read his blog post here

Nicole Scalessa 
Information Technology Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator

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