Students from across the consortium are usually introduced to digital humanities in the context of class assignments, but we’re always eager to support independent projects by students who want to experiment with digital techniques and public facing platforms in their own research. In today’s #FridayDHSpotlight, Natasha Vhugen, Scripps College ’21, reflects on her experience doing just that this past summer on a project advised by Associate Professor of Music Anne Harley.
I spent this past summer creating Playing it Queer, a Digital Humanities Archive (DHA) comprised of interviews with artists across a wide variety of mediums and specialties that identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. I worked to document their stories and create a collective memory of the incredibly important work these artists have been doing and to serve as a living, growing documentation and representation of the wide range of queer identities and forms of expression in art.
The aim of the project was to create a DHA that would exist as a resource for those interested to be able to see the work being done by these artists. DHAs are a relatively new form of archiving, working to keep digital records of important projects within the humanities. The Claremont Colleges Library has an ever-growing DHA of our own, serving as a home for information collected and projects done by students who wanted to explore, among other things, the histories of various communities and create ethnographies to honor the work being done. My project will be archived alongside the others, serving as a resource for anyone who wants to see the important work being done by these artists and explore the endless possibilities for queer expression and normalization in art.
Doing this project was a very illuminating and educational experience for me. Growing up in Seattle, I was involved in the art world from a young age simply by virtue of it being all around me in a creative and arts-focused city. I also grew up very aware of queerness and that it should be celebrated, as Seattle has always been an LGBTQ+ friendly place. Identity, especially identity that is difficult to navigate and often marks people as “other,” was something I was taught to be aware of and openminded towards. When I grew older and began to identify as queer myself, I began to feel more connected to queer people throughout history and in the world now, and I knew I wanted to pay homage to the work being done to normalize queerness and to make this world a more tolerant and respectful place.
This project was incredible for me. Almost every artist I spoke with was so enthusiastic and excited about sharing their experience, and I felt honored to be able to capture it for them. There is such a wide range of experiences that queer people experience, but what I discovered is that the members of the community have such great respect for other queer people they meet, even if they have nothing in common. There is a long history of strength and love within the queer community, and that history is being communicated through the art done by these artists.
I hope to see Playing it Queer continue in the future. As the summer was winding down, I had to tell some artists that had reached out to me that I could not speak with them, as I did not have the time to do their stories justice. I am hoping to be able to sit down with them in the future and grow this archive to the best of my abilities. I am also interested in making some sort of zine or other small creative publication that can showcase the visuals I received from some artists alongside quotes from their interviews that really stood out. I want Playing it Queer to serve as a powerful representation of the work these artists are doing, and to show anyone who sees it that queerness is a thing to be celebrated and communicated to the world through any and all creative means.
For more information about Playing it Queer, please contact the DH@CC Team.