#FridayDHSpotlight: Playing it Queer by Natasha Vhugen

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.


Playing It Queer Screenshot

Playing It Queer Screenshot


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.

We’re Launching a New Series! — #FridayDHSpotlight

We’re launching at new series! We members of the DH@CC team spend a lot of our time preparing for classes, collaborating on exciting digital research programs, and planning events for the Claremont community. In our new #FridayDHSpotlight series, we hope to share reflections on a wide range of topics: projects, classes, and events that we’re proud to have sponsored; methodological questions that we’re grappling with in our meetings; new tools that we’re experimenting with during our office hours.

To kick off the series, we share a piece by Abigail Beck, an M.A. student in the Department History at The Claremont Graduate University, who participated in the screening of and public seminar about the haunting and timely documentary by Tim Slade, The Destruction of Memory.

A Reflection on The Destruction of Memory

by Abigail Beck

The film screening and discussion earlier this semester of Tim Slade’s The Destruction of Memory (2006) with students from Dr. Patricia Blessing’s Pomona ID1 class, Archaeology: Fact and Fiction, covered timely topics such as cultural eradication and genocide spanning from WWI and WWII to contemporary conflicts raging in the Middle East and North Africa. As a discussant of the student panel, I engaged with students about how technology has preserved historical artifacts and landmarks or sped up the dismantling of such sites; of how targeting heritage sites and urban centers can be used to demoralize victim groups; and lastly about the structural elements and critique of Tim Slade’s film.

Part of The Claremont Colleges Library Discourse Series, the discussion was dedicated to the late Stu McConnell, professor emeritus of history at Pitzer College. His research focused on the Civil War and memory, which tied into questions from the audience regarding the controversial debates in the United States regarding the removal of Confederate monuments. Overall, the event held in the Collaborative Commons in The Claremont Colleges Library was filled with stimulating conversation about the significance of cultural erasure and destruction, which according to Raphael Lemkin, the father of genocide-studies, always precedes physical and biological genocide.

These events were made possible through the generous sponsorship of DH@CC, The Claremont Colleges Library, the Department of Art History at Pomona, and the Department of History at The Claremont Graduate University. If you were unable to attend the event but would still like to watch the film, members of the Claremont community may now stream it through The Claremont Colleges Library website.

Abigail Beck is an M.A. student in the History Department at The Claremont Graduate University.

© 2019 Digital Humanities at The Claremont Colleges.
Unless otherwise indicated, all materials licensed by the CC 4.0 BY-NC License.

DH@CC has been made possible through a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.