Colored Conventions Review

The Colored Convention Project is definitely a project with a mission. It is headed by a black woman, which I thought made a powerful statement about putting their money where their mouth was. Even though the entire staff is not PoC, it does show a dedication to the mission of the Project. Additionally, having staff, graduate students, and undergrads working together brings people with lots of different perspectives together, which I think is valuable. The mission of the Project, to link scholarship and social justice in a way that brings forgotten African-American histories to the public through digitalization, is definitely the center of the site in every way.

The resources they provide are extensive. In addition to the excellent documents and transcriptions they provide, their metadata is also helpful for contextualizing the documents well. Though I do wish they provided a very short description of the document they are transcribing to make it more searchable and help provide additional context that may be needed, I am impressed with how much information they provide through metadata and I appreciate that the metadata and tags can help me find other sources with similar themes. Being able to place everything in its context is something that is definitely important to them and as such, something they make sure they do very well. Placing both the documents and the people in context through metadata and exhibits, definitely helps give them a mission oriented presentation.

The documents themselves are largely minutes of these conventions, as well as other documents connected with the conventions. However, documents cannot be understood without some understanding of the history of the area. For the Project, that means contextualizing through exhibits. Giving that extended information helps turn the convention documents from data points on a screen into something that actually moved and affected people, the goal of any good public history project. The world is not a sterile place where people are divorced from events and separate from the people around them. For the CCP, that is I think, a key part of why they designed the website as they did, with so much emphasis on education. The fight for the freedom reverberates to today, making it relevant and the education element they provide, including curriculum and explanations of how to use the resources, all the more important.

I think that overall, the Colored Conventions Project succeeds in its goals. Though there are definitely things I would have liked to see more of, or at all, like a more topic oriented tagging system and a description of the item to help explain the context around each specific document, these complaints are relatively minor compared to the many things the Project did well. I found its emphasis on education and exhibits giving helpful information not provided in the items themselves is at least as important, if not more, than the items themselves. I wish the interface was cleaner and easier to work with, but cosmetic criticisms are more a matter of personal preference than something that truly defines the work they do.

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