Scripps College

Summer Update #2: Intellectual Property and the Edward S. Curtis Collections

This is the second in a series of posts discussing the pilot project currently underway as part of our Mellon planning grant. Undergraduate research fellow and Scripps student, Amy Borsuk offers us an overview of the intellectual property rights research that we discovered was essential to a responsible use of the Curtis photographs.

We began the Edward S Curtis pilot project excited by the possibilities of work with public domain resources. We quickly learned, however, that we needed to better understand the ways in which Curtis’ photography has been established as legal entities that are subject to United States intellectual property laws. Just as any published book is owned and copyrighted by the author or any trademarked slogan requires paying a royalty for usage, Curtis’ photographs of Native Americans are a form of intellectual property. Their existence in public domain draws attention to the insufficiencies of intellectual property law in protecting property that does not specifically fit the legal qualifications for copyright, trademark or patent. Specifically, Curtis’ photos are within public domain, and therefore unprotected by copyright, trademark or patent. This means that they can be legally circulated for use by anyone. This free usage is promoted and encouraged by digital media and networks, from museum digital archives to social media sites. There are many consequences to this, both positive and negative, that this project aims to highlight and discuss.

Edward S. Curtis

One of the main negative consequences of the fact that Curtis’ photos are in public domain is that the photos are often used in ways that are offensive or inappropriate according to the tribe or nation that is being represented in the photo. Many Native American cultures consider the sanctity of important objects, individuals or beings to be present even in replications of the object. This means that photos depicting sacred objects or beings are as sacred as the object or being itself, and the photo needs to be protected from inappropriate gazes.

Graduate fellow Ulia Gosart is currently researching methods that are being developed and discussed by Native American tribes and nations, often in conjunction with the US government that could be used in order to regulate the exposure of sacred photographs. The goal of the research, and any legal reform that could arise from this research and work, is to give Native Americans legal agency and representation within the US legal system, whereas now the offences made against Native American tribes in terms of misuse of property often falls outside of legal protection.

Ulia’s research and work on this Scalar project aims to clarify the ways in which Native Americans are insufficiently represented within the US legal system, and the procedure that can and should be adopted for anyone who wants to use Native American intellectual property. The idea is to encourage a system that promotes direct discussion between Native American individuals and institutions, and governing bodies and individuals outside of the tribes who want to use Native American property correctly and respectfully.

All of these intricate issues have been synthesized in a brief essay written for both the Scalar project and the Scripps College Core I program, for all first year Scripps students. This year’s theme for the Core I lecture and seminar series is violence. Curtis’ photographs are being used as a primary source document to prompt discussions in seminar on violence towards Native Americans and the ways in which Native Americans and their cultural heritages have been taken away from them. The aim of the essay is to give first-year students a foundational understanding of the legal issues surrounding Native American rights.

This focus on a fair and empowering representation of Native Americans through the regulation of their property also contributes to one of the main goals of the Curtis pilot project, which is to examine the ways in which digital humanities can shift focus within discourse on Curtis away from him and back onto the subjects themselves: the Native Americans in the photos.

Summer Update

The CCDH team (Jacque Wernimont, Allegra Swift, Sam Kome, our graduate fellows David Kim, Ulia Gosart, and Heather Blackmore, and undergraduate researchers, Amy Borsuk and Bea Schuster) – has undertaken a summer pilot project arising from the Honnold-Mudd special collection holdings of Edward S. Curtis’ photography.


Original advertising postcard for an Edward S. Curtis lecture billed “A Picture Talk, with Stereopticon,” Seattle, n.d. Courtesy The Seattle Public Library, Edward S. Curtis scrapbook

Curtis (1868-1952) was a renowned and prolific photographer most known for his photographs of what he considered to be the  “vanishing race” of Native Americans in the western United States. Such influential men as Theodore Roosevelt, George Bird Grinnell, and J.P. Morgan funded his life’s work, a 22-volume set entitled The North American Indian. The set was issued in a limited edition from 1907-1930. Although many might not recognize his name, many of his images have become iconic. His work continues to circulate through varied media, from scholarly archives to tourist postcards.

Unlike more text-based projects such as Counting the Dead, this project allows us to explore digital humanities tools for working with images. The product of this pilot project will be a Scalar book, incorporating text, image, audio recordings, and video. A new interface for Scalar, which enables better viewing of a large number of images, will be launched with our project.

The book will explore issues of intellectual property around Native American representation, modern appropriations of and reactions to Curtis’ photographs, histories of race and technology, and endeavors to offer a nuanced perspective on Curtis’ work. Part of this effort includes a network visualization project – a network map of Curtis’ relationships with funders, family, friends, subjects, and tribes, which we hope will give a clearer picture of the many dependencies of Curtis’ self-styled “solitary” effort.

In addition to the work that the grant team is doing, several Claremont College faculty are contributing pieces for the Scalar book. These pieces explore Curtis’ work in the context of a history of portraiture, histories of music/sound recording, and in the context of Hollywood film-making.

As with most digital humanities projects, many of our challenges have been around scope. Curtis’ photography has had such a profound impact on Native American representation in American culture over the past century that there are many topics to discuss. A study of Curtis also opens up many possibilities for interdisciplinary scholarship, and we have been exploring topics from ranging legal issues to fan studies. We hope that the Scalar book will be a good research resource for undergraduate and graduate students, and that they can continue the project through producing their own work.

– Beatrice Schuster

THATCamp Feminisms at Scripps March 15 & 16, 2013

–this is a repost by Jacque Wernimont, Scripps College Professor of English and THATCamp Organizer, the original appeared this morning on her blog

I’m looking forward to our upcoming THATCamp Feminisms, hosted at Scripps College, March 15th and 16th. Normally I’d link to our site so that you could check out our planned workshops, suggest a session, or register. Unfortunately, the THATCamp sites have been hacked and are down. While I’m generally not prone to conspiracy theories – this is the second time that the THATCamp Feminisms sites have been down and I’m beginning to feel a bit like someone wants to stand in the way.

As of Monday morning, THATCamp Feminisms West is back up and running!

For those who are new to the THATCamp phenomenon – these events are “The Humanities and Technology Camps.” Designed as “unconferences,” these events are more free form, collaborative, and production-oriented than traditional academic conferences. No papers being read from lecterns here. THATCamps are also either low-cost or free – THATCamp Feminisms West (the one here at Scripps) is FREE!! Thanks to the generosity of the Scripps College Office of the President, Scripps English Department, Intercollegiate Media Studies, Intercollegiate Science, Technology, and Society, and Scripps Gender and Women’s Studies. We also have support from MSN Research.

I am particularly excited about the coordinated national effort of THATCamp Feminisms, what began as a west coast event will now also be a southern (@Emory) and eastern (@Barnard) event. We are also going to be participating in an exciting national Wikipedia editing event on Friday morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can visit our wiki page for more information, or check out Moya Bailey’s great write up of the event. This is both a virtual and in-person event. Here at Scripps we’ll be working at the Honnold-Mudd library in the future CCDH space and we’ll be joined by the fabulous Adrianne Wadewitz, who has helped host other recent WikiStorm events.

We currently plan to host two workshops:

Mia Ridge’s “Data visualisations as gateway to programming,” in which participants will be thinking about how to structure data for use in software, learning basic programming concepts, and moving towards tinkering with scripts. This is a great workshop for humanists who want a friendly intro to the world of programming.

Miriam Posner’s “Building Online Exhibits with Omeka,” in which participants will learn how to use Omeka to develop exhibits for classroom, research, and project use.

If we have enough interest, I will also be hosting an “Intro to DH” workshop for those who are attending their first THATCamp or who are new to the Digital Humanities field; we’ll discuss the origins of DH, it’s many different instantiations, and develop a common vocabulary for use during the rest of the THATCamp.

As with all THATCamps, the sessions will be decided upon during a welcome event and will be designed to focus on productive and collaborative work (feel free to suggest sessions in the comments below). Want to set an agenda for transnational feminisms in DH? -great, write that up. Want to design a syllabus or assignment for a feminist DH course? Wonderful! Have the skills to work with a group to build a lightweight mobile app? Get it done!

While most of the planning is going smoothly, the malicious attack on the THATCamp sites means that we have to hack our work flow just a bit – so please, spread the word that this site is here as a temporary substitute and that questions are most welcome. I’m looking forward to seeing what collective feminist engagement will yield!

DH in the classroom

DH in the classroom – Creating Archives with @profwernimont

“I wanted to somehow incorporate my love of art and art history into my final project,” says [Rachel Levi, Scripps College class of ’15] of online mini-archives produced as part of “Creating Archives,” a course taught by assistant professor of English Jacqueline Wernimont. Utilizing original research conducted in the Denison Library archives…”

THATCamp Feminisms at Scripps

In the latest local DH news, Scripps will be hosting a feminist “THATCamp” this March 15-17, 2013. THATCamps (The Humanities and Technology Camps) are digital humanities “unconferences” in which people can come together to discuss interdisciplinary approaches to learning, collaborating, and networking. They are quite a bit different (and generally more productive) than traditional conference-style events, as participants are encouraged to use session time to create, build, write, hack, and solve problems. THATCamp Feminisms will a multisite weekend of discussion about feminisms and the digital humanities. There will be workshops on various tools and technologies, as well as a day of discussion about feminist politics, gender, digital tools, and digital teaching. Students are welcome, but should register early to gain a spot as a Feminist DH Fellow.

We will also be hosting a feminist Wikistorm over the weekend in collaboration with THATCamp Feminisms South (and possibly Duke HASTAC and the Fembot Collective), in order to increase the feminist content on Wikipedia. If you’ve never heard of this before, here’s a link to an event that was hosted here in Claremont in the fall:

To register, and for more information, you can visit the official THATCamp Feminisms West website @ Registration is free. We can only accomodate 75 faculty/staff/graduate students and 25 Undergrad Fellows so register early!

Scripps Humanities Institute Lecture Series

SHI’s Fall lecture series topic is “Social Media/Social Change:Negotiating Access, Control, and Unrest in the Information Age.” SHI is hosting an array of experts to discuss the impact of digital information and our modern wireless environment on the political, economic, and personal level. Many of the seminars deal with issues relating to the digital humanities, including Pitzer professor Alex Juhasz’ presentation on “Social Media Pedgagogy: Feminist Teaching Online and Off” and San Jose State University professor Katherine Harris “Digitizing our Feminist Selves: Remediating the ‘Archive’ with Digital Interventions.”

Upcoming speakers include Lee Aase, the director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and Dr. Christine Greenhow, an assistant professorat Michigan State University. Mr. Aase will be speaking about “Bringing theSocial Media Revolution to Health Care.” Mr. Aase will discuss how his organization was able to creatively use social media to increase heart health awareness. Professor Greenhow’s presentation, “Social Media and Learning: Students Getting Help from Friends” will address how students can use social networking and social media to their advantage in the job search process.

“Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care” will take place on November 13th and “Students and Learning: Students Getting Help from Friends” will take place on November 27th. Both seminars begin at 7:30 pm and are held in Garrison Theater at Scripps College Performing Arts Center.

Each semester, the Scripps Humanities Institute presents lectures, seminars, and events relating to a specific theme or topic in humanities scholarship. This institute was founded in 1986 in order to forward interdisciplinary studies and allow Scripps students to learn from leading scholars at the cutting edge of the their fields. Learn more about previous and upcoming events hosted by the Scripps Humanities Institute.

-Beatrice Schuster

A Digital Humanities Beer Garden

Join us for a casual gathering in the Margaret Fowler Garden on the Scripps Campus.

Good, cold brews will be available and DH-tinged mingling will be afoot.

This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and to imagine possibilities for the new Center for Digital Humanities.

Thursday, September 27th, 2012 4:30-6:30 p.m.

Have a favorite beer you’d like to see there? Post a comment and we’ll do what we can!