Building a Digital Humanities Project with Synatra Smith

Photo of Synatra Smith

Photo courtesy Synatra Smith

Temple University Libraries is pleased to welcome Synatra Smith, PhD as our new Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellow. In this joint position, she is splitting her time between the Libraries and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). While working with the Libraries, Synatra will focus on digital scholarship projects related to African American art history in collaboration with the Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio. She also plans to work with the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.  

Synatra earned her PhD in Global and Sociocultural Studies with a concentration in Anthropology from the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University.

Beckie Dashiell, editor for Temple University Libraries, recently had the opportunity to check in with Synatra and learn more about her research interests and the work she is engaging in at the Libraries and the PMA.

Beckie Dashiell: First of all, welcome to Temple Libraries! Can you share with our readers more information about your research interests and ongoing projects?

Synatra Smith: My research focuses on the creation, perpetuation, and transformation of the socio-political intersectional Black cultural landscape with special attention to the ways in which virtual and physical space are used as environments to conceptually and practically transform Black identification processes, as well as the material culture that contributes to this phenomenon. 

I’ve been working in the galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAM) field for the past five years officially in museum education, but I’ve also curated, worked in collections, managed an outreach initiative, etc. Typical small museum work where each department is a staff of one and everyone does everything. I’ve painted walls, been the bartender at events, testified in front of the County Council for funding, and written grants. Outside of this fellowship, I’m working on a multi-chapter report to historically contextualize the use of racially restrictive deed covenants in Hyattsville, Maryland as a federally-sanctioned method of residential segregation during the first half of the twentieth century.

Beckie: Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of work you’ll be doing here at the Libraries, particularly in the Scholars Studio? What goals do you have for your time here?

Synatra: The Scholars Studio offers me an amazing opportunity to learn about a variety of digital tools for data collection and analysis that I intend to apply to my collection and interpretation of Black art, history, and culture. I’m currently participating in a few Zoom workshops to learn photogrammetry, text analysis with Python, and 3D scanning and modeling. I’m kind of creating my Batman utility belt of digital humanities tools that will allow me to develop an interactive exhibition that showcases current local Black art and scholarship through an Afrofuturist lens that reimagines time and space in order to speculate about the future. 

Beckie: As part of your fellowship, you’ll be working jointly with the Libraries and the PMA. What kinds of opportunities do you see this collaboration offering?

Synatra: PMA’s Library and Archives is working on a Wikidata project to link their collection to those records, and that data can be queried using SPARQL [a coding language] to visualize it in some fascinating ways. We’re also creating blog posts about local Black artists in PMA’s collection and we’ll be conducting oral histories with these artists soon, all of which can be added to Wikidata and linked back to PMA’s website. I’d like to do something similar with Temple Libraries’ collection so that when a person Googles one of these folks, they’ll come across their items in both of these organizations’ collections and archives. 

Also, both of these institutions are providing a launchpad for my own research project to explore the myriad ways in which Black artists and scholars in Philadelphia reimagine and conceptualize their communities. I am going to be working on capturing a broad spectrum of materials, from murals, zines/comics, posters, fashion/cosplay/textiles, and performance art, to three-dimensional models of sculptures and monuments, and using linked data queries and mapping tools for data visualization. 

Beckie: Can you envision any potential impacts for the kind of work you are doing? 

Synatra: As a true millennial, I not only have a full time fellowship and a research project, I also work with a childhood friend and his fraternity brother on a mobile Black culture trivia app called Trivia Black. I recently started brainstorming ways to integrate a gaming experience into this project potentially through virtual reality and/or augmented reality to create a more interactive digital exhibition model. Think Pokemon Go or the Sims but Black, local, and scaled way down to fit within a 2 year fellowship. 

Also, something Trivia Black talks through pretty often is how to make Black history not feel so heavy, which can be particularly difficult thanks to the legacies of enslavement, disenfranchisement, and terrorism against Black people both historically and currently. We try to be very intentional about the way we phrase questions, which is something I also do in my work more generally. The story may start with an injustice but I try to shine a light on the way we’ve fought against that oppression. Relatedly, I recently hosted a panel discussion where one of the panelists explained that her organization’s work integrates spiritual healing practices when the community interacts with the archive to soothe the very deep emotions that often arise. With all of that being said, I’m thinking of ways to keep the narratives pretty balanced between celebratory and tragic, and how to be responsible when tackling Black trauma in an interactive, gamified virtual exhibition.

Beckie: Thanks so much, Synatra! We look forward to checking back in with you over the course of your fellowship, and seeing how your project continues to develop

Editor’s note: A condensed version of this interview appears in the Fall 2020/Winter 2021 issue of Speaking Volumes, the newsletter for friends of Temple University Libraries.

Mandolin Music to Soothe the soul

Beyond the Notes Logo

Gabe Locati playing mandolin

Gabe Locati

Music for Piano and Mandolin

Wednesday, March 3rd, Noon EST

Gabe Locati, Mandolin; Sujin Kim, Piano

Join us for a noontime mandolin and piano recital with Boyer College of Music and Dance students Gabe Locati and Sujin Kim. This Beyond the Notes concert is coordinated by Allen Krantz, who heads the guitar program and teaches chamber music at Temple University.

This program will be presented via Zoom. On the day of the program, use this link to join: https://temple.zoom.us/j/97465349854.

All programs are free and open to all, and registration is encouraged.

Register

Gabe Locati plays Bach Chaconne. 

Mandolin (from Wikipedia)

History of the Mandolin (from Wikipedia)

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Reading for social change: Perspectives on oppression and wellness

Guest post by Brittany Robinson, wellness education program coordinator with the Wellness Resource Center 

Self-care practices such as getting quality rest, consuming nourishing foods, and regularly moving our bodies are known to positively impact our well-being. We can make choices that help us feel well. At the same time, our well-being is also influenced by systems that we can’t control. Access to resources, support, and opportunities are distributed disproportionately and can have profound effects on our health and well-being. Today’s post is a collaboration between the Wellness Resource Center and Temple University Libraries

Abstract image, viewing building through window

photo by Joseph V. Labolito, Temple University

Oppression is discrimination that is supported by systems and structures within a society. It shows up in education, policies, healthcare, and more. Health disparities are just one area in which the consequences of oppression are clear. Folks with marginalized identities often experience health inequities at alarming rates. Bringing these systemic issues to light is necessary in the journey to create positive change. Before engaging in discourse, it is helpful to educate ourselves around oppression and its harmful effects. Books are a wonderful resource that allow us to view reality from diverse perspectives. 


How Does Reading Help? 

Before engaging in discourse, it is helpful to educate ourselves around oppression and its harmful effects. Books are a wonderful resource that allow us to view reality from diverse perspectives. Research shows that reading can improve empathy and perspective-taking. 

Here are some suggested titles, available through Temple Libraries

Medical Apartheid by Harriet A. Washington 
Washington’s text takes readers on a journey of the mistreatment African Americans have endured as unsuspecting experimental subjects within the U.S. medical system from the era of slavery through present day. 

The Health Gap by Michael Marmot 
Through examples and telling statistics, President of the World Medical Association  Michael Marmot writes about social injustice being a threat to global health. He also highlights existing tools to reduce health inequities that we may not be utilizing as we should. 

Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care by Dayna Bowen Matthew 
In this text, Matthew discusses how unfair and unjust healthcare treatment of folks with marginalized identities leads to avoidable health disparities. She offers solutions that address implicit bias.


Resources Available 

Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services has specially-trained therapists and support groups for Temple University students.

Temple’s Institutional Diversity, Equity, Advocacy and Leadership (IDEAL) provides a space for the campus community to learn about diverse perspectives, receive training, and explore strategies for making our campus and the world a more equitable place. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has health disparities resources to help folks further their understanding of the causes and consequences of oppression in healthcare. 

20th Century Vietnamese Piano Music: A Journey Through Time

Beyond the Notes

Photo of Nam Nguyen

Nam Hoang Nguyen performs, photo by Brae Howard

Nam Nguyen, pianist and scholar

Wednesday, February 10, Noon, EST

Temple University Libraries’ Beyond the Notes is pleased and proud to present a performance and discussion of Vietnamese piano music of the Twentieth Century by doctoral student Nam Nguyen.

Western art music is relatively new in Vietnam, with a colonial history that started in the late nineteenth century.  Early European music exposure in Vietnam was part of French mission civilisatrice and was later taken over by the Vietnamese with the establishment of the first Vietnamese conservatory (now known as the Vietnam Academy of Music) in 1956.  The development and progress of classical music, however, was hindered by the Vietnam war and facility limitations throughout most of Vietnam’s modern history.  Despite the obstacles, Vietnamese musicians managed to keep the school operating and to train generations of musicians.  Vietnamese composers also managed to produce a substantial amount of repertoire in various genres: orchestra, chamber, solo instrument, songs, and more.  Within the relatively small solo instrumental output, piano music occupies a major part.  These works, however, remain unknown even in Vietnam, due to lack of performance and information.  In the lecture, I will offer an overview of the development and dissemination of European classical music in Vietnam as context for the second part, which focuses on compositions for piano.  Although the piano has foreign origins, Vietnamese composers managed to integrate folk elements into their compositions for the instrument.  Not only did it allow the younger generation to assimilate music from the west, it also fostered their understanding of national identity.  At first, many Vietnamese piano works were intended for pedagogical purposes.  As Vietnamese musicians received better training and education, they composed more complex and original works, intended for a concert setting.  Although only a very small number of works are performed today, Vietnamese piano music, as the combination of western musical training and Vietnamese creativity, constitutes a meaningful artistic genre.

 

Nam Nguyen is currently a doctoral student in Piano Performance at Boyer College of Music and Dance. His principal teachers have included Ha Thu Tran, Harvey Wedeen, and Ching-Yun Hu; he also studied collaborative piano with Lambert Orkis and early keyboard instruments with Joyce Lindorff. Besides playing traditional solo piano repertoire, Nguyen is actively involved in the performance of contemporary music as well as participating in different ensembles of various sizes.

Nam started his piano training at the age of six and attended Vietnam Academy of Music before coming to Temple. While he spent his early years learning piano in Vietnam, he did not have much experience to the classical music by Vietnamese composers and did not know many works in the repertoire. Exposure to the development of Classical Music in America, which brought forth some of the most original composers such as Charles Ives, George Gershwin, sparked his interest in his own culture, and he decided to research the topic of Vietnamese piano music for his dissertation.

This program will be presented via Zoom. On the day of the program, use this link to join: https://temple.zoom.us/j/99575828248.

All programs are free and open to all, and registration is encouraged.

Register

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Welcome back: Your spring 2021 guide to the Libraries

As we enter another semester where many of us remain apart due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all of us here at the Libraries want to help you succeed amid these challenging circumstances. We are committed to providing you with important resources, materials, opportunities, and services, no matter where you are.  Check out our round up below.

If you plan to visit us in person, we encourage you to check our website for the latest information on access and services during COVID-19

Photo of physically distanced seating in Charles Library

Third floor open study area in Charles Library, photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

One-on-one research help

Librarians are here to offer personalized assistance as you work on your research papers and projects. No matter what you are studying or what major you pursue, we have a librarian who specializes in your field

Getting in touch with your librarian is easy: you can chat, email, or schedule a virtual appointment. For more ways to get in touch, visit our Contact Us page. 

Access to collections

We provide access to a broad range of physical and online materials—from books, databases, and journals to ebooks, archival materials, and movies—all searchable through our website: library.temple.edu.

If you are looking for fully online materials, we have highlighted those on our website.  

Recognition for your research

We will soon begin accepting applications for the Livingstone Undergraduate Research Awards, in which we recognize the best scholarly and creative work produced by Temple undergrads. Did we mention there are cash prizes?!

Online learning opportunities

The Libraries are more than just a place for books! We host specialized online learning opportunities, such as workshops on everything from telling stories with data to using citation managers to getting started with 3D printing. We have a full slate of workshops scheduled for the spring, and we hope you’ll join us. 

And check out our Beyond the Page public programming series. This semester’s theme is Made in North Philly, and we’ll be offering a variety of virtual readings, concerts, conversations, and more. 

As always, our events and workshops are free and open to all.


Here are a few more tips to help you start the new year off right:

Perspectives on substance use disorder: An exercise in empathy

Guest post by Lauri Fennell, public health and social sciences librarian, and Vicky Nucci, alcohol and drug prevention coordinator at the Wellness Resource Center

Self-reflection and assessing old patterns is common with the start of a new year. Often the New Year is brought in with drinking. This is a tradition that can bring about a lot of feelings, and we may not know how it affects our campus community. Building empathy and expanding our perspectives will help create safe and healthy spaces for all. This post is a collaboration between the Wellness Resource Center and Temple University Libraries.

Abstact image of lights on Temple's campus

photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg, Temple University

The importance of sharing perspectives

In a world where substance use has been normalized and oftentimes glorified, it’s important to understand all sides of this issue. 2020 was a challenging year and connecting with each other continues to be important. Students have had to navigate new models of participating in course instruction and connecting with one another in virtual spaces. Isolation has had its effects on all students but particularly on our students in recovery. If you or someone you know are affected by substance use disorder (SUD) and would like to seek options, check out this article from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


Explore

Temple University Libraries has a large collection of videos and books (including ebooks). Search all Books and Media with your subject term, then limit by subject—e.g., fiction, memoir, etc. The Free Library of Philadelphia is another place to discover books on addiction and recovery.

Below you’ll find a curated list of media that is centered around folks’ experiences with substance use disorder. A few in the recommended list may be available as an ebook or audiobook too.

Memoirs/Biographies

Memoirs and biographies share personal stories, from the individual’s struggle with substance use disorder to the effects on family members. As with any reading, some will love a title while others don’t. 

Educational Texts

To learn more about substance use disorder, below are a couple of texts:


A space for reflection

Stress is often met with “I need a drink” or “you deserve a drink.” The language we use with phrases like happy hour, BYOB, and others, assumes that everyone wants to drink. The next time you plan a gathering or talk about how to handle stress, think about the implications our words can have on folks who live sober lifestyles or are in recovery.

 

This winter break, enjoy a good book

As winter break draws near, many of us are looking forward to relaxing as we get ready for the new year. What better way to unwind than to curl up with a good book? We polled Temple Libraries staff members for the books they recommend you check out this winter:


Book cover for The Blind AssassinI recommend The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. You might know Atwood from The Handmaid’s Tale, but The Blind Assassin is by far my favorite of her novels. It’s a story within a story within a story. There might even be another story in there. It’s genre-bending, hard to classify, and the more I write about it, the more I think I’m due for a re-read.
—Beckie Dashiell, Editor, Library Outreach and Communications

 

Book cover for The Vanishing Half

I recently read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and thought it was such a page-turner. I always love a novel that pulls you into its world so much that you are still thinking about it even while you are not actively reading, and The Vanishing Half did that for me.
—Geneva Heffernan, Lead Administrative Specialist, Library Outreach and Communications
(Bonus: This ebook is available through the Libraries.)

 

Book cover for Useful Phrases for ImmigrantsI would recommend Useful Phrases for Immigrants, a short story collection by May-lee Chai. Temple University Press published her memoir, Hapa Girl, back in 2007 and I’ve followed her writing ever since. I particularly love short stories so I devoured this collection. Chai’s writing is so precise and emotional. She freights so much meaning and reveals telling details about her characters, sometimes in a single sentence. And I love that the collection provides so many vivid characters.
—Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager, Temple University Press

 

Book cover for Braiding SweetgrassBraiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer—A collection of essays on how botany and the teachings of Native America are connected. I particularly loved the traditional story of the three sisters (corn, squash, beans) and how that story is reflected in the garden (each helps the other grow) as well as supporting the body nutritionally. Kimmerer teaches at the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry and is also a member of the Potawatomi tribe. 
—Nancy Turner, Associate Director for Organizational Research and Strategy Alignment
(Bonus: Another ebook that’s available through the Libraries.)

 

Book cover for Such a Fun AgeI picked up Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid because another library staff member was reading it, and then couldn’t put it down. The novel takes place in Philly and the protagonist is a Temple alum, so reading it felt like a little local scavenger hunt. It also provides a really nuanced depiction of race, class, and privilege, and manages to do so with a lightness that still makes it—forgive me—such a fun read. 
Sara Wilson, Assistant Director, Outreach and Communications
(Bonus: This ebook is available too!)

 

Book Cover for the 7th Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. This book quickly became possibly one of the best books I have ever read. I describe it as a mix of Agatha Christie and Groundhog Day. This book is full of twists and turns and I literally couldn’t put it down! Highly recommend if you like mystery, historical fiction, a twist of sci-fi, intrigue, and fast paced writing.
—Carly Hustedt, Bibliographic Assistant II, Access Services

 

Book cover for Tarka the OtterTarka the Otter by Henry Williamson. A wonderful book which is little known in this country: “one of the defining masterpieces of modern nature writing…that seeks to transcend the boundaries between the human and the animal worlds.” —New York Review Books (NYRB)
—Gregory McKinney, Librarian

 

Reading for Social Change: What We Can Do for World AIDS Day and Beyond

Guest post by Brittany Robinson, wellness education program coordinator with the Wellness Resource Center 

December 1st is World AIDS Day—a time to show support for those whose lives are impacted by HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died from an HIV/AIDS-related illness. World AIDS Day has been recognized and helped raise awareness for 32 years. The 2020 theme is “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility,” which encourages us to  unite worldwide to reduce new cases of HIV, end stigma, and make the world a better place for folks living with HIV. This post is a collaboration between the Wellness Resource Center and Temple University Libraries.

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and about 14% are unaware of their status. Living with HIV can be challenging due to isolation and stigmatization, but this does not have to be the reality. We have the power to work individually and collectively to create change. Using kind person-first language, becoming informed about the realities of HIV, and addressing misconceptions can reduce experiences of shame and isolation. One way we can begin doing the work of educating ourselves and reducing stigma is by reading accounts that accurately portray the experiences of folks living with HIV/AIDS. 

How Does Reading Help? 

Reading provides us the freedom and space to explore perspectives and experiences that are different from our own. Research shows that reading can improve empathy and perspective-taking. 

Here are some suggested titles, available through Temple Libraries

Positive by Tom Bouden

Bouden’s graphic novel tells the story of a young woman, Sarah, who discovers that she is HIV positive. Readers are taken on a journey as Sarah learns to navigate taking medication, responses from friends, and stigma. This story focuses on how life with HIV can be and often is filled with love and joy. 

Vital Signs: Essential AIDS Fiction by Richard Canning 

Canning has organized a collection of powerful short stories that speak to the struggle, bravery, and resilience of folks living with HIV and AIDS. 

Available Resources 

Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services has specially-trained therapists and support groups for Temple University students. 

Temple’s Wellness Resource Center has workshops and resources centered around healthy sexuality, stigma reduction, and social change. 

Philadelphia FIGHT provides inclusive and patient centered comprehensive primary care, and HIV primary care, research, education, and advocacy to folks living with HIV and those who are susceptible. 

AIDS United is a national organization with a mission of ending HIV in the United States. They offer blog posts, free webinars, and other resources for folks interested in improving the state of HIV nationally. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information to help folks understand the basics of HIV, prevention methods, living fully with HIV, stigma reduction, and more. 

Reading for Social Change: What We Can Do for World AIDS Day and Beyond

Guest post by Brittany Robinson, wellness education program coordinator with the Wellness Resource Center 

December 1st is World AIDS Day—a time to show support for those whose lives are impacted by HIV/AIDS and to remember those who have died from an HIV/AIDS-related illness. World AIDS Day has been recognized and helped raise awareness for 32 years. The 2020 theme is “Global Solidarity, Shared Responsibility,” which encourages us to  unite worldwide to reduce new cases of HIV, end stigma, and make the world a better place for folks living with HIV. This post is a collaboration between the Wellness Resource Center and Temple University Libraries.

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and about 14% are unaware of their status. Living with HIV can be challenging due to isolation and stigmatization, but this does not have to be the reality. We have the power to work individually and collectively to create change. Using kind person-first language, becoming informed about the realities of HIV, and addressing misconceptions can reduce experiences of shame and isolation. One way we can begin doing the work of educating ourselves and reducing stigma is by reading accounts that accurately portray the experiences of folks living with HIV/AIDS. 

How Does Reading Help? 

Reading provides us the freedom and space to explore perspectives and experiences that are different from our own. Research shows that reading can improve empathy and perspective-taking. 

Here are some suggested titles, available through Temple Libraries

Positive by Tom Bouden

Bouden’s graphic novel tells the story of a young woman, Sarah, who discovers that she is HIV positive. Readers are taken on a journey as Sarah learns to navigate taking medication, responses from friends, and stigma. This story focuses on how life with HIV can be and often is filled with love and joy. 

Vital Signs: Essential AIDS Fiction by Richard Canning 

Canning has organized a collection of powerful short stories that speak to the struggle, bravery, and resilience of folks living with HIV and AIDS. 

Available Resources 

Temple’s Tuttleman Counseling Services has specially-trained therapists and support groups for Temple University students. 

Temple’s Wellness Resource Center has workshops and resources centered around healthy sexuality, stigma reduction, and social change. 

Philadelphia FIGHT provides inclusive and patient centered comprehensive primary care, and HIV primary care, research, education, and advocacy to folks living with HIV and those who are susceptible. 

AIDS United is a national organization with a mission of ending HIV in the United States. They offer blog posts, free webinars, and other resources for folks interested in improving the state of HIV nationally. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information to help folks understand the basics of HIV, prevention methods, living fully with HIV, stigma reduction, and more. 

Unending Protests, Unending Music

Beyond the Notes

Dr. Manabe in performance

Manabe photocredit Scott Gilbard

The Trump Presidency: A Revue

Wednesday, December 2, Noon

Since he announced his candidacy in 2015, Donald Trump has been a subject in music, much of it in the form of parodies, remixes, and mashups released on social media.This talk by Dr. Noriko Manabe reviews this music of the Trump presidency (mostly from the Trump Resistance) and the rhetorical tactics employed. Topics considered include humor, intertextual meanings, and circulation between cyberspace and street protests. Dr. Manabe is an associate professor of Music Studies at Boyer College of Music and Dance, and her research centers on music and social movements, popular music, and music and trauma.

Register Here.

This program will be presented via Zoom. On the day of the program, use this link to join: https://temple.zoom.us/j/94308554405 .

All programs are free and open to all, and registration is encouraged.

 

TU Libraries and Center for Performing Arts Logos

 

 

 

 

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