AMIA 2021 Conference ~ Mexicanos in Oregon

Mexicanos in Oregon: Improving access to their stories through metadata

Hello, readers! I’m Valeria Dávila Gronros, the 2019-2021 Fellow in the Diversity Scholars Program (DSP) at the OSULP.

As a DSP Fellow, I’ve been collaborating on projects with different library departments, especially in projects involving collection management, development, and accessibility. As a native Spanish-speaking Latina, I was keenly interested in improving accessibility through translation, helping make library materials available in Spanish. Fortunately, in October 2020, the opportunity emerged for me to start working on an exciting, bilingual oral histories project with the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Oregon Multicultural Archives (OMA), aimed at improving discoverability of and access to the 25 oral histories in the Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Papers (1943-2010) collection

The Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Collection

Erlinda Gonzales-Berry chaired the Oregon State University Ethnic Studies Department from 1997 until 2007, and the materials in this collection reunite her extensive research on Mexican immigration to Oregon for “Mexicanos in Oregon: Their Stories, Their Lives” (2010), a book she co-authored with her peer Marcela Mendoza and published through the OSU Press. In addition to the published book, chapter drafts, correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other paper-based materials, the collection also includes 34 audiocassettes of 25 interviews with Mexican immigrants and children of early Mexican migrant settlers in Oregon, all of which have been digitized. Of note, among the interviewees are the Mexican María Damaris Silva, who at the time of the interview had served as a community organizer in Oregon and California, and the Chicano John Little, who served as the first Director of the Migrant Valley League.

Figure 1. Screenshot of Erlinda Gonzales-Berry Papers finding aid.

The Oral Histories Project

It all started in Spring 2020, when the Oregon Multicultural Archives collaborated with students in the Ethnic Studies course 416/516 Migrant Health at the OSU on creating interview summaries, biographies, and historical context essays for the oral histories interviews in this collection, in Spanish and English, as most of the interviews are in Spanish. 

There were less students than interviews, so some interviews remained incomplete until I started working on the project some months later, in the Fall. My work consisted of reviewing, amending, and occasionally, also translating the metadata created by the students from/to English or Spanish, as well as creating the full descriptive metadata where missing. The aim of this work was to add this metadata to the finding aid to make these stories more easily discoverable and accessible for research. 

Working Remotely

For me to work on the project remotely, my supervisor, Natalia Fernández, shared a Google Drive folder with me containing 25 subfolders, one per interview. Each subfolder contained a Google Doc with sections for the summary, bio, and historical context, plus the audio file/s. While the majority of the interviews had these sections complete, others were partially complete or empty.

Figure 2. A peak at the six interviews needing full metadata at different stages of completion.

Since the situation was different for each interview, my first step was grouping them according to their state to be able to organize my work and make priorities, since we wanted to update the finding aid on a rolling basis, as the metadata became available, instead of waiting until I completed the project to do so. For this reason, I decided to start with the oral history interviews that only needed reviewing and amending, as they were the most quantius and the ones I would complete faster. I then continued with the ones that, in addition to the revision and amending needed translation, and, finally, with those in need of the full descriptive metadata, as they would take more time than the rest to be completed. From the total 25 interviews, I reviewed, amended, and, in some cases, translated 19 of them, and created summaries and biographies in English and Spanish for the remaining 6. 

Outreach

As a daughter of immigrants, and an international student, this was a meaningful project for me and one I’m thankful to have taken part in. Wanting for users and the library and archives community to become aware of the existence of these materials and of these improvements, on April 15th I presented a poster about the project at the Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) Spring Conference 2021. 

Figure 3. Poster presented at AMIA Spring Conference 2021.

The recording for the poster presentation can be accessed here:

Mexicanos in Oregon: Improving access to their stories through metadata

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