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  • Aleia Brown

    Assistant Director, African American History, Culture and Digital Humanities (AADHum) Initiative University of Maryland


This course will teach participants an approach to theory and practice of critical curation and web publishing for material culture that is grounded in historical inquiry and context. Participants new to digital curation will learn how to use common tools, while more proficient digital humanist might learn new methodologies around critical curation and harm reduction. A survey of Black women’s material culture will form the central case study for the course. Participants will have the opportunity to work with data sets provided by the instructor that surface how Black women have fashioned themselves (through adornment), their environments (through utilitarian, and decorative and fine arts), and their experiences (through in-person and digital aesthetic choices). While the material culture presents compelling cause for celebration and appreciation, they also invite us to confront issues of appropriation, violation of sacred interior spaces, and barriers into the creative economy. By positioning Black women as makers, participants will also understand the dynamics of their work and their role in both historical and contemporary struggles for freedom. Exploration of the social, cultural, political, and economic implications will help participants understand how they might ultimately manage data and develop digital exhibitions of their own. Together, we will explore how our work as digital humanists can abet or reduce the harms that hitch on to hypervisibility and erasure of Black women and their creative work.

Participants will learn to employ historical and critical digital curation practices for any data set. Those with projects in progress are encouraged to join and share their experiences and concerns to enrich our group discussions. The lab portion of this course will involve a deep dive into learning Omeka and Scalar. The lab will also briefly introduce other tools like Audacity, Etherpad, Storymaps, and Unity that participants can use to create more dynamic digital collections. Participants will complete the course with a strong grasp on ethics around image-use, copyright, and digital stewardship.


Together we will explore the following questions: 

  • What do we gain (or lose) by embracing historical inquiry that explores the material and digital worlds?
  • How can we employ methodologies of care while exploring and exhibiting very interior and sometimes sacred spaces and histories in public?
  • What processes can we employ that do not aid in the harm that comes with Black women’s hypervisibility and erasure?
  • What does thoughtful digital curation entail?


Learning Objectives:

By the end of the intensive course, participants will be able to:

  • Apply the idea of thoughtful digital curation
  • Design a multi-media online exhibition using Omeka and Scalar
  • Understand and apply a methodology around studying and making public interior histories


If you have any questions, you should feel free to reach out to me at


Pre-reading: Black Women’s Material Culture

Brown, Aleia. “Liberating Threads, Liberating Histories.” Association for State and Local History Blog.

Caldwell, Ellen C. “What Amy Sherald Tells Us With Michelle Obama’s Dress.” JSTOR Daily.

Ford, Tanisha C. “How Rihanna’s Fenty Line is Challenging Luxury-Fashion Norms.” The Atlantic.

Parker, Lonnae O’Neal. “‘Will to Adorn’ examines African American Styles of Dress, Identity at Folklife Festival.” The Washington Post.

Sanders, Jasmine. “A Black Legacy, Wrapped Up in Fur.” New York Times.

Sargent, Antwaun. “Celebrating the Grace of Black Women’s Beauty.” New York Times.


Pre-reading: Digital Publishing/Exhibiting 

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for the Visual Arts

Copyright, Permissions, and Fair Use among Visual Artists and the Academic and Museum Visual Art Communities

Muñoz, Trevor. “Data Curation as Publishing for the Digital Humanities,” 2013.

Summers, Ed. “The Web’s Past is Not Evenly Distributed.” MITH Blog.


Material Collections Online

Carolyn Mazloomi-Women of Color Quilters Network

Michigan State University Museum

The Will to Adorn: African American Dress and the Aesthetics of Identity

Smithsonian Folklife and Cultural Heritage Center

Fashioning the Self

The Kitchen Table Series

Carrie Mae Weems

The Robert and Helen Cargo Collection of African American Quilts

International Quilt Museum