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Harlem Heritage Project

Harlem Heritage Project Partner(s): Manning Marable
Arts and Sciences

Access: Columbia only
Released: November 2007


The Harlem Heritage Project is an online resource that allows students to gather digital assets pertaining to their individual projects and presentations in Professor Manning Marable's graduate course, Harlem Heritage: A Community History, 1900 to the Present. Students in the course study Harlem's rich history through four lenses: Politics, Social Science, Deviance, Aesthetics and "othering." They are able to search, browse, collect, and edit the collection of videos, audio, images and text documents assembled especially for this seminar to support their multimedia presentations.

Project Details

When Professor Manning Marable was planning a new graduate seminar called Harlem Heritage: A Community History, 1900 to the Present, he turned to CCNMTL with challenges and ideas directly engaging the Center's new Digital Bridges initiative.

His course, which asks students to examine Harlem's institutions, personalities, and shifting cultural representations, would involve direct interrogation of a variety of primary source materials. Was it possible to build an online environment allowing students studying this one historic neighborhood to collectively analyze a range of documentation -- photos, articles, videos, music, oral histories? Could resources from Columbia's rich Harlem collections be aggregated and supplemented by pertinent resources outside the university? And would it be possible to inflect such a multimedia collection with Dr. Marable's thematic framing of Harlem?

Building on its experience developing Multimedia Study Environments such as the Malcolm X MSE and The Souls of Black Folk MSE, as well as personal collection building in projects like the CU Analyzer and Havel at Columbia, CCNMTL partnered with Professor Marable on the Harlem Heritage Project, a customized resource portal and presentation tool supporting his Fall 2007 seminar.

A customized gateway to source materials

Befitting a Digital Bridges project, HHP draws on disparate collections and delivers them in novel ways to students engaged in concentrated study of a defined subject in their class. Collections identified in partnership with Marable and assembled by CCNMTL into an immersive space for his students include:

  • Digitized representations of Columbia University Libraries' Special Collections holdings, such as the Alexander Gumby collection, bringing resources unique to Columbia directly to Marable's students.
  • Selected portions of interviews conducted with important Harlem figures in the 1970s and 1980s by Columbia's Oral History Research Office.
  • Archival videos documenting important moments and personalities in Harlem. some of them recontextualed from previous projects developed by CCNMTL.
  • A custom-assembled video collection of movies documenting shifting representations of Harlem over the course of the 20th century.
  • Annotations and glossary definitions drawn from related CCNMTL projects such as the Social Justice Wiki and the Malcolm X MSE.
  • Articles on Harlem in newspapers and magazines archives available through Columbia University Libraries subscription databases.
  • Continually updating podcasts of lectures by Marable and his colleagues over the course of the seminar.
  • Feeds from specified and dynamically updating offerings from community video services such as YouTube and Google Video.

Promoting active engagement

Gathering such a wide range of Harlem resources is certainly valuable in and of itself, but the Digital Bridges initiative has a further goal: to encourage active use of primary source collections. This emphasis on pushing beyond a read-only approach to digitized multimedia turned out to resonate well with Dr. Marable's desire to frame the material with defined emphases intrinsic to the course, as well as his plans to assign students the task of building presentations out of materials they found in HHP.

CCNMTL built support for these active engagements with HHP's assembled collections in several ways, including:

  • Application of core concepts to source material. This is accomplished by thematic "tags" in HHP. These themes were pre-defined by Dr. Marable, and are easily applied by students to resources in the project.
  • Engagement of students with source material. This is supported by "Notecard" functionality. Students flag assets that are important to them in HHP and save them in a virtual notecard for later reference or incorporation into presentations.
  • Oral presentation support. Dr. Marable's syllabus includes a round of student presentations. HHP supports this assignment by allowing students to order and bundle notecards, for easy sequential display of assets of varying media types.

Related news:
Nov-2007: Harlem Heritage Project Launches