Intelligent Television

The Harlem Digital Archive:

A Television, Education, and Library Project
A collaborative project of
The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning
Intelligent Television
Digital Knowledge Ventures and
Columbia University Libraries

To establish a Harlem Digital Archive for the audiovisual assets about Harlem located at Columbia University and in Harlem as a whole. The Harlem Digital Archive will be a repository and the source for a wide range of teaching and learning materials that can be deployed in the university classroom setting and more broadly in libraries and museums, online, and in educational television and radio.

Columbia University has long had a unique role as a major institution of higher learning situated in the neighborhood of Harlem. It is crucial to the University's continued development and character that the University continue to cultivate Harlem's role in various school endeavors, from the classroom to the campus as a whole.

Over the years, Columbia has acquired and produced abundant materials related to Harlem's rich artistic, social, and political history. Numerous treasures in Columbia's libraries, departmental archives, and courseware repositories — from books, documents, photographs, artwork, to music, oral histories, film and video collections, architectural renderings, even born — digital projects — explicate the role of Harlem from a variety of perspectives and explore the relationship between contemporary and historical Harlem. Leading examples of Columbia's holdings include:

  • oral histories of A. Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, and Kenneth Clark
  • archival collections of Alexander Gumby and David Dinkins
  • microfilm of the Amsterdam News and Muhammad Speaks

In addition to these resources and others, Columbia continues to pursue new collections related to Harlem. In 2005, for example, Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library acquired the papers of Hubert Henry Harrison (1883-1927), the prominent Harlem writer, public speaker, and activist whose work influenced a generation of African-American intellectuals and radicals.

Columbia University also has produced a series of media projects about and related to Harlem. These projects include:

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X Multimedia Study Environment (MSE)
    The Autobiography of Malcolm X MSE is a site which features a rich multimedia archive of primary sources, including historical documents, images, and videos as well as original interviews with scholars and Malcolm X's contemporaries. In addition to providing the entire text of The Autobiography online, all of the annotations and multimedia assets are cross-referenced and fully searchable, making the MSE a significant research tool.
  • Kiosks for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center
    In February 2005, three multimedia kiosks were installed at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center located in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem (the site where Malcolm X was slain in 1965). Incorporating touch-screen technology, the standalone computer terminals allow visitors to explore archival video, family photos, and the personal correspondence of Malcolm X and his wife, Dr. Betty Shabazz — presented in the context of interpretive interviews conducted with scholars and contemporaries.
  • Celebrates Harlem History
    Harlem History, built as part of Columbia University's 250th anniversary celebration, presents numerous archival treasures and scholarship from Columbia about the history of one of the world's most famous and influential neighborhoods.
  • Social Justice Movements wiki
    The Social Justice Movements wiki provides students the opportunity to create a website exploring the broader political visions of organizations representing labor, civil rights, black liberation, reparations, socialism/communism, feminism, welfare rights, youth/Hip Hop activism, education, peace, environmental justice, and anti-globalization and their impact on local communities. This site has created a web presence for activist organizations around New York City.
  • African-American Poets wiki (password protected)
    Within a collaborative website, literature students are asked to conduct both a textual and extra-textual analysis of poems by Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks by selecting key sections, phrases and words of the works to annotate as well as authoring and categorizing relevant discourse, such as cultural context, social significance, and the relationship of the texts to other literary movements.
  • The Souls of Black Folk Multimedia Study Environment (MSE) W. E. B. Du Bois was a key influential figure in the Harlem renaissance during the early 20th century. Based on the author's 1903 collection of essays, the MSE for The Souls of Black Folk includes references to both historical events and biographical experiences with archival film footage, "Sorrow Song" recordings for nearly 30 spirituals, and more than 150 texts and documents written by or to Dr. Du Bois that have a direct bearing on the collection.
  • "Pops," Out Here the Cause of Happiness: The Louis Armstrong Story
    An online e-seminar on the life and work of Louis Armstrong, from his childhood days in New Orleans to his time in Harlem and the last decades of his life. Multimedia elements include conversations with jazz writers and enthusiasts, historical footage, musical selections, photography and the words of Armstrong himself.

Along with these multimedia assets and library holdings, faculty members from a multitude of departments and study centers at the University teach and write about Harlem each year. Harlem-related courses and programs at Columbia include:

  • Farah Griffin, Comparative Literature, "Writing Black New York"
  • Kenneth Jackson, History Department, "History of New York City"
  • Manning Marable, Political Science, "Malcolm X"
  • Lionel McIntyre, Architecture, "Urban Technical Assistance Project"
  • Kara Walker, Visual Arts, "Drawing"
  • Beverly Xaviera Watkins, African-American Studies, "History of Harlem"
  • Andrew Dolkart, Historic Preservation, "History and Development of New York City"
  • Ann Douglas, English and Comparative Literature, "The Protest Novel"

While Columbia has access to a rich trove of physical, digital, and intellectual assets related to Harlem, these assets are now dispersed across different parts of the University. The project partners here see the opportunity to organize these materials into a single and searchable digital archive. The Harlem Digital Archive will be a resource of culturally and historically significant multimedia assets — from digital audio and video to photographs, blueprints, books, manuscripts, and syllabi — that can be repurposed in a variety of new ways for teaching, research, and education.

New Models of Producing Educational Media
Intelligent Television develops new models of producing television in association with universities, libraries, and museums. Intelligent Television's "Open Production Initiatives" are productions with cultural and educational institutions that are assembled in an inclusive manner: open, throughout the production process, to many participants, from experienced producers and directors and cinematographers to archivists, librarians, curators, faculty and — importantly — students. They are open as well in the methods of distribution employed, from broadcast through online media and DVDs, including the distribution of content in "open courseware" environments where the content that is produced is often provided free of charge.

The Hewlett Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, the largest supporters of open courseware, have provided support to Intelligent Television in 2005-2007. Intelligent Television is currently working with the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, MIT, the University of Virginia, USC, the American Antiquarian Society, and others to produce audiovisual materials for teaching and education.

Open Production Initiatives are anchored in public broadcasting documentaries, but they are explicitly conceived to produce as many complementary products as appropriate, covering a wide range of media, and available through multiple channels and locations. Moving-image and recorded sound assets can be integrated into integrate open education and learning in various ways. And open education and learning materials can be delivered over various systems and onto various platforms that have a speaker or a screen. Television and media that is produced today can take advantage of new, library-based tools and standards for sophisticated preservation and access agendas, including the creation and curation of major repositories for video, audio, image and text assets. Intelligent Television, for example, is currently producing a major history of the American South in the 20th century, and the new assets that the company is collecting and producing are being deposited in a digital repository customized for the purpose with its partner on the project, the University of Virginia.

The Harlem Digital Archive
The opportunity is great now to harvest and organize media assets related to Harlem — assets first and foremost at Columbia University, but also in the Harlem community itself. The benefits of new and newly cost-effective and time — efficient digital production technologies including digital video cameras and editing software provide new opportunities for involving university students in the production process.

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning, Intelligent Television, Digital Knowledge Ventures, and Columbia University Libraries are collaborating with faculty and library staff at Columbia to produce a film and multimedia presentation about the Harlem Digital Archive. The demonstration will highlight what can be done when educational materials are conceived of as a single archive and organized for teaching, learning, and production. Intelligent Television has brought on DMD Films and award-winning producer-director Dante James to help direct and produce the demonstration.

The Harlem Digital Archive will take advantage of new initiatives to regularize the rights and usage regimes governing the way that copyright and education can work together in the digital age. Terry Fischer of Harvard Law School (author of Promises to Keep: Technology, Law and the Future of Entertainment), Eric von Hippel at the MIT School of Management (author of Democratizing Innovation), and Yochai Benkler at Yale Law School (author of Common Wisdom: Peer Production of Educational Materials) are — among others — leading the way to bring Open Production Initiatives and the "Creative Commons" approaches of Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig and the Electronic Frontier Foundation into the academy. A set of conversations from an early 2006 Intelligent Television symposium about this potential is online now at WGBH Forum at:

The Harlem Digital Archive will highlight the potential of Harlem resources at Columbia to support various scholarly projects both inside and outside the classroom. The project will strengthen funding efforts to support the development and production of audiovisual curricula with the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and others. The project also will facilitate the development and production of nationally and internationally distributed media projects — including public broadcasting documentaries on the subject of Harlem.

About the Project Partners

The Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning

Intelligent Television

Digital Knowledge Ventures

Columbia University Libraries