When Américo Paredes said that castañas are where “our people put documents, things they have written, books they have read,” he did so with a sense of urgency. The reality is that much of Latinx history is not in archives or libraries. It is in old trunks, in the drawers of old desks, or in the recollections of people who die before it is passed on.The Trinity College Special Collections and Archives recently acquired The Hispanic Hartford Collection. The collection spans approximately ten years and was created by faculty, students, and members of the U.S. Latinx community in Hartford. For more than a decade, the Hispanic Studies faculty at Trinity have regularly taught a required course for majors, in Spanish, titled HISP 280: Hispanic Hartford. Students have collected oral history interviews with residents of Hartford, a capital city with one of New England’s highest concentrations of Spanish-speaking population.

The Hispanic Hartford archive consists of these oral histories and interviews with members of the U.S. Latinx community in Hartford as well as student research and projects including podcasts and blogs on particular themes. Until recently, this collection was maintained by staff at the Trinfo.Café, the college’s community digital resource center, who designed and supported a website which made it available. Despite this website, the collection as it stands right now has not been processed or preserved digitally and is not accessible for research.

In an effort to preserve and make available the Hispanic Hartford Collection, its files have been transferred to the Watkinson Library, Trinity’s special collections and archives. This project will process and preserve this collection using OAIS compliant long-term digital preservation through Preservica. Professor Aidali Aponte-Aviles, who teaches Hispanic Hartford, and the Director of Special Collections and Archives, Christina Bleyer will oversee two students from the Hispanic Hartford course who will process and preserve this collection, with special attention paid to the oral histories. Students will collect metadata, transcribe and translate interviews, and digitally preserve the collection using Preservica, a cloud-based OAIS compliant preservation system. The collection will then be made available with open access to the public. In doing this work, students will be creating an important scholarly resource for the local community and beyond, increasing scholarship and knowledge around the experiences of U.S. Latinx peoples.

As a key part of this project, and to help publicize the collection more widely and collect more stories, we will also create two public programs, one in the fall and one in the spring that Trinity will run with the Hartford History Center, the special collections and archives of the Hartford Public Library. The programs will showcase some of the interviews in the Hispanic Hartford archive and include panel discussions with community members to examine the different archival sources in their communities. Then members of the Latinx community will be invited to share their stories of immigration. Students will conduct the oral history interviews and these new stories also will be processed, preserved and made openly accessible. Migration or immigration is a key theme that courses through the oral histories in the Hispanic Hartford Collection as well as an important aspect of the Hartford community and U.S. society as a whole. These stories are often not told or preserved in such a way that we can learn and grow from them. This project aims to do precisely this so that scholars and members of the community may examine the ways that these stories and experiences are often ignored and, thus, frequently remain absent from institutional and scholarly discourse. In addition, having a shared history that is accessible builds a sense of community and a feeling of being at home.

In and through this process of collecting, preserving and making accessible the Hispanic Hartford Collection, we seek to develop toolkits and resources to explore archival sources of Latinx peoples while taking into account their historical, cultural and political context. By seeing the processes involved in rescuing materials that often slide through the cracks of the institutional apparatus, faculty, students and community members can actively analyze why this happens. Then we will examine how we can rethink these processes in order to incorporate these underrepresented communities and their history within the institutional discourse.

The Hispanic Hartford Collection documents the experiences of U.S. Latinx immigrants in Hartford. We see the processing, preservation and accessibility of this collection as, potentially, the beginning of a larger effort through which Trinity may further partner on such projects with other Hartford-area institutions of higher education, and local and state humanities organizations. Such collaborations might, ideally, lead to a web-portal where people can share and preserve their own stories. We hope that Voces de la Migración will be the beginning of a deeper and larger exploration of the lived experiences of transnational, exile, native, and immigrant peoples in our community. Having such a resource is crucial at a time when researching, reading, understanding and writing about these experiences can bring about transformation in actions and policies while inspiring an openness from which rich and varied insights can spring.

Most concretely, Voces de la Migración will preserve and make available a body of oral histories and interviews so that they may resonate within the community from which they were drawn and be open to further scholarly research. The collection, ten years in the making, is invaluable. Archiving it is a critical step in its preservation and accessibility.

The lived experience and history of immigrants is underrepresented in institutional and scholarly discourse. The Hispanic Hartford Collection offers Trinity College a rare opportunity to fix a light on the immigrant experience as lived by an important segment of its community. By collecting, preserving and making these stories public, Trinity will help ensure these experiences can be recognized, appreciated and researched. Archiving these voices from the community creates new knowledge, new scholarship and transforms attitudes. In addition, this project presents us with a way to engage in deep analysis as to why these experiences are underrepresented or overlooked and to develop strategies for ways we can activate inclusivity.

This projected is associated with the course: HISP-280

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