Refusing to Forget

John Cadena

Refusing to Forget. https://refusingtoforget.org. Created by Sonia Hernandez, Trinidad Gonzales, John Moran Gonzalez, Benjamin Johnson, and Monica Munoz Martinez, Reviewed Feb. 2019.

Refusing to Forget is a digital platform documenting one of the most prolific, racist, and genocidal times in the history of America. This platform brings to light the deliberate behavior of the Texas Rangers along with other early settlers along the Texas Mexico border, and how they all but decimated the Mexican population. During a time when most of the land north of the border was occupied and controlled by white men in the area, South Texas, specifically along the border, was owned and controlled primarily by the Mexican population. In an attempt to gain control over this land, Refusing to Forget records how the Texas Rangers as well as the local population, began to brutally murder Mexican nationals in the area. Only after significant pleading to government officials and the mass exodus of others were members of this community able to regain a sense of constraint over the behaviors of which were occurring.      

In remembrance of this massacre, Refusing to Forget has collaborated with the Texas State Bullock Museum in Austin Texas to produce an exhibit displaying personal artifact belonging to Mexicans involved in this bloody part of America’s history. Here, visitors to the site are able to preview the exhibition as well as view a short film of the exhibit and events which they represent.     

As part of this effort, Refusing to Forget dedicates a part of this site to bring awareness to the efforts to create historical makers to remember these events. To date, several have been approved though only one in Cameron County has been erected. Of the areas of focus on this site, I particularly enjoyed coming across this one. As a native of Texas, I can say with a level of certainty that Texans pay more attention to their monuments than they do the occasional history presentation. For this reason, it brings me a renewed level of comfort to know this history is being remembered in this way.     

In reviewing this site, specifically, when reviewing the section titled “Conference,” I was reminded of how relevant this project is even today, as this section discussed a recent conference on this topic. Unfortunately for me, this conference had just past a few weeks prior. Without a doubt, this is an area of study I plan to follow and with luck will attend the next conference. 

For the more technological visitor, Refusing to Forget offers a few other options to utilize in learning about this critical part of history. Under the “Media” tab, viewers have the choice of listening to the podcast The Borderlands War 1915-1920 or watching the documentary Border Bandits. Both incredibly informative in telling this story of discriminative actions by the Texas Rangers towards Mexicans in south Texas. For those interested, Refusing to Forget also offers plenty of resources for visitors to read on this topic. In coming across this section, it surprised me because I didn’t expect there to be so many materials available. It is of great importance that in a time when racial discrimination is returning to this country, sites like this exist to remind Americans of where we have been?

Norbert “Geremy” Landin

Photo courtesy of Michael Quintanilla

My name is Norbert Geremy Landin but I tend to go by Geremy. I love photography and more specifically, I love photographing cultural events that encompass Latin-American life, love, and opportunity. Preservation of a culture that could truly never be lost is the reason why I do what I do and hope to continue to do as my life unfolds.

6 Degrees of Francis Bacon: A Review

Warren, Christopher, Daniel Shore, Jessica Otis, Scott Weingart, and John Ladd. Six Degrees of Francis Bacon. Accessed February 23, 2019. http://www.sixdegreesoffrancisbacon.com.

The website Six Degrees of Francis Bacon an attempt to link the English philosopher and public official Francis Bacon to his contemporaries, who lived during the Elizabethan era. Bacon sits in the center of what is a visual who’s who of the period. Names range from important to the lesser-known. This site is a great starting point for research on the era, and it is a great example of what crowd sourcing can do as the public contributes data for the site. The visual connections could aid a researcher in noticing a relationship they may have missed. The public has the ability to add new people to the web and expand the connections of the people already there.

While Queen Elizabeth would seem to be the obvious choice for a project like this, Francis Bacon is an excellent choice. Not only is it a parody of the Six Degrees of Keven Bacon game, but Sir Bacon had many spheres of influence during his life. He was a philosopher, scientist, and he served as Queen Elizabeth’s Lord High Chancellor. This gives him contacts with many types of people during his life who operated in many different spheres.

The website is easy to use, and after interacting with it for a bit of time it becomes easier to understand. A tutorial takes you through all the site’s features in a few minutes for those who would like a systematic guide. The data is displayed as a three-dimensional web that can be manipulated by clicking and dragging . Sir Bacon sits in the middle and different strands connect him to various people of the time. Although the site bears his name, researchers can make any name the focus of a smaller web with just a click. Although the name does mention six degrees this is somewhat misleading as only two levels of connections are available. Another feature is the ability to view groups of people. For instance, the researcher can click on one of the metadata boxes at the bottom of the page and call up all the philosophers in the web. There are almost 75 categories to activate. When viewing a person’s web, the boxes at the bottom light up to signal that members of those professions are present. To meet the needs of researchers who require more information about the people in the web, a box to the left provides links to three different research sites where more information is available.

The audience for this website may vary greatly. The connection to six degrees of Keven Bacon may attract casual web surfers. They may not stay for long though because the site is limited for that use. Researchers of the Elizabethan Age of England will get the most out of this site. Being able to see connections or looking for new relationships is what this site does best. Causal history buffs might get something out of this site too. They would be the target audience if the connections ran deeper. It is feasible that a casual history buff could spend hours seeing who claims a connection to Francis Bacon and wind up exploring those connections for hours. Maybe they will expand the Bacon web in the future.

The website makes for an interesting research tool. Both researchers and casual users would be able to get something out of a visit to this site. The lack of depth is a bit disappointing. The two levels of connections are a limit to both research and fun, but again, maybe the future will allow for expansion into a site worthy of its name.

Digital Review: Nevada Test Site Oral History Project


Nevada Test Site: Oral History Project. Unlv. Southern Nevada: The Boomtown Years Mining. Accessed February 25, 2019. http://digital.library.unlv.edu/ntsohp/.

This website is a collection of stories about the nuclear testing that was done in the Nevada desert north of Las Vegas. Over 1000 nuclear detonations were initiated at the test site between its opening in 1951 and 1992 when the United States finally ended nuclear weapons testing. The website has collected 335 hours of recordings from many different people connected to the site both directly and indirectly. There are stories told by people who were in the military that were in charge of operations at the site.  Contributions from physicists, other scientists, and engineers who worked on developing and building the nuclear devices that were being tested and the experiments that recorded data about their effectiveness. There are even stories from people who tried promoting peace by protesting the activities taking place at the test site. Native Americans lend their voices also to tell the story of how the desert is a sacred place to their tribes. 

The home page is well organized and easy to navigate.  There are links below the header that will take researchers to a timeline, the collection of stories, or maps of the relevant areas.  The timeline covers the entire Manhattan Project and it designates what events took place at the Nevada Test Site.  Clicking on an event on the timeline will take the researcher to interviews that talk about that time.  This is a very convenient search feature.  Going to the link Community of Voices gives the researcher access to all the interviews that the site has collected.  There is a search feature but no explanation on the metadata.  The search can be done by person or key word or phrase. 

The interviews are all recorded video.  The people telling their stories can be seen talking and giving their recount of events.  There are a wide range of perspectives to choose from.  The military people and scientists who were working inside the test site give researchers a feel for their work and conditions, while protesters and peace activists tell the tales of how they tried to stop the experiments that were designed to build bigger and better weapons.  The Natives American recount how the land is sacred to them and how this military base has affected their people by cutting them off from the land of their ancestors.  The stories go beyond the Manhattan project and the Cold War.  They talk about how lives were changed by the work done at the test site. 

This is a great website to use for research on the Cold War.  The ability to search by event, date, or key word is extremely useful.  This would be a great start to uncover primary accounts of the development of the American nuclear program.  It is also very helpful if doing Native American studies or research on the peace movement that went on during the Cold War.  The stories are easy to access and they are well documented.  This would be a useful site to even the casual user who just wanted to learn more about the era. 

A Review of the Shelf Life Community Story Project

Shelf Life Community Story Project, https://www.shelflifestories.com/. Created by Mayowa Aina, Jill Freidberg, Domonique Meeks, Inye Wokoma, Carina del Rosario, Henry Luke. Reviewed on March 4th, 2019 by Gabriel Cohen.

Introduction

The Shelf Life Community Story Project is a community driven website developed at the grassroots level to share the stories of Seattle’s Central District community. The Central District, commonly referred to as the ‘CD’ was undergoing a transformation as one of the core elements of the community, the local Red Apple grocery store was being shut down. At face value this may seem a common and natural development as neighborhoods change and grow throughout the years. However, the loss of the Red Apple had massive implications for the CD community. The store was a central location of the CD community – a place where people would work and shop, but also meet and socialize. The loss of this forum dealt a harsh blow to the community’s morale, and became a part of the ongoing process of gentrification that disrupts and displaces communities. Shelf Life is part of a community effort to ensure that the stories and experiences of this community don’t expire along with the Red Apple. The loss of the Red Apple, deemed so important to the character of the CD community means that the community itself is different.

Presentation

The website is easy to navigate, and is simple and aesthetically pleasing. The presence of a simple, clean interface and a layout emphasizing photography is undoubtedly inviting to visitors. There is minimal navigation necessary – the organization of the website requires only one to two different clicks or keystrokes to engage in its content, which is something that other public history projects should take note of and incorporate into their own sites. Aside from these photos there is simply a well designed cover photo and what appears to be their mission statement, “Amplifying community voices, learning from neighborhood stories, and interrupting narratives of erasure in Seattle’s Central District.” Their website reflects their mission through its simple and appealing design, but also provides the opportunity to learn more for those who are interested.

Audience

The website uses the voices of the community rather than their own to tell their story. Undoubtedly, this would be very appealing to the CD community and to other communities interested in finding a way to tell their story. Pages dedicated to sharing news of events and developments in the project also serve as an ongoing history of shelf life, and a resource for would-be community organizers that are looking for a place to begin on their own projects.

Content

The main content of Shelf Life are its oral histories accompanied by fantastic photography. The content is divided into specific pages that share the story of an individual from the community. These story pages require you to access each individually, but that is a great source of the site’s appeal. By hovering over a story page, visitors will see a caption that is just intriguing enough and just vague enough to encourage them to delve deeper and read that particular story. Once accessed, the story page consists of a photograph and a brief oral history of the individual’s relationship to the CD community. The voice of the interviewer is completely absent – all focus is on the individual being interviewed and their story. In this way, the organization of content of Shelf Life compliments the goal of the project designers: to give a voice to a community undergoing great change and in danger of irreversible and unwanted transformation.

Developers

The group that brought Shelf Life to us is a very diverse group. Their commonality is that they call the CD, Seattle or at Washington state home. The diversity of the Shelf Life development team is undoubtedly of great benefit. The team possesses individuals with different strengths, ranging from researching to storytelling to photography and even data analytics. More importantly, Shelf Life benefits from the input of people of vastly different life experiences. For a project that is all about finding an outlet for the voices of the CD community and incorporating historical context and visual storytelling methods in the process, this diversity of talent and experiences is critical.

Conclusion

Shelf Life isn’t overly ambitious. It seeks to do a very specific task and do it well: share the personal experiences of the CD community. The value of Shelf Life is in this simplicity. In the process of engaging in community driven storytelling, they accomplish their goals of granting longevity and relevance to communities undergoing change in the face of urban gentrification. Moreover, the experiences of the CD as it undergoes this transformation can serve as valuable historical information for communities that undergo similar experiences in the future. The type of personalized, visual storytelling Shelf Life shares is of great benefit to local communities, public and local historians and even as a memoir of communities fundamentally altered or lost to ubran development.