The University of Delaware Library, Museums and Press recently received a $70,000 planning grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support an international and collaborative digital scholarship project titled, “Digitizing the Disappeared: Partnerships to Publish Digital Scholarship on Guatemala’s Desaparecidos.”
The grant will support the digital publication of case files from the archives of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo (GAM), a human rights organization in Guatemala founded in 1984 by women searching for their murdered loved ones during the Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996). The GAM’s archives, which contain records of human rights abuses and legal files, have been recognized as a documentary collection of international importance by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Memory of the World Program.
Alex Galarza, digital scholarship librarian at UD, and Daniel Alvarado, human rights adviser for the GAM, will lead the project as co-principal investigators.
“[International collaboration] is very important for the GAM’s work in amplifying the voices of thousands of families still looking for their disappeared loved ones.” Alvarado said. “This new phase of work is about creating new lines of communication with victims’ families, working with their memories and personal archives, and centering the work of dignification as we seek their consent and participation in publishing digital exhibits.”
This project provides opportunities for UD students and faculty to make important contributions in researching cases, helping to design digital exhibits and participating in community outreach efforts.
“With the support of The Mellon Foundation grant, we’ll be able to develop a sustainable way of involving surviving families in the creation of digital exhibits about their loved ones,” Galarza said. “We hope that such a method can help shift historical memory of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict.”
The project team will seek to work with surviving families in Guatemala, as well as those in diaspora communities in Delaware, like the Guatemalan community in Sussex County. The grant also supports the team’s possible travel between Delaware and Guatemala.
“The generous support from The Mellon Foundation is a wonderful endorsement of the important work being undertaken by our digital scholarship team, and we are grateful to The Foundation for their support,” Trevor A. Dawes, vice provost for libraries and museums and May Morris University Librarian at UD, said. “Not only will the project build capacity among Guatemala’s research community and diaspora communities here in the United States, it will also lay the groundwork for addressing complex privacy issues and ethical concerns of surviving family members while telling stories and presenting meaningful digital exhibits that highlight this period of Guatemalan history.”
This project builds on work done by Galarza between 2017 and 2019 as a Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Fellow at Haverford College. During that time, 3,322 case files from the collection on forced disappearances were scanned, and the framework for the GAM digital archives was developed. Haverford College continues to support those collections and archive development as a partner in the planning grant. For more information on the GAM Digital Archive Project, visit ds.haverford.edu/gam-archive.
For questions, contact Shelly McCoy, associate university librarian for communication and space planning, at email@example.com.