Scholars of African American literature spend considerable time focusing on "recovery work" or on ways to promote writers who have been largely overlooked. We make conference presentations, publish articles, and occasionally produce full-length books in order to bring attention to neglected figures. Yet, since a tremendous amount of time and resources are required to make an author "major" and "well-known," our efforts usually have limited success.
What if we re-thought some of our approaches?
The digital exhibits and collections that Lovejoy Library has produced related to the Eugene B. Redmond (EBR) Collection offer some useful possibilities. Taken together, the series of easily accessible and searchable materials based on Redmond's photographs, editorial work, and chronicling activities are an important breakthrough on the preservation and presentation of a writer's literary and extra-literary productions.
You can read Redmond's book Drumvoices to get a sense of his scholarly work, and you can check out his volumes of poetry to understand his literary art. But what his efforts producing a literary magazine (Drumvoices Revue) that published more than 700 writers? His approaches to chronicling major events such as the Million Man March? And what about all those photographs?
Many of our conventional methods (conference presentations and print-based publications) utilized for highlighting writers have been well-intentioned and noble. Full stop. However, those efforts do not take advantage of the resources and possibilities available to us in the digital age. With such rich online portals, why not do more to promote the work of select writers that interest us?
The construction of digital exhibits and collections could ensure that aspects of a writer's works were accessible to more audiences over a larger amount of time than our usual practices. We would also be in better positions to cross-reference and learn from our various recovery projects, beyond the occasional citations and courteous inclusions on "works cited" lists. Further, we can become involved with the processes of transforming readers into viewers and listeners as we produce mixed media displays.
• A Notebook on Lovejoy Library's EBR Digital Collection