Commentator and Moderator

At least once during the semester, you will be assigned to serve as a Commentator as well as a Moderator. Each gives you the opportunity to practice skills transferable to your other courses, as well as in the undergraduate- and graduate-level classroom when you enter the profession. Specifically, you will practice organizing creative yet concise oral presentation, managing classroom dynamics, and developing questions that foment lively discussion.

Commentator: The Commentator prepares a presentation for the entire group that is not more than 5-7 minutes long in which they critically and generously engage with the essays and establishes links with the readings and/or general topics of the course. There is no need to summarize the readings as the whole class will have read the essays for the session. Commentators begin the constructive discussion or conversation about the readings. They should also arrive with 2-4 printed questions (a handout for each member of the class) that can guide additional conversations in small groups. For example, the questions can be directed specifically to a reading or to a section that was interesting/compelling/scandalous, etc. Or they could ask how the readings relate to other previous readings, individual projects, and so on.

Moderator: The Moderator keeps the discussion fair and orderly. They make sure that a few people do not dominate the session and that the commentators stay within their time limits. They keep a queue of people who want to speak, and, if someone has not spoken in a session and wants to, moves them to the front of the line. And, of course, they read the essays to boost the discussion as needed.

Comentarista: Esta persona prepara una presentación de no más de 5-7 minutos en la que comenta críticamente y generosamente sobre los puntos más importantes del ensayo y lo vincula con las lecturas y/o los temas generales del curso. No hay que resumir los ensayos porque todos ya los deben de haber leído. Los comentaristas inician la conversación y discusión constructiva de las lecturas. Esta persona también llega a la sesión con 2-4 preguntas (impresas, una hoja para cada miembro de la clase) para guiar la conversación en grupos pequeños. Por ejemplo, pueden ser dirigidas específicamente a una lectura o un fragmento que le llama la atención o pueden buscar hacer vínculos entre otras lecturas previas, proyectos individuales, etc.

Moderador: Esta persona mantiene la discusión y el orden durante la sesión. Se asegura de que ningún participante domine la sesión, y que los presentadores y comentaristas se ciñan al tiempo que se les ha asignado. Mantiene una lista de todos los que quieren hablar y si alguien que no ha hablado quiere intervenir, lo mueve al principio de la lista. Y por supuesto lee todos los ensayos para animar la discusión de ser necesario.

Adapted from sessions at the Instituto Tepoztlán (2017). Do everything in your power to attend this extraordinary annual meeting of scholars for one week during the summer in Tepoztlán, México. ABD and faculty only.

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Digital Collection Review

Over the course of the semester, each student will write one 750-900 word review of a digital archive or collection of their choice. For the purposes of this assignment, any coherent set of digital objects that has been put online by a library or archive and that has some relevance to the fields of Latin American, colonial, or Indigenous studies would be appropriate. You may choose any collection, including those featured on the resources tab of the course website. The review will be posted on the course website for a public audience, and should adhere to the following guidelines (derived from “How to Write a Web Review for The American Archivist Reviews Online):

  • Begin the review with a bibliographical citation of the digital archive in MLA format, along with a link to the website.
  • Briefly describe the material, providing a simple overview and summary. Who created it and what does it contain?
  • Discuss the resource within an archival context, its relationship to archives and its significance for the discipline. This should include reference to at least one class reading.
  • Evaluate the resource as a whole in terms of its usefulness to archivists and users of archives materials. This should include not just the content of the collection, but also its interface and metadata.
  • Do not focus on minor typographical or factual errors unless the work is significantly compromised.

Submission guidelines

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Unit 1: Indigenous Holdings Lib-Guide Prototype

A lib-guide is a resource, usually online, that helps researchers investigate a subject or theme. One way to think of it is as an interactive annotated bibliography that allows users to understand the kinds of resources that are available, understand how they are organized and where they are located, and identify the resources that are most useful to them. (Sample lib-guides are available on the Resources page.)

For this group assignment, the class will collectively develop a prototype of a lib-guide for indigenous materials in the Benson Latin American Collection. The assignment is motivated by the SAA Protocols for Native American Archival Materials, which call on heritage institutions to be more intentional in their approach to indigenous heritage and intellectual property. One step in this process is identifying the breadth and depth of indigenous holdings in a collection.

The Benson holdings are too large to be completely surveyed for this assignment. That’s why this assignment asks you to create a prototype - a model for what this kind of lib-guide should be. This will involve making decisions as a class about the lib-guide, including:

  • Scope: You are required to include at least some colonial-era holdings in your survey, but beyond that, the scope of the survey is up to you. What portion of the collection do you want to survey? How will you define an indigenous holding? What communities, collections, or kinds of material do you want to prioritize?
  • Method: what method will you use to find and identify relevant information?
  • Audience: Who is the lib-guide intended for?
  • Content: What kind of information should the lib-guide contain?
  • Form: How should the information be presented? How should it be organized?
  • Process: How will the labor of this assignment be distributed?
  • Platform: How do you want to present your lib-guide? Do you want it to be public? How do you want to disseminate it?
  • Evaluation: How should the completion of this assignment be evaluated by the instructors?

These decisions will be discussed during class, but you may have to continue the discussion outside of class as well. In addition to some scheduled discussion time, you will have a full class period to work collectively prior to the submission date.

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Unit 2: Humanities Media Project Proposal

Option 1: the AHPN

The digital portal to the Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional of Guatemala was launched in 2011 as a way to provide public access to the records contained in the AHPN. At the beginning of this unit, we will do an in-class exercise to explore this digital collection and evaluate the interface in terms of access, accessibility, and discoverability.

LLILAS Benson is remaking the AHPN website in order to improve access to the collection. This creates an opportunity for us to think creatively about what other kinds of features — in addition to better access — might help make this digital collection more meaningful and useful for the multiple audiences affiliated with the archive.

In this individual assignment, you are asked to write a grant proposal for a multimedia project that would create new paths to engaging with this collection. This could be a crowdsourced metadata project; an art project; a series of videos; or another project of your choice. The outcome of the project should be supplemental to the AHPN web portal in some way.

Option 2 (new): Final Project Proposal

Based on your feedback, we are now including the option to write a proposal based on your plan for your final projects. Because your final projects will not have a budget, this proposal should imagine what a funded version of the project might look like (perhaps something you could implement in the spring), and follow the same guidelines as originally described.


Your proposal should follow the guidelines for the Humanities Media Project. (PDF: in case the website goes down.) Your submission should include:

  • A 2-3 page project description and justification (up to 1500 words)
  • An itemized budget of up to $5,000.
  • A list of examples of any similar projects that have been undertaken
  • An up-to-date CV. (Please follow this format; talk to us if you have a strong preference for something different.)
  • When submitting, please include the amount of time you expected to spend on this assignment and the amount of time you actually spent on the assignment.

The assignment should be submitted as a single word document or PDF via Canvas.

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Unit 3: Final Project

In the Final Project you will demonstrate mastery of concepts studied and skills acquired over the course of this semester. At the same time, you will be able to focus on a topic of your own choosing, ideally something that is related to your own scholarly or pedagogical work. Below you will find the basic requirements for the project. In a nutshell, you will:

  • Identify a research need (broadly defined) for a specific community
  • Identify a manageable set of materials to help address this need
  • Produce an 800-1000 word scholarly critical introduction, in the format of your own choosing, to the resource you have developed
  • Propose and attempt meaningful contact with your target audience

These parameters of the Final Project are intentionally broad, as we want you to create something that you are excited about and that will be useful to you as a scholar-teacher. To make things even more interesting, the project can be completed as a large- or small-group collaboration (we’ll give some suggestions as to what that would look like), or you can work individually. You will turn in a brief proposal in class on November 18 (see instructions at the end of this document).

Identify a Research Need (Broadly Defined) for a Specific Community
For example, gender studies scholars working in the Caribbean need to know about certain resources, or families of disappeared persons in Guatemala, or indigenous community members in Texas, etc. This is a hero narrative. You are identifying what you perceive to be a need. You will step in to save the day by following the below steps.

Identify a Manageable Set of Materials to Help Address this Need
Decide what kinds of resources will help address the need you have identified. Perhaps it is a subset of a collection (traditional, digital, or otherwise), or certain materials from several collections, or multiple archives, or even personal items. You could, for example, see the need to bring together doctrinal materials used to evangelize Indigenous peoples of Latin America found in Benson Rare Books, John Carter Brown Library, and the Bancroft Library. Maybe you want to focus on a single physical archive that has a plethora of materials related to commerce in 19th century South America, or perhaps you want to bring together as many digital archives you can find related to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Does your family desperately needs access to the letters your mother wrote to your Aunt Millie over the course of 30 years? That’s fine too. The quantity, depth, and scope is your call. All we expect is an honest effort to produce a high-quality project worth 30% of your course grade (this would be akin to the time and level of engagement you would put toward a 20-25 page high-quality term paper).

Produce a Scholarly Critical Introduction to the Topic(s) and Archive(s)

  • Describe the research need and the specific community you have identified. Explain your rationale.
  • Describe and contextualize the resources you have drawn together - who, what, where, when, why, audience, physical attributes. Explain your rationale for choosing the materials you have chosen (as opposed to others). What is your scope? Where did you draw the line?
  • Critically assess the origins and current location of the resources. You may wish to refer to your notes and readings from Unit 1 and Unit 2 as you think about this step. Make reference to at least one reading from each Unit (1, 2, 3). You may also include additional outside readings.
  • Evaluate your resources in terms of its usefulness to your target audience. This should include not just the content of the collection, but also its current interface and metadata (or lack thereof).
  • Evaluate whether your resources are easy to access in person and/or online (are they held privately at the Duke of Alba’s summer mansion? Is there a convoluted admission and request process? I’m looking at you, AGN in Mexico City). Would the scholarly communities or the general public feel comfortable working with these materials? Or are there barriers to access?
  • Reflect upon the ethics of access: are there sensitive materials that could be considered problematic (to the people whose lives are found in the materials, or to their descendants, or perhaps a marginalized community)? Does the resource you have created have the potential to cause harm (epistemologically or physically)?
  • Propose concrete solutions for dealing with the access issues you identify

Propose and Attempt Meaningful Contact with Target Audience
Update November 2018: In the first assignment, you learned that collaborative work requires contact and consultation very early in the design process. Given the scope of your project, we’re asking you to attempt to consult with the community in the planning of your project.

This is where you will have to get creative. Do you want to host a workshop? Do a poster session for a public audience at LLILAS-Benson? Do a talk at the Austin Library? Visit undergraduate classes? Reach out to tribal members? Disseminate your work among other colleagues that may be interested in your project? Make a video? Pass out a Zine to random strangers on campus? The last day of class can be used to host a workshop or colloquium, otherwise we will have an informal roundtable to discuss the projects. Note the word “attempt” - your grade does not hinge on a successful workshop or tribal members being willing to talk/work with you. In other words, you are responsible for the effort, not the outcome.

Proposal Requirements (for November 18th)
Your brief answers to these questions are not set in stone. They can and most likely will change over the course of further contemplation and research. We just want to know that you are on the right track and to be able to give you helpful suggestions.

  1. What is the research need and specific community you will address?
  2. Generally, what do you imagine the manageable set of materials that will help address this need to be comprised of and/or where will you seek them? What do you think your general scope will be?
  3. What type of format do you envision using for your Critical Introduction?
  4. How do you imagine engaging with your target audience?

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