Freedom | Information | Acts

The university’s first Studiolab, Freedom | Information | Acts, was a full-year interdisciplinary course bridging cultural studies, sociological inquiry, and digital humanities. Convening at the Lewis Collaborative, a living-learning-commercial space at the west end of the Delmar Loop, students worked together to apply digital tools to archival materials on the Civil Rights Movement with the aim of enhancing and expanding public access to digital archives. Thanks to the collaboration and efforts of librarians, students had the opportunity to study and engage with two existing library archives at Washington University, those of the documentary filmmakers Henry Hampton and Jack Willis. With the guidance of library staff, students learned how text, video, and audio recordings are digitized, tagged, and indexed. In addition, students discussed the decision-making processes and politics of archiving while gaining first-hand experience transcribing audio material from the Hampton Collection. The class thus helped introduce students to archival processes and to the extensive work and efforts of librarians.  

In November 2021, the Studiolab course also traveled to Mississippi to visit local sites associated with the Civil Rights Movement. The trip provided the opportunity to investigate the way contemporary institutions present urgent historical materials and provoke questions about remembrance and commemoration. In small groups, students recorded oral histories of local activists and experts about their work and their experiences.  

At the historic restaurant, The Dinner Bell, in McComb, Mississippi

During the fall semester of 2021, Studiolab work was directed towards preparing a research methods course for students in the Prison Education Project (PEP) degree program at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center while taking into consideration the constrained access to resources in prison education settings. The course ran in the spring of 2022 at MECC with Studiolab involvement and drew from the archives that students had been studying in the previous semester. At the end of the academic year, Studiolab students and faculty organized a public-facing event that presented the Hampton and Willis Collections as well as the experience of working with PEP to a broader audience.