Submitted by Douglas R. Carlson, Valdosta State University Archives and Special Collections
The Valdosta State University Odum Library Archives and Special Collections acquired a run of the Equal Rights magazine published from the 1920’s – 50’s when the National Women’s Party (NWP) disposed of its surplus. The magazine covers four decades of worldwide women’s issues. The NWP publication highlights then current events in the areas of fair representation, voting and the fight for equal rights. The magazine has been a key addition to our collection of publications for traditionally underrepresented groups that includes The Southern Patriot Civil Rights Newspaper and the Black Panther Party Newspaper.
The archive has increasingly tried to identify and collect materials that support the university curriculum. Collaborating with the History Department, the VSU Archives has built a successful student volunteer program offering history class credit for participation in indexing projects. The magazine collection has enabled the archives to expand this effort to include students and interns from the Women’s and Gender studies program who index Equal Rights. This is a challenging task for students because writing in the 20’s and 30’s was so different than the way we use words and arguments today. Such writing often “talks around” an issue rather than addressing it succinctly. Pulling out details and summarizing often requires careful reading.
Since the magazine still has copyright restrictions, we chose to create access by indexing the articles into a searchable database. Students read the text and then record specific metadata for issue, date, subject, people and a summary of the article for entry into an in-house created My-SQL database. Published online, the database allows researchers to browse and then request fair use reprints of specific articles. The archives staff tracks entries for accuracy, completeness, and level of student participation. While indexing, students have begun to research and compile more information on people mentioned frequently in the magazine.
The Equal Rights indexing is part of our vital efforts at increasing collection outreach, student involvement and access to primary sources. We hope access to the collection will increase scholarly research at the university. The indexing activity has also been included in new efforts to increase experiential learning by offering students an opportunity to participate in a public history project. The Equal Rights Newsletter Collection may be accessed at https://archivesspace.valdosta.edu/repositories/2/resources/473 . The index may be searched at https://archives.valdosta.edu/equal-rights/ .