Colored Conventions Project: Digital Records
Reviewed by: Lola Shehu-Endo and Maggi Delgado
Review started: March 4, 2021
Review finished: April 25, 2021
Data and Sources
- Original historical documents: speeches, letters, and images
- Data from the University of Delaware Library Institutional Repository
- Data (primary sources) from accessible archives website
- Data have been collected, summarized, edited, digitized, indexed, and categorized (naming convention)
- Presented under the Center for Black Research at Penn State University
- Navigable website with clear organization and search and citation instructions
Digital Tools Used to Build It
- Submissions to site are processed using Google forms
The Colored Conventions Project (CCP) was founded in 2012 by an interdisciplinary team of academics, graduate and undergraduate researchers, and librarians. It was relocated from University of Delaware to Penn State University in 2020 where it is a central project of the Center for Black Digital Research.
The CCP is an online hub that promotes social justice, activism, and research by highlighting African American history with a focus on 19th century Black political organizing through exhibitions, teaching materials, and digital archives. This review will focus on the Digital Records page of this project.
CCP is a mammoth and growing digital endeavor whose longevity and success is built not only on institutional support but also on a successful, persistent effort to engage the communities this project serves. The public and the teaching partners are building partners that are served by this effort. The digital archive relies on these communities to collect documents and increase visibility. On the landing page of the Digital Records calls for submissions and participation are prominent, and so is community feedback. CCP actively collects records highlighting particular conventions for which more records are needed. Whenever documents are not available for download because of licensing restrictions, the archive shares the information on the sources.
The CCP digital archive features hundreds of documents of the Colored Conventions Movements from the 1830s to 1890s. The ready-to-view categories are conventions organized by year, national, and state conventions. The search and citation instructions are very clear, making them user-friendly to the public, and the search options are sophisticated enough to facilitate academic research. The site is easy to navigate and read. The project as a whole is a tremendous example of a successful partnership with the community that is also reflected in the digital archive.
Two of the best features from the site are the search function and the interactivity between visitors and curators/developers. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and feel a bit lost upon entering the site’s extensive collection of documents and exhibitions. However, the site not only encourages users to search through their collection by providing organized and categorized information based on year, convention, and state but also a “how to” section where users learn about what type of data they might find here and how to search for it. Since the site also asks for contributions and submission, as well as donations, it is no surprise that they also prioritize their communication and interaction with users. The site welcomes educators and invites them to utilize their work for their classes; it also teaches best practices for creating your own exhibit. Finally, the site also provides a space to express feedback, ask questions, and report site malfunctions. This is especially important not only because of the amount of valuable data hosted on the site, but also because this reporting and communication with the public assures regular maintenance and updates to this living, breathing archive.