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OA Week 2021 Project Spotlight 1

As part of Open Access Week, Manifold is featuring interviews with the creators of exemplary projects that use Manifold's capabilities to the fullest. Our first installment in this series is Race &/ in America. We interviewed Allison Levy from Brown University Library Center for Digital Scholarship about this impressive project.

How did the project come together? Who was involved?#

Over the 2020-21 academic year, the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America at Brown University, in partnership with the Office of the Provost, undertook a systematic investigation of the foundational and enduring contemporary effects of anti-Black racism via a pioneering panel discussion series featuring Brown faculty on the role that racism plays in American public health, democracy, punishment, and more.

Recognizing an opportunity to amplify and extend the reach and benefits of these urgent discussions designed to deepen knowledge and awareness in the service of promoting a more just and inclusive community and world, the University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative developed an eight-volume open access series, ‘Race &’ in America. Created in Manifold, the digital series re-presents the compelling original panel discussions with expanded content and resources in an innovative, interactive format, heightening understanding and broadening these critical conversations.

The core development team for the digital series included Brown’s Designer for Online Publications, Crystal Brusch; an advanced graduate student in Africana Studies, N’Kosi Oates; and Special Collections Librarian Holly Snyder.

What Manifold features (i.e. reading groups, social media integration, etc.) did you use to achieve your goals for this project?#

Each of the eight volumes in the digital series includes:

  • A recording of one of the 90-minute panel discussions that took place throughout the 2020-2021 academic year
  • Student Voices podcast episodes in which Brown University students engage the panelists in follow-up discussion
  • Recommendations for entry-point materials on the subject
  • Multimedia resource collections of readings, online exhibitions, podcasts, and other materials referenced during the panel discussions
  • Suggestions for further exploration

Thus, we took full advantage of Manifold’s most innovative features, especially multimedia integration, supplemental Resource Collections, eBooks, reading groups, and annotation tools.

What are your favorite aspects of this project?#

There are so many, but I’d have to say the podcast, Student Voices. The episodes feature student-led interviews of the panelists, an approach that elevates different voices and perspectives, and productively flips the conventional classroom model of conveying knowledge. We paired 17 undergraduate and graduate students with faculty, and asked each group to talk for about 10 minutes. All exceeded the limit, with some engaging in lively, compelling conversation for half an hour, so clearly the podcast provided a welcome forum for both students and faculty to continue critical discussions on key issues of today.

What sort of impact have you seen from this project being open access?#

We’ve had a very strong response to the digital series, both on campus and off. In fact, we designed the series to be inclusive and accessible for all communities. When selecting library resources, for example, we made sure to strike a balance between those available to Brown users and those that are publicly available. We chose Manifold precisely because it provides enduring, barrier-free access to information, and it supports universal design principles for equitable use by all persons, including those with disabilities. Brown’s Digital Publications Initiative creates exciting new conditions for the production and sharing of knowledge, and is committed to disseminating that knowledge to the broadest possible audience for the greatest possible impact. Manifold helps make that possible!

Finally, I’m delighted to announce that the Library will again partner with the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America and the Office of the Provost on the Race & in America series, bringing out five new digital volumes over the course of the 2021-22 academic year.

Allison Levy is Digital Scholarship Editor for the Brown University Library’s Digital Publications Initiative, launched with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Serving in this role since 2017, Allison brings together key organizational, academic, and technological resources across the University to support new forms of faculty-driven scholarship, namely born-digital, multimodal works intended for publication by a university press. Beyond the Brown campus, she spearheads efforts at the industry level to advance the conversation around the development, evaluation, and publication of digital scholarship in the humanities.