By Katelyn Lusher
As some Streetvibes readers may already know, I (Katelyn) have been working on a digital archive for Streetvibes since 2018. During this process, I have unearthed a rich history that has always been present in Cincinnati but often dismissed or forgotten. While I had been told stories about activist history in Cincinnati, curating the Streetvibes archive has helped me see Cincinnati activism in a whole new light because it feels like I am experiencing these events as they happened. Rather than listening to secondhand accounts, I am able to read firsthand experiences and understand how people felt at the time.
The archive’s content is so compelling that I felt it was necessary to highlight the most important themes within the archive, like affordable housing. To do that, I plan to construct exhibits on the archive website. In order to do that, I am working on coding the archive (in other words, sorting materials in the archive by theme) and looking for patterns within the archive. However, I quickly discovered that the Streetvibes archive has so much rich content that I could not possibly do it all on my own. Over the past month, I have been working with four undergraduate researchers at the University of Cincinnati who have coded the early years of Streetvibes, written memos on their observations, and have discussed possible new directions for the archive. Each researcher has described experiences similar to mine and highlight the importance of preserving local activist history.
My time working with Katelyn and the team on the archive has been nothing short of an adventure. Going into this, Katelyn warned us all that it would be a lot of work, and I am very proud of her for doing as much as she did on her own, but she was not joking when she said it would be tasking. Although this is a lot of mental work and takes up space in my already busy day I am very glad to be doing the work. One of the initial things that drew me to this project was that it is about Cincinnati, a city that I love with all of my heart. Now that I am a part of building and cataloging the archive my love for the city and its people has only grown stronger. As a young child I was in the heart of the city often, particularly in the summer with my family and was able to see the community change over time. Now working with Streetvibes, I am given the opportunity to see the work that went into those community changes. I am able to see the progression of this city with more knowledge and through the eyes of our homeless population who are left out way too often. The team and I are still working out kinks within the project itself and every meeting I feel could go on forever but in the best way possible. I am elated to see where this project not only takes us as a group but also Streetvibes. None of this would be possible without the community and contributors that makes Streetvibes what it is today.
Working with the Streetvibes Archive has been an eye-opening glimpse into the history and hardships of a city I have always called my home, yet never fully seen. While statistics on homelessness and civic unrest have been beneficial to me in understanding Cincinnati’s roots, these stats do nothing to conceptualize the hardships that are faced in this city every day the way uncensored narratives and firsthand analyses published in the paper do. Compiling this archive has revealed to me patterns in discourse and incidents in the past that mirror current events and conversations. While it is alarming to see that some of these same difficult conversations are still being had decades later, it is heartening to see all that has been accomplished within the city of Cincinnati through grassroots activism and the perseverance of the community. Lauren Since starting the project with the Streetvibes Archive, my bubble of privilege that has already been deflating for some time is now deflating even further. Reading about community social justice issues and homelessness in Cincinnati allows me to continue to face the uncomfortable and harsh reality that life is not sunshine and rainbows for all people. On the other hand, the archive has shown me very positive material. It highlights the strong sense of community that the people of Cincinnati have, and the inspirational fight for equality and change through community activism. Working with the archive so far has been a very eye-opening experience for me, as someone with very little prior knowledge of the city of Cincinnati.
Before working on the Streetvibes archive, I had no experience with any type of qualitative research. I honestly did not know what Streetvibes was until I got the opportunity on this project. What I like most about this project, aside from the general coding software, is what I have learned about this city. I have lived here most of my life, yet I was unaware of the majority of the things that had happened in the years that I have been coding so far. Most of the topics in the articles that I have been reading are not topics that I have seen fully discussed elsewhere so I like getting to see what these topics are, why they are important, and who they are important to. Additionally, while each article is a contained story, each issue has a general theme while each year has an overarching theme. Watching all of these patterns emerge has been intriguing and I truly enjoy getting to pour through all of this history.
While the archive is still a work in progress, the similarities in our experiences show how important it is to make activist history accessible to all as an educational tool. Although the work is time-consuming and sometimes emotionally taxing, the potential impacts it may have on the community are enormous. If you would like to browse through the archive, please visit https://svarchive.omeka.net