From Little Magazines part of Independent Voices. Clown War, No. 3 (1973).

Reveal Digital develops open access primary source collections from underrepresented 20th-century voices of dissent, crowdfunded by libraries. In a session during ER&L’s annual conference, Peggy Glahn, Associate Director of Reveal Digital, discussed the six collections that are currently accessible, and talked about the shift they represent in Open Educational Resources (OERs). 

Embracing the open access model

Reveal Digital stands out with its unique model of library crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. This approach has unearthed scholarly collections focused on social movements, hidden voices, and marginalized groups. As part of the larger ITHAKA organization—which includes JSTOR—Reveal Digital’s mission is to broaden access to knowledge and education on a global scale.

The crucial role of primary sources

Primary sources are at the heart of these collections. Despite offering invaluable insights and perspectives to both academia and education, they are often challenging to locate due to being underrepresented in standard cataloging processes. Reveal Digital understands that primary sources are vital when it comes to stimulating discussions and providing depth in classrooms, particularly on sensitive and complex topics.

A closer look at the six collections

In her session at ER&L, Peggy provided a comprehensive overview of each collection, emphasizing their unique aspects and potential educational applications:

  • American Prison Newspapers: Peggy used the example of the American Prison Newspapers collection to demonstrate how primary sources can bring a new dimension to OER textbooks on criminal justice. She pointed out how materials from this collection, such as personal narratives from within prison walls, could complement texts like Adam McKee’s “Criminal Justice: An Overview of the System.” By incorporating these firsthand accounts, students gain a more nuanced understanding of the prison system, going beyond theoretical knowledge to empathize with real human experiences.
  • Black Periodicals – Great Migration to Black Power: The Black Periodicals collection offers a wealth of material that can be aligned with textbooks discussing the Great Migration, Black Power, and other significant periods in African American history. Peggy highlighted how articles from this collection could provide firsthand accounts and contemporary perspectives, enriching students’ understanding of historical events and their ongoing impact.
  • HIV/AIDS and the Arts: This collection, which includes art and activism related to HIV/AIDS, can significantly enhance OER materials in LGBTQ+ studies. Peggy mentioned how artworks and stories from this collection could be used to deepen discussions on topics such as the impact of HIV/AIDS on the arts community and the role of activism in the 1980s and 90s.
  • Independent Voices: The Independent Voices collection, covering publications from various social movements of the 1960s to 80s, was presented as a treasure trove for courses studying this tumultuous period. Peggy suggested that these primary sources could provide authentic voices and perspectives from within the movements, offering a more vivid and engaging understanding of historical events.
  • Student Activism: This collection, as described by Peggy, is an excellent resource for exploring the evolution and impact of student activism. It can be used alongside OER texts that cover the history of student movements, providing students with a broader and more diverse perspective on the subject.
  • Behind the Scenes of the Civil Rights Movements: This most recent collection focuses on the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 60s. Peggy suggested that this collection could be particularly useful in American history courses because it offers insights into lesser-known aspects of the movements and amplifies voices that are often overlooked in mainstream narratives.

Integrating collections with OER 

Peggy highlighted how these primary sources can be seamlessly integrated with existing OERs.

She underscored the crucial role librarians and educators play in this integration process. By identifying and making connections between these primary source materials and OERs, they can create a more engaging, comprehensive, and empathetic learning environment. This approach enhances students’ understanding of the subject matter, and fosters critical thinking and a deeper appreciation for the complexities of historical and contemporary issues.

Educators, librarians, students, and researchers are encouraged to delve into these collections. By integrating these resources into curricula, research, and library holdings, we can enrich the educational landscape with diverse, deep, and historically rich materials.

For those intrigued by the potential of these collections, collaboration and exploration are key. Reveal Digital is open to partnerships and contributions that expand the scope and diversity of these invaluable resources. Engaging with these collections broadens our understanding of history and society while supporting the ongoing mission of making education more inclusive and accessible.