Hidden Voices: A digital exhibition of enslaved women in the lowcountry USA

This project involves researching and assembling often very rare visual and written testimony from enslaved women for a proposed digital exhibition hosted by the Lowcountry Digital History Initiative at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, USA

Department: History

Supervised by: Professor Emily West

The Placement Project

This project involves developing a digital exhibition on the lives of lowcountry enslaved women in the USA. The exhibition will be hosted by the LDHI and the PI has already had a strong expression of interest from the LDHI, having served as a consultant for previous projects for them in the past: Women’s voices are often lacking in history, and in slavery, where literacy laws forbade enslaved people from reading and writing, women’s voices are even more scant. The PI has spent much of her career seeking evidence of women’s voices under enslavement despite ‘archival silences’, and the opportunity to engage with a wider audience in putting together a visual exhibition is an exciting opportunity. The LDHI initiative aims to promote ‘neglected voices’ to the general public (including school teachers), so the proposed exhibition has longer-term impact potential. Using the archives and repositories listed on the form, the student will research evidence of enslaved women’s lives from their own perspective (including some rare visual and written testimony) and help organise the evidence thematically before co-writing the pages for the digital exhibition. The student will therefore see through this stand-alone project from its beginnings to completion, will develop a variety of skills (all extremely useful for subsequent research and more widely), and be listed as a co-author. This project will bring international prestige to the University and it also addresses issues of diversity and inclusion in our curricula since our own students at UoR will use the exhibition.


The student will often rare seek visual and written testimony from enslaved women in the South Carolina and Georgia lowcountry, by researching online primary source collections and liaising with archivists in three key repositories: The South Caroliniana Library at the University of South Carolina, the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah, the South Carolina History Society in Charleston, and the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina. The student will also use electronically-available oral history interviews with formerly enslaved women conducted in the 1930s. The student will collate this evidence thematically and (in conjunction with the PI) draft the wording and visual evidence in preparation for the submission of the digital exhibition to the College of Charleston. The PI already has an expression of interest from the college and will be submitting a formal proposal to secure a contract for the exhibition by the end of the year.

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Research skills (essential): to research online resources in a range of different archival repositories. Analytical skills (essential): the ability to sort and sift primary historical sources into thematic strands. Interpersonal skills (essential): for liaising with archivists. Written skills (desirable): to co-write the text for the digital exhibition A sense of understanding and empathy for investigating voices typically absent from historical narratives (desirable).

Skills which will be developed during the placement

As well a gaining skills in research, analysis, writing and liaising with Us-based archivists, the student will gain skills in preparing and hosting digital exhibitions with the support of the PI and the College of Charleston.

Place of Work

Department of History, University of Reading.

Hours of Work

Full time

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 18 June 2018 - Friday 27 July 2018

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 19th February and 29th March 2018. Students will submit a covering letter and CV to the PI (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Interviews will take place with at least two members of staff (one of which will be the PI) in the Department of History. Students will be expected to answer questions about the skills they have for undertaking this project, and their familiarity with other projects hosted by the LDHI.

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