American Prison Writing Archive – Studio Chi Events

On Thursday, February 7th Studio Chi will be hosting Doran Larson, Walcott-Bartlett Professor of Literature & Creative Writing at Hamilton College, for two events that are free and open to the public.  Larson is the Director and Principal Investigator of the NEH-funded The American Prison Writing Archive.

APWA logoThe American Prison Writing Archive is the largest collection to date of materials written and submitted by currently incarcerated people, prison staff, and volunteers.  The archive contains over 1,600 essays, and is freely available online. Essays can be browsed and read similar to an anthology, or sorted by title, author, state, specific prison, or more than a dozen author attributes, such as ethnicity, veteran, gender identity and religion.

“The mission of the APWA is to replace speculation on and misrepresentation of prisons, imprisoned people, and prison workers with first-person witness by those who live and work on the receiving end of American criminal justice. “

Much of this enhanced access is the result of volunteer transcribers, who word process handwritten text so that the contents can be more easily read and the text searched.  If you are interested in transcribing and can’t make the 11:00 workshop on Thursday, you can apply to become a registered transcriber for the project and contribute in a way that fits your schedule.

Larson is available for informal discussions between 12:30 and 2:00 in the Richardson Library Idea Lab 2 (room 207).   Larson’s presentation, “Digital Witness in the Era of Mass Incarceration: Prison Testimony and the Ethics of Textual Analysis,” starts at 3:30 in Idea Lab 2.

Incarceration Exhibit Poster (Tiger leaping from prison bars)Prisoner writings, advocacy on behalf of incarcerated individuals, and the role of the arts in prison have long been a focus of DePaul’s Special Collections and Archives, with archival collections such as the Sr. Helen Prejean papers, the Daniel Berrigan and Berrigan-McAlister collections, the Rick Cluchey papers, and the Companions Journeying Together recordsPrison History and Literature is a focus area within the rare book collection.  2018’s Incarceration exhibit in Special Collections and Archives garnered interest from DePaul student groups and faculty, resulting in exhibit talks, an evening panel/presentation, and instruction sessions.

Nicholas Anderson, a graduate student from the College of Education and a Research Associate at DePaul, was interested in applying digital scholarship text analytics methods on the American Prison Archive. In collaboration with Ana Lucic, Digital Scholarship Librarian, Anderson requested a digital copy of the American Prison Archive. The current focus of their work is on analyzing the themes that connect the essays that in turn can point to common issues facing the incarcerated population.

DePaul faculty and staff who are active with or interested in prison-related research or teaching are especially encouraged to attend Thursday’s events, to drop in for informal conversations from 12:30 to 2:00, or to contact Lisa Dush or Studio Chi for more information.

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