About Us

18th Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference

April 30, 2024, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM ET


Introducing our Keynote Speaker:

K.J. Rawson!


K.J. Rawson is the Associate Professor of English and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Co-Director of NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks at Northeastern University. Before coming to Northeastern, he was the Associate Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross, and prior to that a Lecturer in the Division of Writing, Rhetoric, and Digital Studies at the University of Kentucky. He earned his Ph.D. in 2010 from Syracuse University in the Composition and Cultural Rhetoric program, then their Master’s degree in 2005 from the University of Colorado, Boulder in English Literature, and his Bachelor's degree in 2003 from Cornell University in English Literature.

K.J. works at the intersections of the Digital Humanities and Rhetoric, LGBTQ+, and Feminist Studies. By focusing on archives as key sites of cultural power, he studies the rhetorical work of queer and transgender archival collections in brick-and-mortar and digital spaces. Rawson is also the founder and director of the Digital Transgender Archive, an award-winning collection of trans-related historical materials, and he chairs the editorial board of the Homosaurus, an LGBTQ+ linked data vocabulary.



Fugitives from Slavery and Kentucky’s Historical Newspapers

The goal of the Freedom on the Move project (FOTM), based at Cornell University, is to locate, collect, digitize, and provide metadata on fugitive slave advertisements in newspapers across the United States through a digital archive. This panel will discuss the overall project, the concerns within the archive, best practices with both undergrad and graduate students, pedagogy, and has expanded beyond the Cornell University team to other FOTM partners.


Dr. Vanessa M. Holden (She/Her) is an associate professor of History and serves as director of African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky (UKY). She is also the director of the Central Kentucky Slavery Initiative. Dr. Holden’s book, Surviving Southampton: African American Women and Resistance in Nat Turner’s Community (University of Illinois Press), winner of the 2021 James Broussard Best First Book Prize from the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR). Her writing has been published in Slavery and Abolition: A Journal of Slave and Post-Slave Studies, Perspectives on History, Process: A Blog for American History, and The Rumpus. Dr. Dr. Holden serves as a faculty adviser on a number of public history and digital humanities projects including Freedom on the Move and The Digital Access Project (DAP). Follow her on Twitter @drvholden.

Kopana Terry is a preservationist, photographer, musician, producer, oral historian and archivist/librarian. She is the Oral History Archivist for the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and the Curator of Newspapers for the Kentucky Digital Newspaper Program at the University of Kentucky Libraries. From 2007-2013, she managed the National Digital Newspaper Program for Kentucky and she created meta|morphosis: film-to-digital lecture series for global newspaper and microfilm digitization training. In 2023, as NDNP Principal Investigator, UK Libraries was awarded its 5th NEH NDNP grant. Kopana holds a BA in Fine Art [Photography], Master of Library and Information Science [Preservation and Archives], and presently working on her master's degree in Historic Preservation (MHP) with an emphasis on Changes of Place by Natural Disaster in Appalachia.



Jennifer Bartlett has worked in both academic and public libraries for over 20 years in reference services, access services, and management and administration, including the position of interim associate dean for teaching, learning, and research at the University of Kentucky Libraries in Lexington, Kentucky from 2016 to 2020. Currently an oral history librarian at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at UK Libraries, Jennifer is responsible for oral history reference and research requests, workflow, and instruction, and is active in projects involving oral history, knowledge management, and digital humanities. She is the co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Practical Academic Librarianship, and is the editor of Kentucky Libraries, the journal of the Kentucky Library Association. She is also co-editor of Libraries That Learn: Keys to Managing Organizational Knowledge (ALA Editions, 2019), and the author of Knowledge Management: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021).

Reinette F. Jones is a tenured librarian/faculty member in the Special Collections Research Center at the University of Kentucky Libraries. She and emeritus librarian Rob Aken are the co-founders and managers of the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (NKAA). The 20-year-old, award winning database is continuously updated and is a free online reference tool that receives about half a million hits each year. Reinette has also written a multitude of library articles and given just as many presentations on campus, at conferences, in classrooms, and in the community. She and fellow librarian in Michigan, Alonzo W. Hill, developed and maintain the African American Library Directors Database. Reinette F. Jones is the author of Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky, and co-author of Special Libraries of the Bluegrass.




Collective Community Action & Fundraising

The building for the Leather Archives & Museum (LA&M) is a former synagogue built in the 1950s. At over 70 years old, it has its wear and tear. The front doors were in dire straits, and LA&M needed to raise money fast or they would have to close for safety concerns. Within half a day, LA&M raised over $6,000 dollars from community members across the country, and a local bar and fetish shop matched the remaining $6,000 needed to refurbish the doors. Now LA&M is on its way to more developments, but it could not happen without a rallying community.



Gary Wasdin joined the Leather Archives & Museum in January 2018, bringing with him over thirty years of senior management experience in libraries, nonprofits and the corporate sector. He most recently worked as a Senior Consultant with DJA Consulting, partnering with academic and public libraries on issues such as strategic planning, organizational development and inclusion.

Gary’s work in libraries has focused on making collections and services more accessible. His professional work includes positions at New York Public Library, Omaha (NE) Public Library, King County (WA) Public Library, the University of Alabama, and Wesleyan University.

Gary has served as an adjunct faculty member in the library science programs at Southern Connecticut State University, St. John’s University and Pratt Institute. He holds an MLS and an MA in English from Southern CT State University, and a BA in theater from Augusta (GA) College.


Image used from The Leather Journal 


Digital Commonwealth Repository Systems Update by Eben English

The annual Repository Systems Update provides an overview of new collections and features added to DigitalCommonwealth.org over the past year. This talk will cover usage statistics and technology trends (and analyze what they mean for digital collection development efforts), as well as a review of the previous year's most popular content. It will also feature a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the Boston Public Library's Digital Services team, including major digitization projects and the ongoing development of the open-source digital asset management system supporting access and preservation of vital historical materials.

Educational Fellow Presentation by Lara DeRose

Lara DeRose will be presenting on her fellowship experience with Digital Commonwealth. She will share ideas, techniques, and strategies to engage educators and to develop robust and relevant resources showcasing digitized primary sources.

Lara DeRose is currently in the final stages of her Fellowship with Digital Commonwealth. She has been an educator in Massachusetts public schools for the past twenty years. Her roles include history teacher, curriculum leader, technology trainer, and instructional coach. During her Fellowship she has worked to expand and enhance educator usage of Digital Commonwealth Collections.


Newspaper Digitization: It’s a Hot Topic. Who knew?

Newspaper digitization poses some big questions – from selecting what newspapers to scan to figuring out what standards to follow. And once they are digitized, how do I get them online and connect users to the content? Join our panel presentation including Kerry Huller (Library of Congress), Jake Sadow (Boston Public Library), Kelley Ewing (Library of Virginia), and Stewart Plein (West Virginia University Libraries) to hear how newspaper digitization has been tackled through federal and state partnerships, as well as local endeavors, and find out how we’ve targeted our outreach efforts. 

Kerry has been a Digital Conversion Specialist in the Serial and Government Publications Division at the Library of Congress since 2019, where she works on newspaper digitization projects for the National Digital Newspaper Program, as well as other in-house projects. She joined the Library in 2017 as a technician to assist with digitization projects in various divisions. Previously, Kerry worked on digital library projects at the National Agricultural Library and the University of Maryland, College Park. She holds a BFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology, and worked for several years as a newspaper photographer before making a career shift, and later obtaining a MLS at the University of Maryland, College Park.



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