Gabriella Caldwell ’19
The Denison Archives and Special Collection, Granville, Ohio
My name is Gabriella Caldwell, I am a Junior double majoring Black Studies and Communications. My internship at the Denison Archives and Special Collection was amazing! I never thought I would learn as much as I did in the short amount of time I had. Through managing a project alone, visiting other depositories, researching archival job postings, and setting up three different displays; I have gained more confidence working alone, asking questions and became more confident in my abilities to problem solve. I’m excited to continue to explore the Archives next semester and expand my knowledge of the field even more than I already have.
Some of my highlights of the summer were creating the display surrounding blackface at Denison, seeing the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center Archives and taking the StrengthsFinder test. I’m am very proud to have been able to create a display that focused on an issue I care about, and being able to share that information with my peers was one of the most rewarding parts of the summer by far. Creating this display I reached out to seven alumni, three of whom responded and provided significant insight to the productions and how they felt about them then, versus how they feel about them currently, all of which I included in the display. Below is the caption I created for the display
“Denison’s Department of Theatre made significant contributions to the surrounding Denison community, as well as to the larger theatrical community. Summer and Children’s Theatre programs allowed for the surrounding community to enjoy and engage with the arts, and actors/actresses such as Hal and Ruby Holbrook, Henry Sutton, Bill Moore, Steve Carrell, Jennifer Garner and many more gave the acting community iconic actors and actresses. However, as with many things, Denison’s Department of Theatre is more than just examples of exceptionalism.
Denison, much like other schools and theatre troops, made detrimental contributions to racial stereotypes using “blackface,” along with minstrel, sambo, coon, pickaninny and mammy caricatures as well as negative portrayals of Asian and Native Americans in various theatre productions. These contributions continued through 1960s with productions such as Polly, The Mikado, Knickerbocker Holiday, Where’s Charley, and many more. In looking back at Denison’s developing theatre department a complicated mix of productions reveal biases and perpetuation of unfortunate stereotypes.”
Seeing the Afro-American Museum archives gave me a better understanding about the kinds of collections I want to work with in the future, it also gave me a better understanding of what graduate programs look like for archival work. And taking the StrengthsFinder test really opened my eyes to some skills I was not aware I had, and gave me the tools to improve in areas I struggle with, as well as the language to use to promote my skills.
This summer has been extremely helpful while I continue to think about what I want to do with my life. I am very thankful for the opportunity to work with Sasha and Colleen and look forward to continuing my work with them in the future.