The Baltimore Uprising Archive Project is “a digital repository that seeks to preserve and make accessible original content that was captured and created by individual community members, grassroots organizations, and witnesses to the protests that followed the death of Freddie Gray on April 19, 2015.” Denise Meringolo created the archive with almost no resources. Her goal was to document what Baltimoreans were “seeing, and feeling, and doing as part of the protests.” Meringolo’s initial partners were student activists from UMBC, who helped raise money for the site. Maryland Historical Society (MHS) collaborated with Meringolo to collect artifacts from the protests. Meringolo, in partnership with those UMBC students, are perfect examples of historians. We often frame history as entirely retrospective, something that happens entirely separate from that which preceded and followed it. The Archive Project, in contrast, portrays history as something that is constantly ongoing, something that we can study and record as it happens.
The Baltimore Uprising Archive Project is important because it shifts the historical narrative to portray not only the perspective of the government, but also the perspective of the people, a viewpoint often neglected by traditional historians. The media portrayed the Baltimore Uprising as senseless riots, but The Archive Project takes back the narrative. It allows those who were directly affected during the uprising to be legitimized as a piece of history. The voices of those archived by the project are voices that Baltimore has (and, if we don’t do something about it, will continue to) silenced for generations. That trauma reached a boiling point at Mondawmin Mall (a property that used to be plantation) two years ago and those affected by the aftereffects of racial trauma were finally able to voice their experiences, after being silenced for so long.
Even in working on the project we found ourselves illustrating the very things that we were working against. Some members of our group questioned the wording/framing of the content and it took taking a step back to realize that this is the very reason primary sources are so important. Because events and words and stories can be manipulated so easily and even unintentionally.
This is the difference between “The Baltimore Uprising” and “The Baltimore Riot.” The frame.
As such, we can see easily how history is political and how important projects like this are. But, recording history is only the first step in a sequence that makes the resource of our collective history available to theorize our present and future. We must then interpret this raw data, frame it, and make it available to all–something that The Baltimore Uprising Archive Project does perfectly.
Link to the archive: http://baltimoreuprising2015.org/
Further reading: http://wypr.org/post/crowdsourcing-history#stream/0