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UMD Libraries Provides Launching Pad for Research-Driven Student Podcast

With Love & Struggle dives into archives of underground feminist magazine

Students recording their podcast in McKeldin Library's Podcasting Lab.
Photo by Hong H. Huynh

A group of undergraduate students have created a limited podcast series using archives from the Hornbake Library.

The series, With Love & Struggle—researched and written by Janete Amaya, Hannah Bray, Maliyah Daniels, Ashley Mazur, Katherine Guerrero Rivera, Viviane Stackhouse, and Fibee Ybanez—dives into the Libraries’ archival collection of Off Our Backs, an underground feminist magazine that ran from 1970 to 2008.

The magazine was started by feminists in the D.C. area who were active in the anti–Vietnam War movement. The magazine featured op-eds, news articles, art, and even personal ads all dealing with feminist and gay issues of their time. Although the entire series is digitized and free to browse online, Hornbake holds one-of-a-kind ephemera from the magazine’s founding and production, including letters, layout notes, photographs, and other papers, such as those documenting CIA surveillance of the collective.

“It’s kind of like if somebody who worked in alternative, underground journalism for 30 years emptied out their desk,” says Dr. Jaclyn Bruner, the faculty advisor for the project and the podcast’s producer. “But the library was incredibly helpful. They provided a rundown of how the archives work, why things are organized the way they are, and what it means for a collection to be unprocessed. They really helped orient my students, who had never done any archival research before.”

Bruner is an Assistant Clinical Professor of UMD’s First-Year Innovation & Research Experience (FIRE) program. The students were part of the eight-week  FIRE Summer Research Internship, as part of the Visualizing Social Justice research stream, which is led by Dr. Bruner. Laura Cleary, UMD Libraries’ Instruction and Outreach Coordinator for Special Collections and University Archives, welcomed the students to the library, contextualized the collection within the archive, and gave research tips on how to get started.

“When people come into the archives, we want to let them know they’re allowed to be here, they’re allowed to ask questions, and they have access to all these pieces of history,” says Cleary. “It helps engage them in this new way of thinking about the past. They’re not having to take somebody else’s interpretation of it; they can look at it and make their own interpretation.”

“Nobody taught me how to do this as a student; it can be really intimidating,” says Bruner. “So to give the students a sense of ownership over that and say, ‘You do belong here. You can come discover your own purpose in these papers,’ is so critical. Laura and her team really made the students feel welcome.”

The students’ podcast covers a variety of topics, including the criminal justice system, the concept of invisible labor, activism and organizing, and how the issues of today mirror so closely those from decades past. Multiple episodes were recorded at the McKeldin Library Terrapin Learning Commons Podcasting Lab. “It was very accessible,” says Bruner. “We didn’t have to have any expertise or equipment. We could turn our research into a podcast because the investment had already been made by the library.” All six episodes are now available to stream, and the research project will continue this fall.

“This was a model for what we love to see in the archives,” says Cleary. “Engaging students in a new way, getting them to think about things not just in their historical context but asking, ‘How does this matter today?’”

“There are stories everywhere,” adds Bruner. “And I appreciate our libraries for modeling that for our students.”

Learn more about the podcast in this article from Maryland Today, Students’ Podcast Amplifies Issues of Forgotten Feminist Magazine.

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