Documenting the Untold Stories of Feminist Activists at Welfare Rights Initiative: A Digital Oral History Archive Project

Documenting the Untold Stories of Feminist Activists at Welfare Rights Initiative: A Digital Oral History Archive Project

Cynthia Tobar (City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2991-2.ch011
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Abstract

The authors document the process as they undertake the pre-planning, creation, and initial steps towards the construction of a born digital oral history project. The goal with this project is to retool the concept of a digital exhibit as not solely an educational tool aimed at scholarly researchers but also to reach out to a wider audience of community activists interested in examining the history of grassroots activism and the role of grassroots activist organizations in policymaking. Themes include: approaches to user-centered digital library design, lessons learned, and challenges ahead; for whom are digital libraries being created, and for what purpose? digital libraries for individuals, communities, and societies; digital collection building, collection development policy, and content management; techniques for creating collections.
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Background

Previous welfare regulations made it relatively easy for recipients to go to college. However, in 1995, New York City instituted the Work Experience Program (WEP), which required welfare recipients to perform unpaid labor for the city. WEP was created in tandem with the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation turning welfare funds and jurisdiction primarily over to individual states. Hundreds of thousands of people were removed from the welfare rolls with no guarantee of employment training or education. At CUNY, enrollment of welfare recipients fell from 28,000 to 10,000 (Golden, 1999) as students dropped out to fulfill their workfare obligations. WRI aims to help students on public assistance throughout the CUNY system remain in college despite time-consuming, dead-end workfare requirements as well as other roadblocks the system puts in their way. (Weikart, 2005)

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