Institute News

Librarian's Corner: MSU Librarian Deborah Margolis Visits the Center for Advanced Genocide Research

This article is part of a newsletter series introducing librarians who are advocates for the VHA at their institutions.

In the first part of our Librarian’s Corner series, we are introducing Deborah Margolis, the Middle East Studies librarian at Michigan State University. Deborah is a long-time advocate and supporter of the Visual History Archive, and manages the Visual History Archive on her campus. During her visit to the Center for Advanced Genocide Research in June, we had the opportunity to learn more about Deborah’s VHA-related activities at Michigan State, as well as the personal motivation behind her work.

Deborah was introduced to the Visual History Archive shortly before Michigan State University became a full access site in 2014. Ken Waltzer, now Professor Emeritus at Michigan State, introduced Deborah to the Visual History Archive and invited her to participate in a week-long workshop in 2013, which was led by the Visual History Archive curator Crispin Brooks.

Since Michigan State University became a VHA access site in 2014, the VHA has been used in a number of courses. In the 2017-2018 school year, the VHA was utilized in a year-long history honors college research seminar, “History and Testimony in the Digital Age: Studying the Holocaust.” Besides this seminar, Deborah was involved in at least two other undergraduate Jewish Studies courses at MSU that focus on postwar American Jewish history, in which students used the VHA. Together with the Digital Scholarship Librarian Megan Kudzia, Deborah introduced students to the VHA and instructed them on how to search it using the index search. Deborah is also active when it comes to VHA outreach in the wider community. 

After welcoming Center staff for workshops at Michigan State last year, Deborah has organized a series of VHA workshops on campus for faculty and students. She led a workshop this year together with a digital scholarship librarian. Those who have expressed interest in these workshops so far come from disciplines as diverse as History, Jewish Studies, German, French Studies, Asian Studies, African Studies, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Sociology and Literature. In the future, Deborah hopes to include librarians working in other subject fields, and she has already conducted extensive outreach among the area studies centers on campus.

Since Michigan State University became a VHA access site in 2014, the VHA has been used in a number of courses. In the 2017-2018 school year, the VHA was utilized in a year-long history honors college research seminar, “History and Testimony in the Digital Age: Studying the Holocaust,” which was initiated by Professor Steven Weiland from the MSU College of Education. According to Deborah,

The students’ primary task was to explore a topic of their interest in the VHA, and with the guidance of a faculty mentor, develop their topic and present their research first in an oral presentation and then in digital form using Scalar. One of Scalar's strengths is that you can incorporate text with media like photographs and videos. They were required to incorporate at least two media elements, including a VHA segment. It was notable that three of the students focused on gendered experiences or gender-based violence during the Holocaust. One student investigated the effects of the Holocaust on the survivor’s postwar political identity, which we the faculty found interesting.

Besides this seminar, Deborah was involved in at least two other undergraduate Jewish Studies courses at MSU that focus on postwar American Jewish history, in which students used the VHA. Together with the Digital Scholarship Librarian Megan Kudzia, Deborah introduced students to the VHA and instructed them on how to search it using the index search. Deborah is also active when it comes to VHA outreach in the wider community. As a result, a group of high school students has come to Michigan State to conduct research with the VHA for two years in a row now. This year, their work in the VHA will focus on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht.