The Digital Sixties: Bridging Generations and Scholarship in Online Archives – Part 3

Final entry of the three-part series! The social movements of the 1960s are increasingly documented in digital collections, providing teachers, students, scholars and everyday people new insights into the tensions, conflicts and transformations of those turbulent times. This three-part series explores archiving projects housed at Midwestern universities and consider their value inside and beyond academia, and their relevance for current racial justice efforts, particularly Black Lives Matter. Each digital collection documents different dimensions of 1960s social movements and cultural transformation and considers their value to both scholarly and popular audiences. The first installment of this series is from the University of Iowa; the next two will feature holdings from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Part 3: Roz Payne Sixties Archive
By: Patrick D. Jones, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Edited by: David McCartney, University of Iowa

The Roz Payne Sixties Archive is a collaborative digital archive featuring the collection of activist, photographer, and filmmaker Roz Payne (1940-2019).  The project is housed at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.    

Origins of the digital collection date to 2009, when the African and African American Studies Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted its Blacks in Film festival with the theme “Documenting Empowerment, Equality and Inclusion.” Payne was a featured speaker at the week-long event, which included screenings of films she produced or co-produced during the late 1960s for Newsreel Films, an independent film production company that was part of the emerging alternative media landscape at the time.

Payne joined Newsreel Films in 1967, “a group of independent filmmakers, photographers, and media workers [that had] formed a collective to make politically relevant films sharing our resources, skills, and equipment,” according to her website.

The films screened at the festival documented the Black Panther Party and its impact on the communities in which it was based. The films today provide insights into the scope and extent of BPP’s activism from the perspective of a filmmaker with close ties to the Party.

“We decided to make films that would show another side to the news. It was clear to us that the established forms of media were not going to approach those subjects which threaten their very existence. Our films tried to analyze, not just cover, the realities that the media, as part of the system, always ignores. We didn’t like to just send our films out; we would go out and speak with our films. We saw them as weapons. We hoped to serve as part of the catalyst for revolutionary social change,” Payne wrote.

In addition to producing films and photographs, Payne gathered and saved hundreds of items, such as leaflets, pamphlets, broadsides, manifestos, underground press issues and small press publications, buttons, posters, and other objects from that era.

The author was intrigued by Payne’s stories during the 2009 festival and began to discuss with her the prospect of digitally reformatting her materials to make them freely accessible through an online digital display created in OMEKA. On three occasions over the next two years, he travelled to Payne’s home in Burlington, Vermont, to complete the project. While some leaflets, flyers, broadsides, pamphlets, manifestos and small press publications were organized in a set of filing cabinets, many other artifacts were placed throughout the donor’s home, including political buttons, folk singer Malvina Reynolds’ guitar, her two original tickets to Woodstock, and even the original blueprints for Woodstock. Files were created digitally by using a scanner or camera, and the digital collection ultimately consisted of several thousand unique artifacts. Metadata, providing brief context for each artifact and some general introductory text for the project, were added.   

The Roz Payne Sixties Archive documents one activist’s perspective of the political landscape of the 1960s across the New Left, including materials from the student movement, anti-war activism, the counterculture, the civil rights and Black Power movements, women’s liberation, gay rights, the Chicano movement, Puerto Rican nationalism, the Cuban Revolution and Third World liberation struggles, the prisoner rights movement, radical psychology, early environmentalism and more. Noted events are cast in fresh light, including more than 500 original photographs of protests outside the Democratic National Convention in 1968. Learn more about Roz Payne at Obituary: Roslyn Cristiano Payne, 1940-2019 | Obituaries | Seven Days | Vermont’s Independent Voice (sevendaysvt.com).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s