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Art and Slavery Tags


February 23, 2015 by Alexandra Troxell

In looking at the articles that included the ‘art‘ tag, I was initially very concerned. The list of articles was topped by an article from February 2015, but after that, the most recent article with the art tag was from December 2013. Were there no articles about art in 2014? History@Work is indeed a history site, so there may not be an excess of writing on the specific subject of art, but there are likely several articles that mention it in a meaningful way, at least.

In a cursory search, I found at least two articles from 2014 that were related to the arts. I found the article “Raising the curtain: From extreme exhibits to artists in residence” which had an ‘artists’ tag. This is the only article with that tag. It seems logical that it could be consolidated under the general ‘art’ tag. I found one other article, “Keeping the faith: Political cartoons in and out of the archives” which had tags including ‘politics’ and ‘political cartoons’. Again, it is the only article on the site with the tag ‘political cartoons.’ I think politics probably covers that side of it, and art could be an easy addition to the list.

Looking at the articles already containing the ‘art‘ tag, I looked at the most recent article first. “History without vision: A struggle over art at the City Museum of New York” about the work of muralist in the context of a history museum. It was a very interesting article about a museum that commissioned a work and then didn’t want it. I would consider it appropriately tagged. Most of the other articles in the list, including “Community engagement across disciplinary boundaries”, “Art, history, and interpretation: Gauging visitors’ responses”, “Embodying the archive (Part 1): Art practice, queer politics, public history” and “Art, history, and interpretation” were also well-tagged. They each belong in the ‘art’ category with the dozens of other articles on the list with them.

What I continued to find in many of the articles, though, was that the tags seems to merely repeat what was in the title or even first lines of the article. I understand the value of clicking a tag from the cloud on the home page and being directed to an entire list of articles, I think that maybe more work could be done to utilize the tags as a way to include alternative identifiers for topics. Because the instances of articles about art are generally not referencing any specific kind of art, it is probably unnecessary to create more specific tags for the subject. I would instead look to see if any additional articles could benefit from including this tag as a secondary topic even if the title doesn’t lend itself to the discussion of literal/physical art objects.


Looking at the ‘slavery‘ tag, I found only six articles- a three part series from 2014, one article from 2013, and two from 2012. Five of the six articles discuss the presentation of slavery in southern institutions (the sixth article focused on the border state of Maryland). There are many issues brought up in these articles- many possibilities for tags to relate to content not evident in the title or first lines. The most recent article includes 12 tags: advocacy, digital history, digital media, education, evaluation, politics, preservation, public engagement, publicity, race, slavery. I find that here is a similar case where the tag of slavery is relevant to these articles, but slavery is also in the title of four of the articles, in the first paragraph of one, and implied in the first paragraph of “Lessons in Interpreting Controversial History at a Southern Heritage Site” through a description of a plantation site. It is useful to group these articles together, but the tag is hardly providing an alternative access point. Also, a search for the term ‘slave‘ elicits additional relevant articles not tagged- including ““Ask a Slave”: A front-line fantasy?” and several proposals (which seem to follow the tagging standards inconsistently in general).


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