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Speaker Series: Previous Speakers

2020-2021 Speaker Series

Authority over the cultural heritage of a community is a key factor to its survival. Our experiences – and the stories we tell – accumulate over time into narratives for which we become known. They circulate rapidly, influence our relationship to society at large, and establish long term claims to place and power.

For communities shaped by ongoing structural oppression and everyday violence, community archives are one of many tools used to address patterns of misrepresentation that are rehearsed across law, education, arts, and culture. Rather than serve as extra repositories, community archives are interpretive projects where knowledge that has been obscured by dominant culture can be centered.

To better understand these efforts and the kinds of work done by those involved, the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries’ Speaker Series is honored to welcome Harrison Apple of the Pittsburgh Queer History Project and Bekezela Mguni of the Black Unicorn Library and Archives Project. As community archivists with work rooted in the Pittsburgh region, Harrison and Bekezela will discuss methodologies of community archiving and their importance to our shared public consciousness.

Bekezela Mguni, Spring 2021

What does it mean to approach the practice of archiving through a justice-centered lens? Archivists play a critical role in the preservation of our history, how we interpret the current moment, and what evidence is left behind in order to help us understand and shape our future. Whose story is deemed valuable? Whose life is seen as important enough to be remembered? What cultural lenses will we use to look at our experiences? In this talk, Bekezela Mguni examines how archives can be both sites of powerful memory keeping as well as oppression and violence.

Bekezela Mguni is a queer Trinidadian artist, librarian, and educator. She has over 15 years of community organizing experience in the Reproductive Justice movement and holds an MLIS from the University of Pittsburgh. She was a 2015-2016 member of the Penn Ave Creative Accelerator Program with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and launched the Black Unicorn Library and Archive Project, a Black feminist community library and archive. She is currently an artist-in-residence at Artist Image Resource and the librarian-in-residence at the Pittsburgh International Airport.

Ellan Spero, Fall 2019

The Fall 2019 Libraries Speaker Series event was presented in conjunction with "Behind the Columns: Celebrating the History and Legacy of the Mellon Institute." In recognition of the completion of work to digitize the institutional records of the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, the Libraries presented a keynote talk by Ellan Spero, historian of science and technology, followed by a round table discussion of the Institute’s enduring legacy with special guests.

Ellan Spero is a lecturer and researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who studies narratives of progress, academic-entrepreneurship, and innovation ecosystems. She is social entrepreneur, co-founder and chief curriculum officer of Station1, a nonprofit organization focused on socially-directed science and technology. Recently, her work has been published in "World’s Fairs in the Cold War: Science, Technology, and the Culture of Progress" (Molella and Knowles eds. 2019), and "Management & Organizational History." Spero holds a Ph.D. from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in History, Anthropology, Science, Technology and Society, a B.S. and M.S. from Cornell University in Fiber Science and Apparel Design, and M.A from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Museum Studies and Textile Conservation.

Ingrid Schaffner and Elizabeth Tufts-Brown, Fall 2018

Hear curator Ingrid Schaffner and archivist Elizabeth Tufts-Brown speak about the Carnegie International: the history, the artists, the files, and the research that make this exhibition a vital resource and entity. This event took place in the Posner Center on November 2, 2018.

Ingrid Schaffner is an American curator, art critic, writer, and educator, specializing in contemporary art. She is currently at work on the Carnegie International, 57th Edition, 2018 which will be on view from October 13, 2018 to March 25, 2019 at Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. From 2000 to 2015, Schaffner directed the exhibition program at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the leading museums dedicated to exhibiting the innovative art of our time. Her many significant monographic and thematic exhibitions have brought attention to under-recognized artists and little-explored themes and practices in the art world.

Elizabeth Tufts Brown is Associate Registrar for the Permanent Collection and Archives at Carnegie Museum of Art. She has a B.A. in Art History from The College of William and Mary and an M.A. in Art History from George Washington University. Ms. Brown has worked with the CMOA Archives for over 20 years and has a special interest in the history of the International.

Harrison Apple, Fall 2020

The University Libraries Speaker Series features speakers from a wide range of backgrounds who embody at least one of the Libraries’ core values of context, curiosity, or access. The theme of the 2020-2021 speaker series focuses on the work of community archiving within the Pittsburgh region, and we were honored to have Harrison Apple of the Pittsburgh Queer History Project join us as our Fall 2020 featured speaker.

Harrison Apple is co-founder of the Pittsburgh Queer History Project, an oral history and community archiving project focused on queer after-hours nightlife. Apple is currently a PhD Candidate of Gender and Women’s Studies with a minor in the School of Information at the University of Arizona. Apple’s writing has been published in Transgender Studies Quarterly from Duke University Press,, and the Introduction to Transgender Studies from Harrington Park Press.

Craig Baldwin, Spring 2019

In this "Orphan Morphin'" presentation, filmmaker and curator Craig Baldwin “surfs the wave of obsolescence” using spoken word, graphics and motion picture clips to advocate for the radical re-working of marginalized film material in the forms of collage, compilation-doc and speculative fiction. This event took place in IDeATe Studio A on February 28, 2019.

Craig Baldwin is a filmmaker, artist and curator from San Francisco, California whose creative interests involve the repurposing and remixing of found imagery. In his films, he reassembles footage from educational, industrial and other cinema sources to create genre defying alternative histories with manic visual rhythms. For three decades, his weekly film series Other Cinema has screened experimental, essay and documentary pieces, as well as unique, mind-bending orphan works from his infamous film and video archive. Baldwin has been invited to numerous international festivals, museums, universities and institutes of contemporary art, often in conjunction with panels, juries and workshops on fair use and cultural activism. He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including those from the Rockefeller Foundation, Alpert Award, Creative Capital, Phelan, American Film Institute, Film Arts Foundation and California Arts Council.