Students from the C.T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston conducted a digital humanities project using primary documents preserved in UH Libraries Special Collections University Archives.
The Bauer History Project, which was sponsored by the UH Libraries Digital Research Commons, involved the capture, cataloging, processing, and analysis of historical College of Business Administration/Bauer College materials. Students of senior professor of practice Emese Felvégi worked in small teams to produce a digital database using physical objects, processing a total of 147 items and creating 596 unique scans in the first phase of the project.
Esther Adaramola, whose major is management information systems, was one of the project managers. Her role involved scheduling days to file and process the archives. She and fellow project managers collaborated to determine a digital tagging system for the archives that were photographed, and oversaw the capturing, processing, analyzing, and tagging phases.
Flexibility and collaboration were key to the success of the project. “Like the rest of the world, COVID-19 took us by surprise and made us rethink how to proceed,” Adaramola said. “Thankfully, I work with amazing people who were willing to hop on many video calls to strategize how we could continue to make progress. Things worked out well since we all understood the potential benefits associated with completing this project on time. I think what made this project extra special to me was that my coworkers and I were genuinely excited about working on it and sharing our findings.”
Project manager Sorosh Malekzad, also majoring in management information systems, said the important aspects of the project involved planning and adapting to obstacles. “We were prepared for the process by attending a training with university archivist Mary Manning and reading articles recommended by director of digital humanities services Dr. Claude Willan and Dr. Felvégi,” Malekzad said. “We enhanced and picked up new skills along the way. I learned how to batch rename images on my own and created a short video to show others my findings—this is a process that automated a tedious manual process and saved us a lot of time.”
The students presented their project to Felvégi, Willan, and Manning. “I was very impressed with the work the students have done—especially as their worlds have been turned upside down,” Manning said. “The project is an excellent example of how students learned, found meaning in, and excelled at their work during COVID-19.”
Uzma Masood, whose major is accounting, was also one of the project managers. “I had the honor of working with Dr. Felvégi in past semesters,” Masood said. “In spring 2020 she introduced the research of Bauer history from UH Libraries and I jumped at the opportunity.”
Masood said the project was significant to uncovering Bauer’s hidden stories. “Our work in Special Collections is significant to not only creating an online database but also bringing to light the past of our business college. We only flourish and become the powerhouse that we are today because we learn from our past, we know our history and we understand where we hail from.”
“The students performed a never-before-completed experiential learning task with our historical records and also provided a service to our college,” said Felvégi, who is part of the Bauer College of Business Department of Decision and Information Sciences. “Once the collection has been processed in full, we will be able to look at changes in materials released by our college from the late 1940s and on and examine how majors, programs, and our campus have evolved.”
The significance of the project was heightened in part by the demands of the pandemic. “The project was a success as an academic project but has also been a success on some level by providing a purpose outside of their quarantine spaces,” Felvégi said. “Having set meeting times and objectives required students to stay connected. For many, this connection may have given a sense of normalcy during an otherwise challenging time.”
“I personally learned a lot while working on this project,” Malekzad said. “It was something I enjoyed doing and I am excited to take it further to the next step.”
The project contributes to UH Special Collections’ mission of making it easier for stakeholders to access archives.
“Our work in Special Collections plays a role in bringing Bauer’s history to life,” Adaramola said. “By shining a spotlight on these historical archives, we can measure how far Bauer has come in terms of curriculum. Being able to contextualize Bauer’s historical timeline is a great benefit not just for the college but also students and visitors. The archives tell a story about some of the roots that helped grow Bauer into the leading-edge and student-centered educational powerhouse it is today.”