The Coronavirus pandemic has me thinking about labor–as a concept, a social process, a political constituency, and the driving force of our economy–in a way that I haven’t in my lifetime. It’s become alarmingly clear (as if it wasn’t before) that we all need food, supplies, and services to survive past next week, and that there are real human beings out there working to produce and deliver these things. No amount of entrepreneurship, innovation, or financial sleight of hand will help us through the coming months if people are not working to provide the basic requirements for life as we know it.
This blog post draws from images in our digitized library collections to pay tribute to all of the essential workers who are keeping us afloat during these challenging times. As I browsed these photographs and mused on our current situation, a few important and oft-overlooked questions came to mind.
Who grows our food? Where does it come from and how is it processed? How does it get to us?
What kind of physical environment do we work in and how does that affect us?
How do we interact with machines and technology in our work? Can our labor be automated or performed remotely?
What equipment and clothing do we need to work safely and productively?
Are we paid fairly for our work? How do relative wages for different types of work reflect what is valued in our society?
How we think about and respond to these questions will inform how we navigate the aftermath of this ongoing crisis and whether or not we thrive into the future. As we celebrate International Workers’ Day on May 1 and beyond, I hope everyone will take some time to think about what labor means to them and to our society as a whole.
It is graduation week here at Duke and everyone is scattering about like pollen in the air. There are large tents popping up, students taking pictures in gowns, and people taking long walks across campus. These students, like the groups before them, are embarking on new territory.
They are setting out into the world as adults preparing for the rest of their lives. For four years, they have been studying, partying and sleeping their way through life as pseudo grown ups, but now they have reached an unfamiliar page in their lives. They are being faced with societal expectations, financial obligations, and a world that is still in progress. How will this fresh batch of individuals fit into our ever changing society? I’m sure people have been asking this question for decades, but in asking this question I managed to find some digital collections featuring people who contributed to society in various ways.
Judy Richardson took part in the Civil Rights Movement through the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Deena Stryker went to Cuba in order to document the Cuban Revolution.
H. Lee Waters travelled through the South to film and showcase the daily lives of Southerners.
All of these individuals went out into the world and gave something to it. For the past four years, our country has witnessed copious changes. We have seen serious adjustments in political climate, social activism, and technology. It will be interesting to see where the 2018 Duke graduates will go and what they will do in their open future.
We try to keep our posts pretty focussed on the important work at hand here at Bitstreams central, but sometimes even we get distracted (speaking of, did you know that you can listen to the Go-Gos for hours and hours on Spotify?). With most of our colleagues in the library leaving for or returning from vacation, it can be difficult to think about anything but exotic locations and what to do with all the time we are not spending in meetings. So this week, dear reader, we give you a few snapshots of vacation adventures told through Duke Digital Collections.
Many of Duke’s librarians (myself included) head directly East for a few days of R/R at the one of many beautiful North Carolina beaches. Who can blame them? It seems like everyone loves the beach including William Gedney, Deena Stryker, Paul Kwilecki and even Sydney Gamble. Lucky for North Carolina, the beach is only a short trip away, but of course there are essentials that you must not forget even on such a short journey.
Of course many colleagues have ventured even farther afield to West Virginia, Minnesota, Oregon, Maine and even Africa!! Wherever our colleagues are, we hope they are enjoying some well deserved time-off. For those of us who have already had our time away or are looking forward to next time, we will just have to live vicariously through our colleagues’ and our collections’ adventures.
Notes from the Duke University Libraries Digital Projects Team