Home Screens: Technology and Archives in Fred Harvey’s Southwest
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This essay examines the digitization and web re-publication of cultural heritage collections to demonstrate the ways that digital collections often repackage and reinforce the settler-colonial logic that governed the creation and dissemination of the original artifacts. Using the Fred Harvey Company Materials, a digital collection created and maintained by Southern Methodist University, as an example, this essay acknowledges the affordances of digital technologies that increase the circulation of rare materials, but focuses on digital collections’ unintended replicating of the conditions of the early twentieth-century commercial archive. In the case of the Fred Harvey Company, these conditions were characterized by white railway executives’ creation and circulation of the mythology of inevitable westward expansion and technological progress. The Fred Harvey Company’s promotional materials evince corporate executives’ use of Indigenous peoples to advertise the Santa Fe Railway’s expanding rail and hospitality services throughout the southwestern United States. In seeking to understand and rectify the ways that digital computation has created racialized spaces and boundaries in our current academic practices, this essay offers potential contributions at the intersection of digital humanities and American Studies methodologies, ultimately arguing that how we perceive home and belonging in the United States has the potential to be radically changed, rather than reinforced, by our digital screens.
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