Hector Hyppolite (b. 1894 – 1948) / Nap Pile, date unknown / Oil on board / WCA Collection

DIGITAL CROSSROADS: Digitizing Collections

HADC is an National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Humanities Collections and Reference Resources (HCRR) grant-funded project exploring the current state of Haitian art resources and their accessibility to build new resources. Our project began as a collaboration between Grinnell College Libraries and the Waterloo Center for the Arts (WCA). Through close collaboration, the team considered best practices with regards to photographic documentation of artworks and developed a metadata schema for Haitian art. Working with the WCA and other partnering institutions, we are currently building an accessible database that will expand as a multi-institutional platform for scholars and researchers of Haitian art.

The project began during the summer of 2019 when student researchers conducted an inventory of significant public collections of Haitian art across the United States, as well as a survey of major exhibitions around the globe since the 1970s. In addition to such inventories, students also worked with the WCA’s extant metadata, cleaning it up in preparation for a prototype database. Grinnell’s librarians advised students on establishing metadata to make it more accessible once placed in a database. The summer culminated in photographing over one hundred works of art in the WCA’s collection with professional photographer Jerry Grier. The digitization process was documented considering best practices with regards to Haitian art objects. 

During the academic year, the Advisory Board met to discuss the progress of the project. Pleased with the quality of the images taken over the summer, plans for a conference to discuss the state of Haitian art began to solidify, and it was decided the conference would be held as a workshop, to spark conversations and collaborations.

In December, thanks to funding by Grinnell College’s Institute for Global Engagement, the research team traveled to Miami to meet with important figures in the field and to explore art collections throughout South Florida. Professor Rivera and the student researchers met with the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) team at Florida International University and discussed possible collaboration. The team also spent time at the NSU Museum of Art-Ft. Lauderdale in order to view works by Haitian artists in their collection, as well as with artist Edouard Duval-Carrié at the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance.

On March 5-8, 2020, Grinnell College and the Waterloo Center for the Arts hosted a workshop bringing together top scholars, museum professionals, and digital humanities experts working with Haitian art and culture. The workshop considered both the needs of the Waterloo Center for the Arts and the field of Haitian art history more broadly. With the intent of this collaboration to be longstanding, Dr. Petrouchka Moïse joined our team in August 2020 as a CLIR/Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for Haitian Visual Art, and is our current Assistant Professor/Cultural and Community-Based Digital Curator at Grinnell College Libraries.

In 2023 HADC received an implementation grant from the NEH HCRR, allowing the building of our database over the next three years, and incorporating artworks from public collections in Haiti and the United States. Since joining Grinnell, Prof. Moïse has produced the Going Beyond Provenance methodology, which includes an expansive metadata schema informed by archival silences and the Kreyol language. Working as a co-leader with Dr. Rivera, Moïse has been integral in developing a strategic plan and bringing partners and collaborators into our project. 
The project continues to seek collaborators. Questions may be forwarded to both Fredo Rivera at riveraal@grinnell.edu and Petrouchka Moïse at moisepet@grinnell.edu.rinnell.edu.