Having just finished Rundel’s collection, I now pivot to Barbara Drake’s. Once on this archival table were 17th and 18th century maps of South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia produced and reproduced by colonial Europe for atlases. Now in front of me are a variety of sources, artifacts, printed matter, and ephemera of a contemporaneous indigenous America(s), specifically Tongva.
For some period of time, I’ve sat waiting for the right kind of silence to write this. My fingers hover over the keys as I stare at the tubs of folders, flyers, pictures, articles, and documents. I ruminate over the contrast and comparisons of historical discourse in both collections. What is difference in “pasts” offered in both projects? Epistemological questions and thoughts emerge with some urgency and vitality, but perhaps ontology keeps my forehead firmly pressed against my knuckles.
I must acknowledge I’m feeling the weight and responsibility in reporting my work for the Drake collection much more than with Rundel’s. In both, my position was and is etic. But, I am mestizo. Likewise, the maps were produced by Europe to help colonization efforts. They were made for biased knowledge production and consumption. Critical analysis of colonial instrumentation is a craft I have gained over time. Likewise, the material concerned my background. It was, in a sense, personal.
Drake’s collection is a unique and vulnerable experience for me, not in its processing, but in my writing about it. Because, my writing is not just about my thinking but a description of my actions. My actions will have an effect on future research. It reflects my intentionality. My writing will describe how I intend to organize, arrange, and order the material. It exposes my positionality and reflexivity–all of which are essential. How I choose to understand the sources. It concerns matters of access, language, and care.
My personal research is in ethnography and public history. I work with communities in East Los Angeles concerning matters of environmental and social justice. Not only do I try to produce new research but I participate in community activism and help build their archive. With the intersection and interspecies relations of animals, nature, and humans being my primary focus, I hope to learn a great deal from this collection.
Already, I find myself spending perhaps too long reading the articles and studying the documents on linguistics. I look forward to further working on this collection while also thinking deeply about my work.