Primary Source Literacy: Understanding Embedded Power Structures

Sponsored by Adam Matthew Digital

Recorded on 11/15/2021
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 226

Primary sources can rarely be taken at face value. For Dr. Rebecca Crites, understanding and unpacking the bias, context, and power structures in newspapers, letters, police blotters, and more is essential to her research on violence and abuse. However, if approached with the right tools and understanding, primary sources can offer insight into both the creator and the subject of a source. As Becky states, “Primary sources can actually have this really radical function to challenge the historical record so far, or collective memories that reify and reproduce those unequal power structures.”

In this second episode, Becky breaks down the challenges of using primary sources in her area of research. She discusses the lack of preserved materials from the silenced and oppressed, and explains the importance of recognizing the power dynamics embedded into our historical narratives. Felix Barnes of Adam Matthew joins the conversation to reflect on how primary source use has changed over time, and why librarians offer essential custodianship and guidance for primary source research.

About the guests:

Dr. Rebecca Crites
Research Fellow
University of Warwick

Felix Barnes
Adam Matthew Digital

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