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Emergency Response Archive Of Puerto Rico Receives Mellon Foundation Grant

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Michigan State University a $325,000 grant to support the first phase of the “Emergency Response Archive of Puerto Rico,” a digital open-access repository of Puerto Rican artifacts of disasters pertaining to Hurricane María (2017), the Guayanilla earthquakes (2020), and COVID-19 (2020). The project involves collaboration between MSU, the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and the Digital Library of the Caribbean.

The “Emergency Response Archive of Puerto Rico” will produce a freely available Omeka S site that depicts and describes the innovative knowledge production of grassroots community organizations in Puerto Rico in the wake of both natural and man-made disasters.

“We appreciate The Mellon Foundation’s commitment to recognizing and preserving community-based knowledge in Puerto Rico,” said Christina Boyles, Assistant Professor of Culturally Engaged Digital Humanities and Digital Rhetorics at MSU, who will direct the project with the assistance of the project team:

  • Mirerza González Vélez, Nadjah Ríos Villarini, and Valeria Fernández-González from the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras
  • Ricia Anne Chansky from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez
  • Andy Boyles Petersen, Robin Dean, Elisa Landaverde, and Scout Calvert from Michigan State University’s Libraries
  • Perry Collins and Laurie Taylor from the Digital Library of the Caribbean

We appreciate The Mellon Foundation’s commitment to recognizing and preserving community-based knowledge in Puerto Rico. 

Puerto Rico’s recent spate of natural and man-made disasters has led to greater public attention on governmental disaster-response methods — prioritization of urban centers, slow distribution of resources, and limited communication with those in need — often leaving marginalized and vulnerable communities to fend for themselves. Individuals and communities were and are highly dependent upon local traditions, oral knowledge, and community organizing. These knowledge systems are key to surviving the conditions lived and experienced in Puerto Rico, and they serve as powerful resources for future disaster response protocols.

Image of Christina Boyles and Andy Boyles Petersen.

Christina Boyles and Andy Boyles Petersen, Technical Director for the Emergency Response Archive of Puerto Rico project, discuss their work at the Digital Humanities and Hurricane María Conference held at the University of Puerto Rico in May 2019.

While this project focuses on Puerto Rico, it also brings attention to the ways in which disasters are weaponized and leveraged by those in power and how crises such as these are becoming more and more frequent as the effects of climate change worsen. We already are seeing these issues at play in the U.S. and Puerto Rican governments’ early responses to COVID-19, centering corporate interests to the detriment of public health and safety. In response, the Emergency Response Archive of Puerto Rico offers us new ways of relating to the pending climate catastrophe by foregrounding the knowledge and lived experiences of Puerto Ricans and shifting our notions of the ethical by laying bare the injustices of colonial policies.

Story via the College of Arts and Letters

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