Rhizomes: Mexican American Art since 1848 is, fundamentally, a decolonial strategy to make available the rich aesthetic and documentary history of visual art produced by and about Mexican America. We built the portal to allow online users to search and interact with the holdings and collections of libraries, archives, and museums (LAM) across the United States, and the portal depends upon relationships and technical connections. While these two types of linkages may appear equally significant, we privilege relationships. Whereas Digital Humanities scholars emphasize technological sustainability (the robust nature of the tool, infrastructure, fixity, and interoperability), Rhizomes emphasizes relationships.There is no software or hardware solution for technological obsolescence that will support the ongoing function and growth of Rhizomes. Relationships between our team and our partner institutions will provide the foundation for sustainability of each component of the Rhizomes Initiative, particularly the portal.
Decolonial methods for collaboration
With such relations and connections, Rhizomes can grow its deep horizontal and vertical roots. The protocol clarifies how we do this work and reflects why we are doing the work for the portal. Imagined as an alternative to Eurocentric, colonial, extractive, or siloed collections, the portal depends upon decolonial methods for collaboration that emphasize equity, transparency, trust, and reciprocity. Just as we welcome partner institutions into the Rhizomes community, our partners allow us to join them in their ongoing stewardship of Mexican American art.
Mutual accountability: Our socio-technical protocol
Relying on decolonial methods for collaboration requires us to refuse implementing a standardized protocol that assumes every relationship will work the same way. Our partner institutions vary in size, geographic location, and most importantly, access to resources. Because our partner institutions operate in distinct ways that are best suited for their specific circumstances, and especially because many institutions with which we currently and hope to partner have been and continue to be under-resourced, we have developed a means to ensure that the portal and each partner are mutually accountable to each other.
See Mapping Rhizomes to learn more about our current and future partner institutions.
In December 2019, Rhizomes collaboators* endorsed the “Socio-Technical Protocol for Partnering with Small-Budget Cultural Institutions” following months of collaboration with the National Museum of Mexican Art. This document provides guidance for developing socio-technological protocol for linking with partner libraries, archives and museums. The protocol, particularly with under-resourced cultural institutions, establishes the expectations and processes for connecting and sharing content through the portal. Not only does it flesh out how we make technological linkages to our partner institutions, but it also sets the parameters for the social context and expectations of our collaborations. These expectations are highlighted by reflective practices that will help us to navigate complicated issues relating to data and digital maintenance to keep us focused on sustaining healthy relationships with the partners that make the portal possible. This work was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities.
*The document was co-authored by: Mary Thomas (Operations Manager and Data Curator, University of Minnesota), Cristina López (LATIS Consultant, University of Minnesota), Rebecca D. Meyers (Permanent Collection Curator, National Museum of Mexican Art), Raquel Aguiñaga-Martinez (Visual Arts Associate Director & Registrar, National Museumof Mexican Art), Cesareo Moreno (Director of Visual Arts and Chief Curator, National Museum of Mexican Art), Colin McFadden (Technical Architect, LATIS, University of Minnesota), Karen Mary Davalos (co-Director, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities), Contance Cortez (co-Director, University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley).