Guest Blogger: Carlina Green, “Not Included in the Photograph”: Staff Underrepresentation in the Archives and How We Must Combat It (Part Two)

This is the second part of a two-part post by Carlina Green ‘20.

You see, the Archives cannot preserve sources that are never created. And when sources are not preserved in the Archives, their subjects can be underrepresented in narratives that draw on those sources or left out of such narratives entirely.

The staff of the Archives are committed to combating these historical silences, and they work to uncover and preserve the stories of populations underrepresented in the collections they administer.[1] This includes the stories of Davidson employees. Two examples of their exemplary work profiling 19th– and 20th-century staff include Niara Webb’s blog post on “Dean of Janitors” Mr. Enoch Donaldson and Hannah Foltz’s post on Davidson’s security officer “Cop” Ed Linker. Drawing on both archival materials and public records, Webb and Foltz try to piece together portraits of these historical actors about whom little has been preserved.

A photo of Enoch Donaldson standing in front of a building.
Photograph of Mr. Enoch Donaldson.

However, as Cottle mentioned, the content of posts dedicated to these past staff is limited to their work experiences, as that is the main focus of preserved, available sources. Furthermore, the Archives face a paucity of sources about the lives of current Davidson employees.[2]

One solution? Creating more of these sources by collaborating with staff who want to share their stories.[3] Students, consider interviewing interested college staff for your theses, capstone projects, or summer research. Faculty, please integrate staff history projects into your courses and into your own research. And compensate staff for their interview time; take advantage of research grants available for faculty, for students, and for faculty-student collaborations.

A portion of the College’s Statement of Purpose reads, “Davidson holds a priceless heritage bequeathed by those who have dedicated their lives and their possessions for its welfare.”[4] Part of honoring staff, who dedicate so much to this campus and its students, is valuing their life stories and memories. [5] They who offer so much to the College must be preserved in its history. So, let’s fight the silences; let’s create the sources that preserve their words and their legacies.


[1] One place this commitment is visible is in their documentary Always Part of the Fabric.

[2] Two examples of sources about current staff they receive consistently are speeches delivered on Employee Appreciation Day and winner lists for annual grants and awards like the Spirit of Davidson.

[3] For those concerned about protecting staff identities, remember that interviews donated to the archives can remain closed for a period of time (such as 50 years), or they can be anonymous.

[4] Some were forced to dedicate their lives to Davidson’s welfare, such as Susan, a young girl enslaved by former College President Rev. Drury Lacy.

[5] Today, many may choose to work at Davidson, but have little choice but to work long hours at salaries a few dollars above minimum wage to support their families.

Guest Blogger: Carlina Green, “Not Included in the Photograph”: Staff Underrepresentation in the Archives and How We Must Combat It (Part One)

This is the first part of a two-part post by Carlina Green ‘20.

On March 8th 1955, around 900 members of the Davidson College community gathered in front of Chambers for a group picture. Yet, a notable population was missing; as archivist Jan Blodgett notes, “college staff are not included in the photograph.”

Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in front of Chambers in March 1955.
Photograph of 845 students and 63 Davidson faculty in March 1955.

Their absence from the photo constitutes what Haitian anthropologist Michel-Rolph Trouillot refers to as a historical silence. Trouillot theorizes:

Silences enter the process of historical production at four crucial moments: the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives), the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance).[1]

Michel-Rolph Trouillot

In this instance, the historical silence occurred at the moment of fact creation, when the photo was taken. Silences involving staff frequently occur at the moment of fact creation, which means that they are underrepresented in portrayals of college life. A quick search of The Davidsonian reveals another example. While articles like this one discuss some staff members’ experiences as Davidson employees, very few document their life stories. Since 2016, only one “Staff Spotlight” has been published in the College newspaper—an interview with former Campus Police Chief Sigler. He is only one of over one hundred 21st century staff members whose stories should be recorded, from physical plant staff to dining services employees, from the counselors at Center for Student Health and Well-Being to the career advisors, from the registrars to the van drivers who take students to the airport. To what extent are their lives and experiences being documented in the sources that the College community creates?

My name is Carlina Green and I just graduated from Davidson while in quarantine, earning a B.A. in Latin American Studies with a history minor. While working at the Archives & Special Collections in my last semester, I had hoped to create sources documenting staff members’ lives and experiences by interviewing Vail Commons employees but was unable to do so because of COVID-19. A collection of their life stories would have been a valuable addition to the Archives, where, as JEC Project archivist Jessica Cottle stated, “we largely understand staff experiences through the lenses of their work life.” Because I was unable to create a collection of staff interviews myself during my time at Davidson, I am writing a call to action today.


[1] Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 20th anniversary edition,Boston, Mass: Beacon Press, 2015, 26.