How Jennifer Garcon Does History By Contingent Magazine

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How Jennifer Garcon Does History

By Contingent Magazine | May 15, 2020


Editor’s note: This is the fifth entry in a series on how historians—especially contingent historians and those employed outside of tenure-track academia—do the work of history. If you know of someone we should interview, or would like to be interviewed yourself, send an email with the subject line HOW I DO HISTORY to

Jennifer Garcon is the Digital Scholarship Librarian at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. Here’s how she does history.

What’s your current position?

I’m the Digital Scholarship Librarian at Penn Libraries, in addition to being a CLIR Bollinger Fellow in Public and Community Data Curation.1

My job entails developing strategies and practices that expand Penn’s capacity to care for vulnerable data and datasets by finding new and innovative ways to leverage existing Penn Library resources. Vulnerable data includes anything from information types that are in danger of loss because of technological obsolescence—VHS, audio cassettes, floppy disks; historic materials that are held by communities experiencing displacement and erasure; and born-digital information including decontextualized datasets, emails, digital photographs. 

Because of my own academic background, as a historian of grassroots movements in Cold War Latin America, I am particularly interested in developing strategies to proactively plug contemporary gaps in knowledge. Some might find the use of data in my fellowship title somewhat confusing, but it’s meant to be intentionally broad.

Tell our readers what a typical day of work is like for you. For starters, is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

Each day can be pretty different and, honestly, it’s what I love about the position. My job is fostering “library innovation,” so I design and initiate pilot projects to test out new library practices and strategies that ensure equitable access to data and promote data advocacy. A central component of my work is learning about what projects already exist, within Penn and in greater Philadelphia, that have, at their core, questions of representation in the digital cultural record. ....

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