Selfies from the Archive: Faith Smith

March 23, 2016

Professor Faith Smith is reporting in for the first in our Selfies from the Archive series, in which we spotlight our faculty and all the interesting places they take their research!

  • Faith Smith in front of the National Library of Jamaica

    Faith Smith in front of the National Library of Jamaica

  • This photograph was taken a few days ago, as I was headed up to the library's second floor to read newspapers. I am proud to say that I don't look the worse for wear after running the 5K in the Kingston City Run the day before. (I had to work that in because I have bad knees, and I might never get to say it again.) On this particular day I wanted a 1916 microfilm reel of the Jamaica Times, which sadly I was told was in poor condition and so unavailable, but I was able to take a look at some 1915 dates, and also to see a 1911 date for the Jamaica Gleaner; I have an online subscription to the digital edition of this one, but somehow the date I needed is unavailable online, so it was great to be able to read the editorial I was looking for. My book on the first decade and a half of the twentieth century has a chapter on photography, and my argument that the pleasures and perils of this visual technology have to be considered alongside intense debates about what Afro-Caribbean people sound like, at that historical moment, depends on having access to debates that were recorded in the newspaper. Whether I am here, in Kingston, or at either the Government Archives in downtown Port of Spain, Trinidad, or the National Archives in London, I am faced with a truth both terrible and reassuring: although this research could go on indefinitely, at some point I have to make assertions in the face of that recognition of incompleteness. Some researcher down the road will make a more nuanced claim, or maybe I will, in future work.