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Junior English major Chelsea Risley excited about what MBDA brings to Berry

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Junior English major Chelsea Risley did not know what to expect when she was first introduced to the Martha Berry Digital Archive (MBDA) project. Fast-forward almost two years later, and Risley is now embracing MBDA with excitement and glee.

As the current student supervisor, her role varies within the project ⎯ scanning and editing, technical aspects, curating exhibits on the website, research and outreach to tell other groups about MBDA ⎯ and her leadership position has enlightened her on where MBDA has been and is going, she said.

“MBDA brings out a richness in the history of Berry that has never before been studied, and is allowing students to have a part in that discovery,” Risley said.

Risley has been a part of that discovery since her freshman year when she was scanning documents into a computer file as a freshman at Berry. She admits that during the early days, she felt she was working towards a nameless goal, and the larger implications of the MBDA were not clear.

Now as a junior, her involvement with editing and research of the over 300,000 recovered documents, has given her a more personal perspective on the history of Berry, and a deeper appreciation for the project.

She says she has enjoyed reading through personal letters and documents that highlight the everyday life of past Berry figures, which gives the project an unparalleled uniqueness. “It’s truly fascinating to see [the] side of history that would never appear in a textbook,” she said.

As MBDA has grown, Risley has been able to develop her portfolio, having several pieces of writing published on the MBDA website.

In fact, the MBDA offers unique opportunities for all students at Berry. Through the project, students can serve as archivist, as well as online editors of content.

The History department at Berry has already keyed-in on the MBDA, allowing several department students to be involved in the project’s development, and utilizing the unique perspective the MBDA gives on early twentieth century life.

As the project moves forward, Risley says she wants to get even more students involved, and sees it as an occasion for students to be involved in work projects that are usually only seen in postgraduate studies.

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