Laura Gibbs and Helen Nde share a passion for African folktales. They are both active researchers and bloggers on the subject who rely on the Internet Archive’s extensive collection in their work.
In the third of a series of webinars highlighting how researchers in the humanities use the Internet Archive, Gibbs and Nde spoke on March 30 about how they use the online library and contribute to its resources.
Gibbs was teaching at the University of Oklahoma in the spring of 2020 when the campus library shut down due to the pandemic. “That’s when I learned about controlled digital lending at the Internet Archive and that changed everything for me. I hadn’t realized how extensive the materials were,” said Gibbs, who was trained as a folklorist. She retired last May and began a project of cross-referencing her bookshelves of African and African-American folktales to see how many were available at the Internet Archive. Being able to check out one digital title at a time through controlled digital lending (CDL) opened up new possibilities for her research.
“It was just mind boggling to me and so exciting,” she said of discovering the online library. “I want to be a provocation to get other people to go read, do their own writing and thinking from books that we can all access. That’s what the Internet Archive has miraculously done.”
Gibbs said it has been very helpful to use the search function using the title of a book, name of an illustrator or some other kind of detail. With an account, the user can see the search results and borrow the digital book through CDL. “It’s all super easy to do. And if you’re like me and weren’t aware of the amazing resources available through controlled digital lending, now is the time to create your account at the Internet Archive,” Gibbs said.
Every day, Gibbs blogs about a different book and rewrites a 100-word “tiny-tale” synopsis. In less than a year, she compiled A Reader’s Guide to African Folktales at the Internet Archive, a curated bibliography of hundreds of folktale books that she has shared with the public through the Internet Archive. Some are in the public domain, but many are later works and only available for lending one copy at a time through CDL.
In her work, Nde explores mythological folklore from the African continent and is dedicated to preserving the storyteller traditions of African peoples, which is largely oral culture. Nde maintains the Mythological Africans website where she hosts storytelling sessions, modern lectures, and posts essays.
“[The Internet Archive] is an amazing resource of information online, which is readily available, and really goes to dispel the notion that there is no uniformity of folklore from the African continent,” Nde said. “Through Mythological Africans, I am able to share these stories and make these cultures come alive as much as possible.”
As an immigrant in the United States from Cameroon, Nde began to research the topic of African folklore because she was curious about exploring her background and identity. She said she found a community and a creative outlet for examining storytelling, poetry, dance and folktales. Nde said examining Gibb’s works gave her an opportunity to reconnect with some of the favorite books from her childhood. She’s also discovered reference books through the Internet Archive collection that have been helpful. Nde is active on social media (Twitter.com/mythicafricans) and has a YouTube channel on African mythology. She recently collaborated on a project with PBS highlighting the folklore behind an evil entity called the Adze, which can take the form of a firefly.
The presenters said when citing material from the Internet Archive, not only can they link to a source, a blog or an academic article, they can link to the specific page number in that source. This gives credit to the author and also access to that story for anybody who wants to read it for themselves.
The next webinar in the series, Television as Data: Opening TV News for Deep Analysis and New Forms of Interactive Search, on April 13 will feature Roger MacDonald, Founder of the TV News Archive and Kalev Leetaru, Data Scientist at GDELT. Register now.