Hard Histories Methods: Rethinking Our Archives

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Join Hard Histories at Hopkins for a virtual discussion about the methods of uncovering new institutional histories at Hopkins and beyond. This conversation will feature Liz Beckman and Dr. Heather L. Cooper. Beckman is the Processing and Research Archivist with the Sheridan Library’s Special Collections and University Archives, and Hopkins Retrospective. Cooper is the Project Archivist for the Reexamining Hopkins History Initiative, working out of the Chesney Medical Archives. Both are working innovatively to reprocess and rewrite the descriptions that help researchers know about and access JHU’s archival collections, making it possible for the public to learn more about the links between Johns Hopkins University and Medicine and histories of race, slavery, gender, and sexuality. This webinar will shed light on the intellectual labor that makes “hard histories” work possible. Beckman and Cooper will be in discussion with Hard Histories at Hopkins Project Director Dr. Martha S. Jones.


Liz Beckman is the Processing and Research Archivist working as part of the Hopkins Retrospective Program team. She is passionate about broadening access to archival resources and increasing the number and types of voices reflected in the archival record. Before coming to Hopkins, she worked as the Manuscripts and Archives Librarian at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She began working at Mason as the Processing Coordinator in 2014. Prior to this she had a variety of archives-related internships in Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, PA.

Heather L. Cooper is Project Archivist for the Reexamining Hopkins History Initiative at the Chesney Medical Archives, where her work focuses on processing and increasing access to collections that shed light on histories of racism, discrimination, and diversity at Johns Hopkins Medicine, Nursing, and Public Health. She has a Ph.D. in History and an M.A. in Library and Information Science from the University of Iowa. A scholar of race, gender, and U.S. slavery, she began her archives work at the Iowa Women’s Archives, where her processing, instruction, and outreach focused on engaging with diverse collections and centering the experience and records of underrepresented communities.

Dr. Martha S. Jones is the Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor, Professor of History, and a Professor at the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University. She is also a legal and cultural historian whose research explores how Black people have shaped the story of American democracy, and today extends to work on memorial landscapes and family memoir. Jones directs the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project which, since 2020, has examined the role of slavery and racism at the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital.

Jones’ most recent book, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All (2020), received the 2021 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for History. Her 2018 book, Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America, was recognized with awards from the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, American Society for Legal History, and Baltimore City Historical Society Scholars.

This event is part of a series of conversations hosted by Hard Histories in spring 2024, exploring the histories of Blackness, slavery, and racism in the Maryland area and beyond. Launched in fall 2020, the Hard Histories at Hopkins Project examines the role that racism and discrimination have played at Johns Hopkins. Blending research, teaching, public engagement, and the creative arts, Hard Histories aims to engage our broadest communities—at Johns Hopkins and in Baltimore—in a frank and informed exploration of how racism has been produced and permitted to persist as part of our structure and our practice.