Digital Portobelo: Art + Scholarship + Cultural Preservation is a cultural preservation and collaborative research initiative that focuses on an Afro-Latin community who call themselves and their performance tradition “Congo.” It represents the second phase of an thirteen-year ethnographic project that began in 2001. The first phase is represented through my monograph entitled When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama, which is currently under consideration with a university press. As a collaborative interdisciplinary digital humanities initiative, the project seeks to make the process and products of research more available and accessible beyond the academy—especially to the communities represented by and invested in them. It responds to a call from the community for greater cultural preservation and a desire from researchers on the topic to have a better platform to share and expand upon existing research.
Supported by a 2013 UNC Digital Innovation Lab/ Institute for the Arts and Humanities (DIL/IAH) fellowship, this interactive digital repository represents a prototype/proof of concept version of Digital Portobelo. Built with the Digital Innovation Lab’s new Digital Humanities toolkit (DH Press), it will feature an online searchable digital repository of written and performed scholarship, including visual art, audio and video interviews with English and Spanish transcripts, and short contextual videos focused on the Congo community of Portobelo. In addition, it will pull together content from disparate sources to demonstrate the ways in which the project endeavors to become a space of collaboration among scholars and the community. This prototype demonstrates the extensive possibilities of a community-based digital oral history project, pointing towards the ways that the project can be expanded in future phases.