Erin Dickey

Archives, Censorship, Digital Art History, Digital Humanities, Feminist Art, Image Annotation

Exploring Thinglink with Archival Materials


I’ve had some fun exploring this week. To explore the capabilities of this tool, I decided to use some recently scanned materials from North Carolina artist Connie Bostic’s collection of clippings from earlier in her art career. The image below, and the materials included in my annotations, are all related to the hue and cry that took place in the Asheville, NC community over the supposed indecency of the paintings and their exhibition in a school, as well as the responding uproar over art censorship that took place in the wake of the school headmaster’s covering up and removal of the paintings.

The paintings, part of Bostic’s “Mark of the Goddess” series, were to be exhibited in the Walker Arts Center of the Asheville School from Aug. 8-Sept. 10, 1990. Instead, the headmaster John Tyrer called for them to be removed almost immediately, saying “Female genitalia have no place on the walls of a school building.” It’s probably relevant to note here that the works are abstract rather than figural. The works are, in Bostic’s words, “archetypal female symbols that depict the regenerative and nurturing power of women”; the exhibition combined the oil-on-paper paintings with quotations about women from history’s “great men”, such as “A woman takes off her claim to respect along with her garments” (Herodotus) and “Silence gives the proper grace to woman” (Sophocles). The fact that Bostic’s work, which is intended to evoke the concern she feels about the loss of women’s cultural heritage within history, was itself covered over and symbolically silenced (at least for the hot minute before folks caught wind of the censorship and started protesting, which led to even greater exposure for the exhibition) is quite the irony.

In my annotations below, I’ve selected some quotations from news articles surrounding the event, as well as provided images of those articles and editorials that argue on both sides of the issue (for a magnificent example of the pro-censorship, anti-“gender feminist” side, see #6 below, “Feminist Junk Masquerades as Art”) . There are also images of exhibition cards and fliers, as well as a newspaper image of Bostic herself, in front of one of her works. For the most part, I have preserved Bostic’s arrangement of clippings in the order of my tags. On the right side of the image (where the white sheet veils the artworks on the wall), I have included images of a selection of the original “Mark of the Goddess” paintings. I will admit to indulging in a sort of subversive delight by digitally “unveiling” these censored images, right on top of a visual symbol of their censorship.

It’s hard to overstate how viscerally this has demonstrated to me the importance of examining an item in context, and an artist’s artwork in the context of her archives. The photograph below is not only a record of one exhibition opening among many, it is a relic of a certain cultural moment for women artists in the South. Furthermore, while physically interacting with the materials certainly gives a rich sense of the various discourses surrounding this specific event, being able to incorporate quotations and images (as well as other media, potentially) into my annotations of this photo creates a sort of narrative shorthand, another way of paging through a scrapbook.

And finally, if any of you are interested and would like to annotate the image through Thinglink, please feel free!


  1. I have not provided individual citation information for these images and scans–all of these items are from Bostic’s studio materials.
  2. One limitation of Thinglink seems to be that there is not a zoom function for the images that are included within tags. The images within the tags are purposefully lo-res, but you should be able to zoom within your browser and still read from the full newspaper articles. Future iterations of annotations for this specific images could include links to the digital versions of these newspaper articles in online databases.
  3. Thinglink requires you to upgrade to the “Pro” version in order to post images within tags. I don’t plan to upgrade after my free 14-day trial period is over, so most of the images in the tags below will not be visible after Friday, Feb. 26.



  1. Erin,

    This is such an imaginative and engaging use of the Thinglink platform! Even with such a relatively limited range of functions—dropping points containing text, audio, video, etc. onto a bigger image—the tool can be used to a huge variety of ends. I think with this particular piece, you illustrate a new way to think about the platform in terms of archival materials. While you add helpful comments and draw out quotations on several of the points, much of the interpretive and annotative work is happening in how you have selected and arranged the archival materials and images of the paintings. In a lot of ways, this mirrors archival work of creating a finding aid or arranging a collection of materials, and as you suggest, you have tried to create this document following Bostic’s own arrangement of the materials. Thinking of this as a kind of descriptive document, in archival terms, invites any potential user of the archival materials to more actively engage with the collection, moving across the documents in a more haptic way than might be the case just reading a list of folders on a finding aid. I could imagine something like this in an online exhibition on an archival institution’s website, presenting potential users with a narrative of these materials that would both intrigue and encourage users to come in and browse the full collection firsthand, as well as to provide very valuable context about the collection.

    We touched on in class how a museum has used Thinglink to offer website visitors a more dynamic look at their collections, and I can imagine archives using this tool for similar purposes, especially for a smaller institution that might not have the IT support or the money to develop robust online exhibitions in house. With the interest of many institutions in crowd-sourcing information, I could also imagine archives using Thinglink to gather descriptive information about photographs or other documents in their collection. Those kinds of crowd-sourcing projects can be difficult to sustain, however, and I could also see minimal participation on the part of users, even though Thinglink offers the ability for anyone to add annotations.

    Finally, I just want to note that I had a lot of fun exploring the different points on this image. I agree that it’s very satisfying to “unveil” the censored images!

  2. Erin, this was a phenomenal use of Thinglink to navigate through a complex topic using archival materials. Like Colin, I am impressed with the arrangement and narrative creation going on with the points on your mysterious original image.

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