The Black Lunch Table Archive : A Radical Reimagining of Digital Authorship

Jina Valentine
Jina Valentine
Co-founderBlack Lunch TableAssociate Professor of PrintmediaSchool of the Art Institute of ChicagoRead Bio
Heather Hart
Heather Hart
Co-founderBlack Lunch TableVisiting LecturerMason Gross School of ArtRutgers UniversityRead Bio

Black Lunch Table (BLT) is an oral history project that mobilizes a democratic writing of cultural history through a radical reimagining of strategies for digital authorship and archiving. BLT engages in the production of discursive spaces wherein artists and community members engage in dialogue on a variety of critical issues. BLT roundtable events provide physical and digital infrastructure for community discourse, which is recorded and archived on the BLT website. Parallel to its creation of physical spaces that foster community and generate critical dialogue, BLT is creating a digital space for a Linked Open Data (LOD) approach to Black studies and social justice issues. BLT's use of network analysis, as an organizing principle for its archive, is an innovative application of DH methods that disrupts traditional archiving practices.

Based in Chicago, Jina Valentine is a visual artist and Associate Professor of Printmedia at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (previously UNC Chapel Hill). Her independent practice is informed by the intuitive strategies of folk artists and traditional craft techniques, and interweaves histories latent within found texts, objects, narratives, and spaces. Jina's work involves language translation, sourcing and mining content from material and digital archives, and experimental strategies for humanizing data-visualization. Her work with the archive is also informed by her work with Wikipedia—considering its organizational structure, collective content creation, and how metadata contributes to informational hierarchies (what's visible, what's accessible). Jina received her BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and her MFA from Stanford University.

Based in Brooklyn, NY, Heather Hart is a visual artist and Visiting Lecturer at Rutgers University Mason Gross School of Art. Her art practice is invested in creating site-specific liminal spaces for personal reclamation, in questioning dominant narratives and proposing alternatives to them. Heather’s independent work invites engagement from diverse publics, invites collaboration with other cultural producers, and requires masterful organizational, interpersonal, and logistical skills. Additionally, she has spearheaded the BLT Wikipedia initiative and is invested in proliferating the people’s encyclopedia as a collaborative work requiring the efforts of a diversity of community members, and this perspective has informed our event programming. Heather received her BFA at Cornish College of the Arts and her MFA from Rutgers University with studies at Princeton University.


A continuously updated schedule of talks is also available on the Digital Dialogues page.

Unable to attend the events in person? Archived podcasts can be found on the MITH website, and you can follow our Digital Dialogues Twitter account @digdialog as well as the Twitter hashtag #mithdd to keep up with live tweets from our sessions. Viewers can watch the live stream as well.

All talks free and open to the public. Attendees are welcome to bring their own lunches.

Contact: MITH (,, 301.405.8927).