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First-Paper Friday: Alexandria Rayburn

First Paper Friday. Alexandria Rayburn. Persisting through friction: growing a community driven knowledge infrastructure. Archival Science.

Friday, 02/23/2024

University of Michigan School of Information doctoral candidate Alexandria Rayburn has published her first paper while attending UMSI. The paper, “Persisting through friction: growing a community driven knowledge infrastructure” addresses the challenges of decolonizing heritage items belonging to Indigenous peoples. The paper examines The Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures (GRASAC), a research alliance that seeks to bring together records and documentation of Great Lakes Indigenous cultural heritage that are currently dispersed in collections across the globe.

The organization maintains a database, known as the GRASAC Knowledge Sharing System (GKS) a digital platform that combines museum and archival research on Anishinaabe, Haudenosaunee and Huron-Wendat cultures into a centralized database. Rayburn’s paper focuses on the platform’s transition from a password-protected system to one that is open to the public and how that shift can create friction.

The paper was published in January 2024 with Archival Science. The publication of a PhD student’s first paper is a big milestone in their career, initiating them into the scholarly community as producers of knowledge. UMSI supports their work as part of our mission to share knowledge. 

Rayburn studied Arts and Humanities with an emphasis on Museum Studies at Michigan State University. After graduating, she worked at Michigan State University Museum’s quilt collection. There, she worked on a digitization project recording the work of Detroit quilters in the 1900s. 

“What I really loved about my job was working with collection data, and seeing the ways that folks who weren’t our typical museum visitor were using this database to piece together information about their family, specifically the matriarchs,” she says. “That interest in the possibilities of museum data is what brought me to UMSI, first for my Master of Science in Information, and then my PhD.” 

Rayburn is currently working on her dissertation, which explores the historical and contemporary experiences of women doing computing work in museum collections. “This research highlights the unique perspective they bring to knowledge production and the ways they think about transforming collection data to be less harmful.” 

Her thesis advisor is UMSI associate professor Ricky Punzalan, who is a co-author on her paper. Rayburn is expected to graduate in spring 2025. 

At UMSI, Rayburn enjoys the disciplinary nature of the PhD program and the array of research and knowledge that is shared. 

“I also appreciate the passion that surrounds me here,” she says. “Whether it be for teaching, research or outside interests, I feel like I’m surrounded by folks who are passionate about all aspects of their life.” 


Read “Persisting through friction: growing a community driven knowledge infrastructure” at Archival Science.  

Learn more about Alexandria Rayburn by visiting her UMSI profile. 

Apply to UMSI’s PhD in Information


— Noor Hindi, UMSI public relations specialist