Historians Make History as They Gather in St. Paul

Though history’s always in the making in St. Paul the saintly city is more than ever abuzz this week with curators, archivists, preservation and conservation experts, scholars, digitizers, funders and dedicated historians of every stripe.   It’s impossible to categorize, much less describe, the thousand-plus committed attendees at the annual conference of the American Association for State and Local History meeting this week at the Crowne Plaza on the banks of the Mississippi (if you don’t count the Kellogg Boulevard speedway….)

“Greater than the Sum of Our Parts” is the intriguing theme of the conference. A few hours in the exhibits gives meaning to the phrase – the exhibitors reflect the diverse and interdependent functions that comprise the complex world of these stewards of the narrative of the nation’s towns, states and regions. The robust agenda includes programs and tours on corporate history, museums, archives, court and legal history, classrooms, interpretive centers, historic homes, military history, religious history and more.

The keynote speakers for the conference suggest the diversity of the themes and participants — Garrison Keillor keynoted today followed tomorrow by Marilyn Carlson Nelson, CEO of Carlson and more.   Speaker at Friday’s awards banquet is Dr. Anton Treuer, Executive Director of the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University and editor of the Oshkaabewis Native Journal, the only academic journal of the Ojibwe language.

There are tours and more tours – of St. Paul’s brewing history “from Pig’s Eye to Summit”, a farm tour of the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the Oliver Kelley farm, tours of the mighty Mississippi, the Alexander Ramsey House, several farmers’ markets and corporate museums. And there are sessions on services for people with disabilities and one session that caught my eye, a discussion entitled “Memories Matter: Our Historic Resources to Help Those with Alzheimer’s and Related Diseases.”

The exhibits range from high tech digital archives to art conservationists determined to preserve art and objects as “primary sources”, reflected but not replaced be digital reproductions (or paint-by-number replications) of the original.

Squadrons of Minnesota museum mavens, clad in sky blue water t-shirts, are everywhere welcoming the visitors, pointing out the area’s sites and eateries, telling the stories, and having the strength to get up and do what needs to be done to guarantee that the 2014 American Association for State and Local History will go down in history!






Go Global on September 28 – It’s International RTK Day!

More than ever, the right to know ranks as a priority with democratic people, from emerging nations in Africa to struggling democracies in Europe to U.S. Senators debating the bipartisan Freedom of Information Act. Political and social structures are overwhelmed by information and telecommunications technology that pose both solutions and threats to the people’s right to know.

The goal of International Right to Know Day, celebrated each year on September 28,  is to raise awareness of every individual’s right of access to information produced and/or held by the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. While secrets and surveillance grab the headlines, the right to know encompasses the people’s right to lift the bureaucratic veil from information about a host of critical issues — campaign expenditures, who sets the research agenda, who pays what taxes, how taxes collected are spent, clean water, climate change, consumer products, public health, services for people with disabilities, prescription and over the counter drugs, rail safety – in truth, virtually every issue faced by residents of a democracy has right to know implications. Information that is accessible is the coin of the realm of a democratic society responsible for holding its government accountable.

International Right to Know Day was established on September 28, 2002 to commemorate the establishment of the Freedom of Information Advocates Network. Representatives of 15 nations participated – Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Georgia, Hungary, India, Latvia, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Rumania, Slovakia, South Africa and US.

A dozen years later it’s worth recalling that list of organizers and assessing the growth of the collaboration. Today the members of the FOI Advocates Network include over 200 organizations and civil society organizations representing every continent on the globe. Members of the network exchange knowledge and experience as well as initiate efforts to improve standards and practices that assure the public’s right to know.

To celebrate International Right to Know Day each nation, each civil society organization, creates a unique approach – everything from academic conferences to award (including absurd awards) ceremonies and pop concerts. In some countries RTK Day has morphed to Right to Know Week. In fact, music has been composed especially for the occasion. The stories are best told on the Right to Know Day map and collage designed by the FOIA Network. https://www.google.com/search?q=right+to+know+day+map+2014&client=safari&rls=en&biw=1553&bih=999&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=-FYbVJ7WLoLtoASC4YCgBQ&ved=0CCcQsAQ)

Everything you ever wanted to know about Right to Know Day (and were afraid to ask?) can be found at www.foiadvocates.net.

It’s Constitution Day – There’s an app for that too!

For more than 200 years the American public has struggled to comprehend the full meaning of the United States Constitution. As of today, September 17, 2014, there’s an app for that – also an e-book! And they’re both free.

The 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention who signed the document on September 17, 1787, would undoubtedly rejoice as on Constitution Day (aka Citizenship Day) 2014 the Constitution and its advocates march proudly into the information age – app in hand.

The Center for Legislative Archives, home of the official records of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, has created Congress Creates the Bill a Rights, a free mobile app and eBook  available for download on iPad at the App Store. The ebook is available for download on the National Archives website and in iTunes and the iBookstore for iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

As we learned in Social Studies class the path to ratification of the Constitution was not fast track. You can retrace the state-by-state ratification process here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_drafting_and_ratification_of_the_United_States_Constitution

Constitution Day dates back to 1939 and the reign of newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who proposed the holiday to be known as “I am an American Day.” The holiday was first celebrated on the third Sunday in May, 1940, a day with special focus on new Americans. The US Immigration and Naturalization Service supported and promoted the holiday so that by 1944 the Hearst-sponsored 16 minute film by that name went viral. By the end of the decade the governors of all 48 states had proclaimed the national holiday.

The name change can be credited to Olga T. Weber, a Louisville, Ohio, resident who petitioned the leaders of her city to change the date to correspond with the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution. In 1953 President Eisenhower signed the law declaring Citizenship Day to be celebrated on September 17.

In more recent times Louise Leigh, an enthusiastic student of the Constitution, founded a nonprofit organization called Constitution Day, Inc. to encourage recognition of the national holiday. The combined Constitution/Citizenship Day was inaugurated in 2004 with the support of Senator Robert Byrd of Virginia who attached a supportive rider to an Omnibus Spending bill.

One condition of the law was that, on September 17 each year, the head of every federal agency will provide each employee with educational materials concerning the Constitution and that each education institution that receives federal funds will hold a program for students on Constitution Day.

With thanks to the founding fathers, to these committed Constitutionalists and the U.S. Congress, Happy Constitution Day to every American citizen, particularly the newest citizens of the Land of the Free.



For Twin Cities Readers Book Fare Trumps the State Fair!

For some among us the iconic Minnesota State Fair should eschew the politicians, dump the Skyride, douse the corndogs and replace it all with a tasteful gathering of bibliophiles, Minnesota writers, readings, book talks, exchanges of bon mots among the literati. That’s why we have the Twin Cities Book Festival, the ultimate antidote to the State Fair.

Once again Rain Taxi will restore the natural order to the Minnesota State Fairgrounds when writers, publishers, readers, booksellers and their ilk will gather for the Twin Cities Book Festival. It’s Saturday, October 11, 10:00 AM til 5:00 PM and it’s happening in some of the Fairgrounds classiest settings, including:

  • The Progress Center where there will be an all-day exhibit of publishers, magazines, literary organizations, local authors, booksellers and more.
  • And there are readings and talks on the Reading Stages in the Fine Arts Building, just next door. Participants include Julie Schumacher, Laird Hunt, Okey Ndibe, Hoa Nguyen, Steven Pinker, and an ever growing-list of authors who write for adult readers.
  • There are sites for children’s authors and activities (Michael Dahl, Chris Monroe, Phyllis Root and Lauren Stringer, to name a few),
  • Options for middle grade readers (Margi Preus and William Alexander among others)
  • And teen favorites (Marie Lu, Pete Hautman, Carrie Mesrobian and other YA authors)
  • There’s an author hub featuring Dessa, Michael Fallon, Julie Kramer, John Rosengren, Ben Weaver and who knows who else…. (If you really must know “who else” keep checking the Rain Taxi website (http://www.raintaxi.com/twin-cities-book-festival/ or Facebook for updates….)
  • So no one goes home bookless there’s a used book bonanza,

And it’s all free and open to the public!

The Festival is sponsored in part with funds from the Legacy Fund distributed through the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.


Young producers challenge “dominant media narratives” of their community

During the summer months you may have seen young photo-journalists focusing an eagle and a ready lens on their Northside neighborhood. These are no idle sightseers, paparazzi or voyeurs, these young people have been participants in the Digital Divide Documentary Empowerment Project. That’s a heavy duty name for a fun and educational project that’s about to premier a professional-level documentary depicting issues of inequity in North Minneapolis. The young artists’ cameras and keen eyes tell a story described as a challenge to “dominant media narratives about the community.”

Forbidden Fruit: Hidden Gems of the Northside will premiere on Tuesday, September 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway Avenue in North Minneapolis. The event is free and open to the public. The documentary will be shown later on local and regional cable access channels.

The Digital Divide Project is a program of CURA: The Center for Urban and Regional Affairs, the civic technology incubator at the University of Minnesota. For more information contact Kristen Murray, program developer kmu@umn.edu 612 625 7560 — better yet, catch a sneak preview on Facebook! It’ll leave you wanting more!

Bilbo and Frodo celebrate their birthdays on Hobbit Day, September 22

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” –J.R.R. Tolkien

There’s still time to imagine – just what will be the most magnificent Middle-earthly appropriate gift(s) for Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthday this year. Though there’s always been a bit of a dispute between t he Gregorian and Shire calendars, for the past few decades the natal day of the two has been honored on September 22 (sort of like the Queen’s official birthday.) This year that occurs on the last day of summer, Gregorian calendar.

As any fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth Cycle books knows well, Bilbo and Frodo are somewhat unlikely heroes capable of most impressive acts of courage that have inspired many a reader over the decades.

The birthday fete, commonly recognized as Hobbit Day, is actually the highpoint of Tolkien Week, a moveable feast celebrated this year from Sunday, September 21 through Saturday, September 27. The week is sponsored by the Tolkien Society, celebrated since 1978, in honor of J.R.R Tolkien and his son and editor, Christopher J.R. Tolkien. Focus of Tolkien Week is on the Middle-earth cycle: The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle-earth.

Celebrations of the Baggins’ birthdays are limited only by the imagination of the celebrant! Going barefoot all day or sharing seven meals with fellow Tolkien fans have considerable appeal, though research projects add to the Tolkien lore that may inform future generations, particularly if they re published in the journal of the American Tolkien Society, Minas Tirith Evening-Star.

One topic awaiting further research is an area known as Bilbo Colles, formally named for Bilbo Baggins on December 19, 2012. It’s an area of small hills on Titan, the largest moon of the planet Saturn located near Titan’s equator at 4 degrees south and 38 degrees East within the Quivara region. (http://planetarynames.wr.usgs.gov/Page/Categories)

There’s probably an app for Hobbit Day festivities on Planet Earth – if not, here’s another way to honor the Baggins brothers!

The sweetest fundraiser in Northeast Minneapolis

Based on the festival name alone the folks at Mt. Carmel Lutheran Church deserve sweet success! Their mega-fundraiser for hungry kids is Car(a)mel Fest.

The irresistible-sounding event is Sunday, September 13, 10:00 – 4:00. at Mt Carmel Church, 1701 St. Anthony Parkway in Northeast Minneapolis.

For those who can actually get enough caramel, there will be food trucks with an equally appetizing selection from local food vendors, a bake sale with expert judging of the crown the winner of the inaugural Car(a)mel Fest Bake-off.

Local musicians Matt Wilson, Kara Doten and the Goods will perform throughout the day. There’s a silent auction, activities for kids and more!

Real emphasis of the day is the fundraising effort, with all proceeds earmarked for The Sheridan Story, a partnership among a unique community partnership in which participating churches and organizations sponsor a school, as of this Fall a total of 25 schools. Sponsorship involves participating organizations paying for packing and distributing food directly to the children.

The Sheridan Story provides the logistics, sourcing, and organizational expertise necessary to execute the process of providing the food supply. The goal of the partnerships is to feed hungry while developing a lasting relationship between the school and the community.

More about The Sheridan Story at

www.thesheridanstory or find The Sheridan Story on Facebook.

Car(a)mel Fest has its own website www.caramelfest.org or find more on Facebook or Twitter @caramelfest.