Long ago I learned from my friend Marvin Roger Anderson that commemoration of the MLK birthday holiday should involve community building, connecting with friends and neighbors to share celebrate the dream. He insisted that public libraries should throw open their doors to serve as gathering sites. MLK’s birthday, he reminded us, is the only holiday that’s not about family or gifts or escape but an occasion to experience, share and build community committed to MLK’s dream.
Those who have the day off and no home obligations might well heed Marvin’s wise counsel. There are mega-gatherings today at the Convention Center, the Minnesota History Center, the Cathedral as well as less formal events in neighborhoods, places of worship, colleges and public places. For the homebound our community engagement can be a virtual learning adventure.
Public media do a good job of sharing their audio and video rich resources – in yesterday’s post I mentioned one of many.
Less well known are the vast digital resources to which digital age armchair learners enjoy unprecedented access. Many of these resources are collected, preserved, digitized and shared by agencies of the federal government, the most prominent of which is the Library of Congress. LC is digitizizing humungous collections of documents, photos, recordings, diaries, artifacts, virtually anything that helps to tell the story of this nation. Further, the Library produces online guides to resources of a host of other collections within and outside the federal bureaucracy.
MLK Day provides a great opportunity for a digital dip into the treasures of LC. The problem is that to dip may be to drown. A significant problem in using digital resources is that the tidal wave is too much and the searcher washes ashore.
One approach is to start with a guide that LC created in 2010 to complement The African-American Mosaic exhibit. Click here: (http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam001.html) . When you search under “Martin Luther King” the guide will send you to two sites:
- http://www.loc.gov/wiseguide/jan03/kingjr.html. A thumbnail sketch with clickable links to some of the most basic documents, photos and other resources pertaining to MLK, and
- http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/jan15.html. Now you’re in the American Memory Project where you’ll find speeches, photos, a synopsis of the high points of Dr. King’s life and work.
Your learning curve has just begun. Within LC lie countless caches of digitized history including, for example, the American Folklife Center (http://www.loc.gov/folklife/aboutafc.html) as well as the Afro-American Genealogical Research collection, the National Women’s History Project, the records of the NAACP, and the National Museum for African American History and Culture (http://nmaahc.si.edu) still a work-in-progress set to open next year
The guide will lead you beyond the walls of the Library of Congress (not that walls matter to the armchair searcher). The National Archives and Records Administration (http://archives.gov) is the repository of the records of the government itself. “Celebrating MLK’s Legacy and Birthday” offers a quick glimpse of the National Archives resources on the King era – a smidgeon with links (http://blogs.archives.gov/blackhistoryblog/)
Armchair searching of the photos, videos, artifacts, posters, diaries, pamphlets – the stories — is a healthy addiction. For some, the story of the process itself is as important as the stories that emerge from the records. Such digital enthusiasts will enjoy this YouTube intro to digitization: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BkzWN9t1alk)
With African American History Month just weeks away venturing into the MLK stories may whet the appetite for more – including, perchance, another post. In the meantime, this just popped up on Twitter – take a minute to click, read and listen: