Monthly Archives: October 2016

Smithsonian to focus on nation’s religious history

The day is gloomy, the political news is disquieting, the World Series is touch-and-go and the world is holding its collective breath. Of course, it’s Halloween!

In an unsteady world, there is solace and wisdom in the historic record. So today I’ve found refuge in celebrating the final day of National Archives Month with a most welcome announcement from no less a source than the Smithsonian Institution!

Good news indeed. For the first time since the late 19th Century the Smithsonian has named Curator of American Religion History. He is history of religion scholar Peter Manseau (http://americanhistory.si.edu/profile/1267) who may have been predestined to the position by parentage as well as profession. In his new position, underwritten by the Lilly Endowment, Manseau will “lead a five-year series of events and exhibitions”, including a June 2017 exhibit on religion in early American life.

Speaking of the challenge he faces, Manseau observes “it’s the first time in generations that we look at religion in a holistic comprehensive way….taking a very broad view of religion in America, including and welcoming to all, without obstacles.” One of the earliest events under Manseau’s direction, scheduled for early next month, is a performance of the religious sounds the first Pilgrims may have made and heard coupled with the sacred music of the Wampanoag Native Americans.

It strikes me as worthy of note that Manseau’s appointment and the announcement of the Smithsonian’s attention to our religious heritage meshes with the opening of the Martin Luther exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/mia-exhibit-tells-story-of-martin-luther-art-and-the-reformation/

Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams – they all have different names,

but they all contain water. Just as religions do – they all contain truths.

Muhammad Ali

 

 

 

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Voting matters – Early, curbside and with a smile!

This morning I braved the chill, boarded the #32 bus, and headed for the WaterBar on Northeast Central Avenue to cast my vote. (I had long since affirmed that the WaterBar, a community hangout, was simply leased for the duration of the voting season). Possibly because the pop-up voting site was at the WaterBar, my after-voting sense was one of “cleansing.”

The process was beyond efficient; it was inspiring. I walked into the site a lone senior, a bit apprehensive that all of the paperwork was okay and that I could pass for an eligible, even informed, voter. What I found was a welcome, a sense that I was among fellow citizens, all engaged in a powerful process that, despite the ugliness of the campaign, rises above the tawdriness of the day.   My instinctive response to the warm environment was, Yes, when they go low, we do go high.

Basic fact, the process was assembly line efficient. It took me less than 10 minutes to go through the proof of registration and to cast my vote. If there were a gap it was only in my pause over down ballot choices where I had not been as diligent as I should have been about the research….

With pride I thanked the cordial staffer who offered the “I voted” sticker with a smile and an appreciative citizen-to-citizen nod.   I left the WaterBar with the clear understanding that the voter reigns in the voting process.

As I headed back to the bus I cast a sidelong glance at the sign that read “curbside voting.” I might have left it with that quick glance had I not encountered a proud staffer en route to the bus stop. At about 20 paces she spotted my “I voted” sticker – and took time to thank and congratulate me. Wow!   Ignoring the fact that the good woman was freezing, I succumbed to her warm smile and decided to ask the question that was on my mind: What’s “curbside voting?”

What I learned is that curbside voting means that anyone with physical challenges to poll access has a host of friends at hand. Staffers will reach out to verify registration, provide ballots, witness the secret vote, submit the secret ballot, and otherwise assure in every way that the voter enjoys equal access to the voting process. Curbside voting works! The challenge is to spread the word and the ways!

En route home I stopped to reflect over a cup of Aki’s famous coffee – My experience indicated that the mechanics of the voting process were in perfect order. Yes, I had fulfilled my duty. Far more important, my appreciation of a fair and open process was affirmed. And so I sipped my coffee with a powerful sense of good will, patriotism, and affirmed commitment to the common good. I had experienced the support of committed staff who clearly cared that the system works for all.

I also thought about the ways in which the WaterBar, a Northeast treasure, is yet another example of that sense of good will and affirmed commitment to the common good – a perfect polling site. Learn more about the WaterBar here:

 

 

Organizations’ changes meet digital age challenges

Though there are times when a group avoids tough decisions by mucking with minutiae,  there are situations in which the times demand that an organization embrace the challenge. A couple of significant moves by major national associations reflect bold action to adapt to signs of the times.

NCTA – The National Cable Television Cable and Telecommunications Association voted last month to rebrand itself.  (https://www.ncta.com/news-and-events/media-room/content/announcing-ncta-–-internet-television-association)

The organization has adjusted in the past, possibly hanging on to the NCTA for stability. When NCTA came to be in 1951 it was the National Cable Television Council that soon morphed into the National Community Television Association. Reflecting the organization’s commitment to keep up with – and influence – changes wrought by emerging technology, NCTA added “and Telecommunications” in 2001.

Today, this pioneering organization is officially NCTA-The Internet & Television Association. (https://www.ncta.com)

ASNE – The changes at the American Society of News Editors (http://asne.org) are more structural than name change. Basically, the membership structure will henceforth be based on web traffic rather than print circulation that has been the measure since the establishment of ASNE in 1922.   ASNE President Mizell Stewart III, explains the change as “a long overdue acknowledgement that digital media is a primary platform for storytelling and where consumers often turn first for news and information. The leaders of U.S. newsrooms have moved far beyond their roots in daily newspapers, serving readers across every content platform. Now, ASNE’s membership structure reflects that reality.”

Like NCTA, ASNE has struggled with name change – The “N” that once stood for “newspaper” is now simply “News.”   The change was made in 2009 to indicate the organization’s desire “to reflect the fact that we serve editors who are leaders in delivering news on multiple platforms.”

  To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

~ Winston Church

 

 

Tools to dig up family roots featured at Family History Fair!

It’s been a year now since I participated – almost by chance – in the Family History Fair sponsored by the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library.   I had dropped in to check out the exhibits – and ended up staying for the day, immersed in the mountains of literature, the media productions, the lectures and, most of all, the people who were eager to share the resources and support organizations that had helped them search for their own roots.

This was also the day that I met members of the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library. (https://www.supporthclib.org/minneapolis-central) Since that first encounter my awareness and appreciation of the unique resources of the Central Library have been enriched. The rich programming Friends of the Central Library offers this community open the doors of the Central Library – and the minds of library users.

At that same Family History Fair I learned more about the Minnesota Genealogical Society. (http://www.mngs.org ) Though I had visited the MGS office in South St. Paul several times, I discovered more about the organization’s services to ethnic groups, individual genealogists and historians.

So this year I’m eager to share the word that the Family History Fair 2016, sponsored by these two organizations, is set for Saturday, October 30, 9:00-3:00 at Minneapolis Central Library.

Plan to spend a day that’s jammed with tantalizing sessions. Tom Rice, Director of the Irish Genealogy Society International, will set the pace with his Keynote on “Getting started with your genealogy and moving forward the right way.” The day’s sessions run the gamut, from “Railroad records and railroad history” to “Finding your female ancestors” to “Cousins by the dozens: Using autosomal DNA.” You’ll be challenged to fit it all in.

Experience assures me that the exhibits will be great – staffed by the state’s most knowledgeable family historians!

Best of all, Family History Fair 2016 is free and open!

For a full program and bios of presenters, click here: http://www.hclib.org/about/news/2016/sept/family-history

Registration info is embedded in the program text but just in case, to register click here: https://hclib.bibliocommons.com/events/57a383dbca019ec71407fdcb

 

Homewood Studios photo exhibit depicts “The habit of voting”

Midst the lively din of the Get Out the Vote 2016 campaign one thoughtful approach captured my attention. It’s an intriguing exhibit of photos of people voting with the simple but explanatory title “The Habit of Voting: Why Vote?”

The photos of voters are taken by Rosa Maria dela Cueva and Chip Peterson, world travelers who have simply taken the time and care to photograph people in the process of exercising their right to vote.

In the words of the photographers the exhibit “reflects some of our experiences abroad and at home. This visual narrative reminds us that, although the habit of voting may not always yield the results that we hope for, by participating in the electoral process, we attest to the democratic principle of We the People.

“The Habit of Voting: Why Vote?” will be on exhibit October 21 through November 9 at Homewood Studios, 2400 Plymouth Avenue North, Minneapolis. (www.homewoodstudios.com/) Opening Reception for the exhibit is Friday, October 21, 6:00 -9:00 p.m. at the Studio. A Gallery Conversation will follow on Tuesday, November 1 at 7:00 p.m.

 

MIA Exhibit Tells Story of Martin Luther, Art and the Reformation

The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship ~ Martin Luther

The capstone exhibition of National Archives Month 2016 for this region is undeniably the Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation exhibition opening the end of the month at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The exhibition features newly excavated objects that depict aspects of Luther’s personal life as well as Reformation and post-Reformation art. The Luther exhibit is traveling in this country for the first time. This commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses offers a once-in-a-millennium learning experience for this community.

Focus of the exhibition is Luther’s support of art as a tool for worship, teaching and propaganda. Of particular note are the paintings of Lucas Cranach the Elder who was inspired by Luther’s preaching to develop didactic and narrative paintings. In addition to paintings the exhibit offers numerous historical objects including sculpture, gold, textiles and works on paper, this last of particular note in light of Luther’s use of the newly invented printing press to share the written word.

Another aspect of the exhibition is representation of Luther’s personal life. The exhibition features archeological finds such as household goods and items found in his homes and studio; artifacts include original furnishings and precious gold and silver objects. The exhibition will also share examples of rarely seen 16th Century editions and a selection of 16th Century publications that offer insight into Luther’s intolerance of corruption and his concern for women.

The Martin Luther: Art and the Reform exhibition opens on Sunday, October 30. The opening day lecture explores “Learning about Martin Luther: How Archaeology Changed the Picture of the Reformer.” (2:00 p.m.) Additional lectures throughout the exhibition:

  • Martin Luther Art and the Reformation (Thursday, November 3, 6:30 p.m.)
  • An Artist during Times of Change: Lucas Cranach between Court, Church and Reform (Sunday, November 20, 2:00 p.m.)
  • Art Illuminating Human Rights: Muslim in Minnesota (Thursday, December 1, 6:30 pm)
  • Martin Luther’s Reformation impact on Nordic Europe: Finland and its evolution to independence in 1917 (January 14, 2:00 p.m.)

In conjunction with the MIA exhibition the Center for Austrian Studies at the University of Minnesota is sponsoring a robust series of programs. The series begins Wednesday, October 12, 7:30 p.m. with an introductory lecture by Thomas Rassieur, Curator of Prints and Drawings, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.   This will be followed by a second lecture by Andrew Pettegree, University of St. Andrews (Scotland) who will discuss “Martin Luther, the Reformation and the Making of a media Phenomenon” and a student tour of the exhibition itself. (https://cla.umn.edu/austrian/news-events/announcement/cas-special-programming-mias-exhibit-martin-luther)

Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation will remain on exhibit at MIA through January 15. More information and updates may be found here: http://new.artsmia.org/luther/

 

Exhibits and programs showcase archival treasures

Each of the letters, photos, tools, recordings, clippings, including that protest placard, has a life and a story. Those stories are shared because of the talent and vision of archivists who understand and convey the context that instills meaning. So perhaps the most meaningful way to commemorate National Archives Month 2016 is to highlight events that unlock the digital treasures.

This is a totally random sample, intended to give a sense of the diversity, the depth, and the unique character of just a few of the hundreds of archives in this region’s historical societies, corporations, colleges, religious institutions and special libraries.

These programs shine the light on what’s on those shelves and in those files. Some samples:

  • The archives of the St Paul Cathedral, including images tracing the 175 years of parish history beginning with the early French Canadian settlers who helped build their first chapel, are on exhibit now at the Cathedral.   Visitors will find photos from the Cathedral School, which operated as the parish school from 1851 to 1977. Exhibits are on display on the lower level of the Cathedral through December 31. Free and open. cathedralsaintpaul.org or 651 228 1766.
  • Stories of Minnesotans’ role in the Civil Rights Movement a half century ago are told through the Selma 70 Exhibition now on display at the Ramsey County Exhibit Gallery in the Landmark Center in downtown St. Paul.   The narrative is told through historical photos, documents and stories from the original Freedom March. Free and open through January 30. (http://www.rchs.com/event/selma-70-exhibitions/)
  • “Mansion in Mourning” is the intriguing title of the current exhibit at the American Swedish Institute. The exhibit includes personal memorial hair jewelry and wreaths to widow’s weeds, death masks, painting, books and other forms of memento mori. The exhibit emphasizes the objects, clothing, relics, and icons that draw connections between the living and the departed. ((http://www.asimn.org/exhibitions-collections/exhibitions/mansion-mourning)
  • As we flounder in the politics of the season, the ongoing exhibit at the James J. Hill House will conjure reflections on the role of Minnesotan Eugene McCarthy and the 1968 Presidential Election. The exhibit includes campaign literature, editorial cartoons, photographs and materials from his personal papers. It’s open Saturday, October 15, through January 22, 1917, at the James J. Hill House, 240 Summit Avenue, St. Paul. http://www.mnhs.org/event/2106
  • Friends of the Libraries, University of Minnesota   (http://www.continuum.umn.edu/friends/#.V_kzs1edeJW) is sponsoring the First Fridays Series during and post-National Archives Month – the series boasts the delightful title, “Down the Archival Rabbit Hole…and what we found there.”
  • U of M Libraries will also sponsor a program on “Telling Queer History” on Sunday, October 9, 2:00 -4:00 p.m. at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120. One of the speakers is Andrea Jenkins who leads the U of M Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies’ Transgender Oral History Project.
  • The Magrath Library on the U of M St. Paul Campus is home to the Doris S. Kirschner Cookbook Collection. Beth Dooley and J. Ryan Stradal will share the story of the collection in a presentation entitled “Farm Fields, Gardens, Kitchens, and Libraries of the Great Midwest.” This is the Third Kirschner Lecture sponsored by the Friends of the U of M Libraries. It’s Thursday, December 1, 7:00 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs on the West Bank. Free and open, reservation requested to the Friends of the U of M Libraries.’

Like politics, most history is local. Archives can be most meaningful when they shape the world from the local perspective. Fortunately, archivists, working with local historians, families, genealogists, artists, writers and storytellers, keep the stories alive.

Local history centers preserve the records; they also create exhibits and delightful programs that celebrate the unique story or special feature of the town, county, region, industry or oddity  (consider the famed Ball of Twine in Darwin.) To learn more about local history organizations check out MHS local history services. http://www.mnhs.org/localhistory/mho/

There are at least 10,000 reasons and ways to put a Minnesota spin on National Archives Month!