Monthly Archives: October 2016

Commemorating National Archives Month-An Armchair approach

From tragic tales and dramatic feuds to stunning and unknown artwork, opening a box in an archive can lead researchers to stories they never expected.   U of M Continuum 

As we commemorate National Archives Month a single mental image, long seared in my memory, surfaces. It is the memory of Howard University librarian Dorothy Porter salvaging protest banners during the 1968 riots that rocked the Howard campus and much of Washington, DC. In that fleeting moment I learned the role and strength of an archivist committed to preservation of the record.

The possibilities for commemorating National Archives Month 2016 are limitless – and irresistible. This is the time when archivists dust off the memorabilia, open the doors, and welcome the public to come explore – physically or digitally – the records of their community, their heritage, or the nation.

Though it is a challenge to describe the complex research and technical expertise of the archivist we honor the professionalism with which they give life to inert records.

In the relatively recent past archivists and researchers have experienced seismic change in the very definition of archives. Archives have gone digital – and yet the digital record does not exist without the ground level work of archivists who spot and capture that which is to be preserved — the letter, the recording, the photo, the document, the video, the painting or diary – or the political banner.

The Minnesota Digital Archives (a forever work in progress) is the mother lode of the digital record of the state’s history – and a starting point for an overview of the digital scene. http://legacy.mnhs.org/featured-projects/153 The “premier project” of MDL is Minnesota Reflections (http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/). This is an easily browsed collection of digitized images, text, audio, film and other records shared by the state’s academic, religious, arts and other cultural institutions.

The Northern Lights and Insights series featuring Minnesota writers and books is part of this collection (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/northern-lights-insights-conversations-come-alive-as-videotaped-conversations-go-digital/)

Readers may be also be in the Minnesota Books and Authors Collection section of the MPR digital archives: (http://archive.mprnews.org/collections/minnesota-books-and-authors-collection)

Though these and a host of other digitized collections offer incredible access to long-buried research materials, I worry at times that, because so much is clickable, we may lose sight of the fact that archives have roots…

More about the month’s archival programs and exhibits in the next post.

Celebrating Archives and Archivists – A Minnesota perspective

Today – Wednesday October 5, 2016 – is Ask An Archivist Day!!! https://archivesaware.archivists.org/2016/09/06/ask-an-archivist-day/

In fact, the month of October 2016 is designated as National Archives Month. http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/american-archives-month-the-power-of-collaboration

Recently, after a video interview with friend and retired University of Minnesota archivist, Richard Kelly, I posted these thoughts of appreciation: https://marytreacy.wordprehttps://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/association-of-american-archives/ss.com/tag/association-of-american-archives/ Recognition of National Archives Month prompts me to learn and share more about the range of archival resources in our community.

What follows opens the doors, though not the resources, of the state’s archives, repositories of written materials, photographs, memorabilia and a range of resources that inform and enrich our lives.

Minnesota Historical Society 

Though many of us have visited the Minnesota History Center we may not realize that the citadel on the hill is but one of the many sites operated by MHS. In fact, there are 26 sites, http://www.mnhs.org/visit. Each of these sites maintains archival resources related to the area and the focus of the individual site; each supports its own website, clickable from the MHS site.

A major program of the Minnesota Historical Society is the Minnesota State Archives: http://www.mnhs.org/preserve/records/ State Archives offer a wide range of resources including www.newspapers.com, a database the provides online access to 3000 historical newspapers dating from the early 1700’s to the early 2000

The Archives Facebook postings provide current info about programming, workshops and other learning opportunities.

University of Minnesota Libraries

The University of Minnesota Libraries is home to a host of archival collections that range from the Archives of the University itself to the Jean-Nikolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, the Givens Collection of African American Literature and the Guthrie Theater Archives.   For a full list of repositories and finding aids click here https://www.lib.umn.edu/special — or you might want to click on this useful starting point:

https://www.lib.umn.edu/special/using-archives-and-special-collections

The Twin Cities Archives Roundtable

One local network that will be celebrating National Archives Month is The Twin Cities Archives Roundtable (https://tcartmn.org) Founded in 1982 TCART (as the group is commonly known) includes archivists, curators, librarians, records managers and information specialists from government agencies, county and state historical societies, academic institutions, corporations and religious organizations. TCART will be holding its annual Minnesota Archives Symposium on Monday, November 14, at the Elmer L. Andersen Library at the University of Minnesota.

Are you harboring a tough question that only an archivist would love? Save it for October 27 when the Smithsonian Institute Archives is hosting “Ask an Archivist Day” http://siarchives.si.edu/blog/tag/archives-month.

To view the informative conversation with archivist Richard Kelly, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tumRr08qkrc

BULLETIN:  A bit of local history: Later this week, on October 7, the National Archives will present a public program featuring the story of the nation’s first gay marriage, that of Minnesotans Jack Baker and Mike McConnell. The presentation is based on the archival record of the couple’s lengthy legal battle as recounted in their book The Wedding Heard ‘Round the World: America’s First Gay Marriage. The program will be live streamed on the National Archives YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGVQfq8a6fY&feature=youtu.be

 

Feeling good about feeling informed – in 140 characters

Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance~~Plato

Since “information literary awareness” is on my mind this month, I resonated when I spotted this from the latest Journalist’s Resource: “Facebook and feeling informed: A proxy for news?” I loved the reference to the self-delusion of “feeling informed.”

The article cites a specific study and findings: “Appetizer or Main Dish? Explaining the use of Facebook news posts as a substitute for other news sources” published in Computers in Human Behavior, 2016.   There’s an abstract of the study online and a summary of findings in this Journalist’s Resource article: (http://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/social-media/facebook-social-media-news-informed)

What stunned me most was to learn that 63% of Facebook users see it as a news source – a number that inflates to 74% among 18-34 year olds. In fact, when it comes to the meat of the story, Facebook sells only the sizzle, not the steak….

In a fleeting act of desperation I decided to go with the flow, to surrender to the times, to capitulate. So, to reduce the complexities of information literacy, search strategies and other pedagogical anachronisms, I propose that student researchers streamline the formalities of information literacy down to these elegantly tweetable basics:

  • What’s the problem?
  • Who said so?
  • When?
  • Whadda they know?
  • What’s their angle?
  • What difference does it make?
  • What’s my take on the story?
  • Can I say it in140 characters?

With apologies to the poet, doesn’t that cover “all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know?” I know I feel informed……

 

“Information Literacy”- Universal challenge of the digital era

Information’s everywhere so now we have to think

 As we reel in the barrage of misinformation, punctuated with provocative spurts of ignorance, it seems ironic – if timely — to note that October 2016 is National Information Literacy Awareness Month.  On the positive side, we should be keenly aware by now that this democracy, based as it is on an informed citizenry, faces an unprecedented challenge.

In truth the term “information literacy” makes me cringe, though I can offer no alternative. More to the point, my serious concern is to focus on the concept – that we keep the goal in mind as we struggle to sort through the maze of messages with which we are bombarded. So I use the term “infolit” and think about how we cope – individually and as a society — with the maelstrom.

Since the dawn of the digital era teachers and librarians have led the push to prepare youth to meet the challenge of the information age. The United States National Forum on Information Literacy offers a serviceable definition of infolit — to wit: “the ability to know when there is a need for information, to be able to identify, locate, evaluate, and effectively use that information for the issue or problem at hand.” The story of infolit is well-chronicled in a pair of lengthy Wikipedia pieces that provides references, definition, and basic background.

Still, today’s information-saturated environment presents a challenge for every lifelong learner – i.e. everyone. We are all in the same boat, struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea of information overload, misinformation, and truncated innuendoes. It is incumbent upon each of us, regardless of age, economic, social or education status, to hone the skills of discernment, to stifle the spontaneous reaction, to share information responsibly and thoughtfully – in a word, to think.

Though the month of October offers far too little time to overcome our digital gaps, we can begin by focusing on the reality that we are at a critical moment in the history of this nation and the world. As never before we engage as producers, intermediaries, receivers, and processors of information; it is incumbent upon us to consider the dimensions of our responsibility, to realize that all information is not created equal and that funding source, authority, intent, verification, and a host of other factors shape the content of the messages that bombard us. As citizens of the information age we must also recognize and respect our role as sources and sharers of information and ideas.

The challenge of the Information Age is to internalize the fact that information matters – and to act accordingly. Exchanges of ignorance are inane at best, potentially dangerous. To honor the intrinsic value of good information is not instinctive; it must be taught, learned and applied – until it becomes habitual.

At one point I thought to create an ad hoc list of materials to help young people sharpen their infolit skills. During that initiative it came to me that these exercises would be appropriate for any one of us. Masters though we may be of digital manipulation we might well take time to think critically about what’s known in some circles as “critical thinking”.

So this launch into Info Lit Awareness Month begins with titles for adults who may hope to hone their own thinking skills before sharing them with 21st Century learners. There nothing conclusive about this, the point being to encourage readers to think about thinking.

One starting point might be a dip into the website of The Critical Thinking Community for their thoughts on the subject: http://www.criticalthinking.org//

Though this library-centric reference may compound the info overload it offers a comprehensive overview of information seekers and their interface with resources and it sets the stage for thinking about the broad scope of the challenge:

http://www.wip.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/2015/oclcresearch-library-in-life-of-user.pdf#page=190

Following is a pot pourri of approaches to logical thinking, coping with fallacies, intelligent embrace of the Net and the scourge of intentional misinformation – needless to say this is the proverbial tip of the infolit iceberg:

  • Almossawi, Ali and Alejandro Giraldo. An illustrated book of bad arguments.
  • Bennett, B. Logically Fallacious: The ultimate collection of over 300 logical fallacies.
  • Cryan, Cran and Sharron Shatil, authors, with Bill Mayblin, illustrator.Introducing Logic: A graphic guide.
  • Mintz, Ann P, editor. Web of Deceit: Misinformation and manipulation in the age of social media. Numerous contributors.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;  It is thinking that makes what we read ours. John Locke