Category Archives: Library Research

Archivists challenged to look ahead for looking back

The sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history and our history in general.  Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

We live in what Harlan Cleveland dubbed a “temperocentric” world, a world that expresses ideas in fewer than 140 characters, and then moves on……

This is digital age, when thoughts expressed in 140 characters start a war, when a signature replaces a thoughtful disquisition, when Facebook and emails can be manipulated and alternative facts thrive, the work of the archivist is ever-more challenging and still more essential.

And then my thoughts rambled:  I wondered future researchers will ever know how decisions were made……. At the core is a deep concern about the implications of those tweets for government transparency and accountability?

More concerning is the degree to which the ephemeral nature of information and communication will relieve them of responsibility – culpability – for the consequences or blur the causes of their actions.]

It is cold comfort to learn that the President’s tweets are safely archived, available for researchers who will bear the burden of explaining this era:  http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com.  Still tweets, even archived tweets are of scant value.

The serious work archiving President’s papers is in the hands of archivists. abby Zimet’s article published just yesterday in Common Dreams, offers a good – actually fun-to-read– overview of one major effort to cope with the Trump archives.  https://www.commondreams.org/further/2017/05/09/lots-copies-make-stuff-safe-saving-trumps-bigly-dumb-words

Clearly, it is a mighty challenge to capture the archival record of this era, much less to assure permanent access to past public documents. In recent months archivists have welcomed the assistance of informed volunteers – archivists, librarians, researchers, historians and others concerned with preservation of real facts have met the challenge.  Though it’s a finger in the dike of information flow our nation’s recorded history is at risk.

Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today. ― Sara Sheridan

UPDATE:  https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/05/ex-feds-confident-comeys-devices-and-files-are-safe-even-if-fbi-wont-confirm/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Access to Obama Administration Archives — A priority in progress

Writing about the current President’s tweets prompted me to focus with greater interest on just what’s happening with the archives of the Obama administration.

It did not take long to appreciate that reality exceeds expectations.  With the cooperation of the Obama Administration archivists are committed to assure access to massive amounts of information by and about President Obama’s eight years in the White House.  To give some idea of the massive research possibilities: The Obama administration is providing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) with more than 250 terabytes of electronic records, including roughly 300 million emails.

NARA will start digitizing the unclassified records using a “new model” for the storage of presidential records. The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago has made a commitment to fund the digitization of all unclassified records of the Obama presidency.

In a May 3rd article in FCW, Chase Gunter describes how NARA is shifting to digital preservation strategies; Gunter writes that “henceforth the unclassified records of the Obama Administration will be archived using a new model for the storage of presidential records.  Instead of building a new site for the records they will be housed in existing NARA facilities and the agency will work on preserving and making them accessible in digital format to the greatest extent possible.” (https://fcw.com/Articles/2017/05/03/obma-records-digital-asps?p=)

Some basics re the Obama Administration archives:

Scholars create digital learning tools on volatile current issues

As the Commander in Chief stresses about the throngs of immigrants, wiser, more temperate scholars have devoted themselves to helping Americans better understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates. Immigration historians, working with the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (http://cla.umn.edu/ihrc) and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (http://iehs.org/online/) have produced another in series of unique and timely resources, #immigration Syllabus. This indispensable tool for teaching, learning and advocacy is available online: http://editions.lib.umn.edu/immigrationsyllabus/

The syllabus “seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.” It follows a chronological overview of U.S. immigration history as well as thematic weeks that cover “salient issues in political discourse today, including xenophobia, deportation policy, and border policing.”

Listing essential topics and readings and linking to historical documents and multimedia source #ImmigrationSyllabus provides real facts that answer a broad range of questions including the history, policies, and “what’s ‘new’ about new immigration to the US.”

#ImmigrationSyllabus is actually one in a series of timely resources created by and through the University of Minnesota. Previous syllabi include these:

  • #TrumpSyllabus, designed to hep readers understand Trump’s political success during the presidential campaign,
  • #Fergusonyllabus, intended to inspire conversations about race, violence and activism, and
  • #StandingRockSyllabus, a tool to raise awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to place the #NoDAPL process in context.

Download for #Immigration Syllabus:

PDF version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

Word version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a collection and a community: The John Glanton F Collection

I believe that any people’s story is every people’s story, and that from stories, we can all learn something to enrich our lives.

Harriette Gillem Robinet

Building the library from the outside in comes full circle as the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections staff reaches out to further develop the John F. Glanton Collection of photographs. The 800 photographs in the collection reflect, and capture for posterity, the lives of African Americans who lived in the Twin Cities during the post WWII years.

In brief, John F. Glanton (1923-2004), a civil engineer by profession, was also an accomplished photographer.   With the fervor, without the solipsism, of today’s selfie enthusiasts, he carried his Graflex black and white camera everywhere – to weddings, parties, sports events, musical performances, church functions and family gatherings – wherever members of African American community of St. Paul and Minneapolis gathered during the late 1940’s.

Though Glanton didn’t talk much about his photographic collection, when he died at age 80, his family discovered and recognized the value the permanent record he had created. Fortunately, they realized that the collection deserved to be shared with posterity. The family donated the entire collection of 800 photographic negatives to the Hennepin County Library Special Collections.

Recognizing the value of the visual record, librarians encountered just one challenge:   Glanton was more interested in capturing, than captioning…

The photographer who had recorded all those hundreds of images had not identified his subjects – no doubt because the viewers would easily recognize their friends and family!

The solution: To build the collection from the outside in by engaging the public in the process – and fun – of identifying the subjects of Glanton’s photos.

Thus, on a warm day last July, generous members of the public gathered at Hosmer Library to enhance the resources of the Hennepin County Library by supplying names – and stories — for the subjects that Glanton had photographed.   The story of that project was widely shared in the local press; check these links for an overview of what’s preserved in the Glanton collection:

Members of the public also participated in follow-up sessions again at Hosmer Library and at St Peter Claver Church in St Paul.

Today, the photographs, now digitized, captioned and partially searchable, are an important feature of the Library’s Digital Collections. (See earlier posts on this blog.) And yet, the Glanton Collection remains a work-in-progress. Because many of Glanton’s subjects are not yet identified librarians continue to turn to the public to lend their eyes and memories to the group effort.

One way to contribute is as easy as a click on the collection to view the photos; if you are able to identify an event or subject, simply make a note in the “comments” section at the bottom of the screen for each photo. http://digitalcollections.hclib.org/cdm/search/collection/p17208coll1 Another possibility is to contact the library directly (specialcoll@hclib.org or 612 543 8200) to share the information or to obtain further information.

Or make it a social event by taking part in a gathering similar to the Hosmer and St. Peter Claver events. Staff of Special Collections are now working with staff at Sumner Library to schedule a Glanton Collection event in North Minneapolis, tentatively set for sometime in March. Staff are also working with the family that donated the photographs to plan an event during Black History Month in February.

 

Facing the Post-Truth Era – Dylan’s warning, today’s tools

Back in the day, decades before the advent of FB, the prophets among us predicted the Post-Truth era. Consider Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan’s thoughts about the threat of lies and news fakery, shared in a 1963 interview with Studs Terkel. What did you think Dylan meant by when he warned that hard rain that was gonna fall? http://www.poynter.org/2016/bob-dylan-on-lies-and-news-fakery-way-back-in-1963/443058/

In the Post-Truth age countless Minnesotans have joined the chorus of fake news critics. Here are just a few samples of what the people and the media have to say:

MOST IMPORTANT: In the spirit of Dylan – and Keillor — librarians at the University of Minnesota have had what it takes to get up and do what needs to be done to counter the scourge of fake news. How do we become better citizens of information is an excellent tool for any independent learner hoping to survive in the Post-Truth Era. http://www.continuum.umn.edu/2016/11/become-better-citizens-information/#.WFb7xGVfKJU.   Check it out!!!

 

 

Search Tips: Hennepin County Library Digital Collections

The best way to explore the possibilities of the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections is to just plunge in – some very basics to know before you take that first dive:

The Digital Collections may be accessed from anywhere at any time – no library card is needed.

  • There are two ways to find your way into the digital collections: You may go from the Library’s website: org>browse>digital collections or go directly to digitalcollectionshclib.org. 
  • Librarians suggest that you start your search from the broadest angle; search across all collections rather than a specific collection.
  • Collections are keyword searchable or searchable by field
  • Descriptive information attached to each item will link you to related content
  • The items digitized from the existing collection generally cover Minneapolis and Hennepin County historical topics — which is not in the least restrictive since local residents have always been engaged in world events, politics, immigration and every other conceivable area that involves human beings! It’s just the Minnesota slant on what’s happening.
  • Focus tends to be on images, i.e. photos in most cases.   Still there is some text, including letters, manuscripts, diaries, yearbooks, and more.
  • It’s important to remember that the collection is open-ended, i.e. New materials are constantly being digitized and added to the collection. These are living documents. If the yearbook you’re looking forward isn’t online yet, wait a bit and it will be added.
  • Note re yearbook: Because of copyright laws the yearbook collection is digitized through 1977.
  • Full resolution downloads are available for most items in the collections. Depending on the digitized material specific items may be downloaded as jpg files or pdf files.

More tips to follow  – after you get your feet wet and your appetite whetted!!!

For an intro to the HCL Digital Collections go to previous post:  https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/09/opening-library-archives-from-the-outside-in/

 

 

 

Opening library archives – from the outside in

The concept of preserving history, collating full archives, making them as usable as possible so the public have access to them, I really feel that it allows the public an ability to engage with their own history. Sarah Harrison, journalist

For the past couple of weeks I have been exploring an endless profusion of photos, letters, yearbooks, and more photos – from the comforts of home!   I have actually been trying to learn enough about the new Digital Collections platform at Hennepin County Library so I could post an informed post for this blog.

Thinking I needed a bit more skill in searching the massive collection – and a better sense of the possibilities I might be missing — I made my way to Special Collections, 4th Floor at the Minneapolis Central Library, just to see if they might have a helpful cheat sheet….

Hearing my query, Librarian Bailey Diers demonstrated some of the tricks of the searching trade. Actually, she offered a brilliant tutorial for my colleague and me.

And yet, that’s not the topic of this blog.

What really came through to me is the premise of this new HCL Digital Collections! It’s akin to thinking of the library’s collection from the outside in.

First of all the content of the archives began with the lives of the people of this region – whether it’s high school yearbooks or photos of famous visitors or the local newspaper, it’s OUR story – a story that the library has forever valued, collected and preserved. Though the library has always played this role, it is seldom the main thrust of a major initiative.

Just as important, it is significant that the library is turning to the community to enhance the collection. The story of matching names of individuals in the Glanton collection is unique and telling. More on this aspect of the current project later.

Third, is the implicit fact that the entire focus of the digital project is on users who are not IN the library. We have long been able to search the catalog from home, but with the current project we have a deep dive into the essence of the recorded history of this community. The relationship between the library, specifically the library staff, is reoriented – and it is healthy for the system and for the user.

Digitization is not a new technique and remote access to library collections is not a revolutionary idea. What seems to me unique in this initiative is the focus on the stories of the local community – a way for us to see ourselves and our history at the core of the library’s role as a unique community resource.

Another intriguing aspect of the project is the story of the library’s turning to the community to augment the existing archives. More later on that project and searching tips in forthcoming posts.