Tag Archives: Minnesota Digital Library

Relax, learn, then resolve to resist post-truth thinking

The goal of today’s post is simply to relieve the stress of the politically charged season by suggesting interesting and easy stuff that promises to divert the agitated mind or volatile conversation. Without leaving your cushy armchair you can liberate your mind to wander at its own speed. Let you thoughts free flow through the overwhelming digital world that overflows with ideas best communicated in more than 140 characters. Get comfortable, clutch your clicker, catch up on some truthful information and creative ideas that probably slipped through the media melee.

To set the mood, check out “Life Satisfaction in the Internet Age – Changes in the Past Decade.” Ask yourself, are you better off now? (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0747563215300790)

Minnesotans deserve to read beyond the disgusting headlines and to take pride in the academic aspects of the institution. Some random bright spots of a digital sort:

Explore some of the ever-expanding digital treasures preserved by the Minnesota Historical Society

If you prefer to stress out by focusing on survival in the post-truth era you’ll find an engaging battle about scientific thinking in this ongoing exchange. Follow Intercept’s challenge to Sense about Science and Sense about Science USA. The discourse is understandable to the lay reader who gets to decide wherein lies the truth. https://theintercept.com/2016/11/15/how-self-appointed-guardians-of-sound-science-tip-the-scales-toward-industry/

Should you have the good sense and option to relax and enjoy the season, here are a couple of digital delights you really don’t want to miss:

Though New Year resolutions pre-date the Post-Truth era, the time is now to “go high” with a 2017 resolution to counter fake facts and false assumptions that  distract and distort.  Resolve instead to capitalize on the power of the web to seek and share the truth and to assure that every voter and potential voter possesses the digital age information assessment skills required to preserve this democracy.

Northern Lights & Insights: Conversations Come Alive as Videotaped Interviews Go Digital

Obsolescence never meant the end of anything, it’s just the beginning.

The words of Marshall McLuhan, guru of an earlier time, came to mind when I learned that Northern Lights and Insights, a library of videos produced in an earlier time, has been added to Minnesota Reflections, the Minnesota Digital Library collection. http://reflections.mndigital.org/cdm/search/collection/p16022coll38

Conversations with Minnesota writers, political leaders, publishers, athletes, activists and more are now accessible to researchers, readers, students and Minnesotans who just want to know more about their heritage. There are interviews with Bill Holm, Carol Bly, with Evelyn Fairbanks, resident historian of the Rondo neighborhood, and with Genny Zak Kieley, chronicler of all things Northeast Minneapolis. Patrick Coleman chats with Governor Elmer L. Andersen while Freya and Frederick Manfred interview each other. Jon Hassler enjoys a lively exchange with J.F. Powers. Preserved in digital format are conversations with Will Weaver, Kay Sexton, Julie Schumacher, William Kent Krueger, Anne Bancroft and Eugene McCarthy – plus dozens of other Minnesotans of today and yesterday.

The saga of Northern Lights and Insights is long and occasionally bumpy, marked by changes in technology and provenance of the project. Begun by cable advocate and pioneer Dave Carlson, then on staff at Hennepin County Library, NL was originally taped in the well-equipped studios of the HCL; tapes were distributed and cablecast on local systems throughout the County and on the Metro Cable Network, the regional system carried on all metro area cable systems.

When HCL discontinued cable production, NL was adopted by Metronet/Minnesota Center for the Book where Dave Carlson joined the staff and continued to produce episodes into the early 21st Century.   Lacking production facilities, Dave and his equipment went on location, met interviewees in their homes or offices, or found a quiet after-hours interlude to record in the Metronet office. In the late 1990’s the Legislature funded a program to distribute videotapes of selected interviews through the state’s regional public library systems.

Enter the digital age… Video formats were rendered obsolete, production and playback equipment languished, and Northern Lights video interviews were yesterday’s news.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota History Center retained its archival collection of the irreplaceable tapes. Tapes were cataloged, annotated and made accessible to users who still had video equipment in working order… It is the tapes from the Minnesota History Center collection that have now been digitized and made accessible through the Minnesota Digital Library.  

And it is through the diligence and generosity of a committed chain of willing interviewees and interviewers, producers, sponsors, funders and archivists that the taped conversations have stood the test of time.

Thought for a perfect winter afternoon:  Reserve time to browse the collection from the comfort of a favorite armchair, read the annotations, remember the personalities of the interviewers and the interviewees and the accomplishments of both. Slow down to appreciate the legacy captured in the conversations.  Then select one or two of the interviews, sit back, click on the “view” icon, remember, reflect and make a plan to read or  re-read the work of a favorite writer.



Deaf History Month – A Time and Tools to Explore 150 years of the Deaf Community in Mnnesota

Deaf History Month is like no other national celebration in many ways, including the fact that the month starts on March 13 and ends April 15, those dates being so important to Deaf history that the “deaf community has made an exception to the rule.”   I love it!

March 15 commemorates the 1988 victory of the ‘Deaf President Now’ movement when students at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC staged a protest demanding a deaf President for the University.  I. King Jordan was named President as a result of their demonstration.  The month ends on April 15, 1817, the day the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, CT, the first public school for the deaf, opened its doors.   Mid-month is the commemoration of the signing of the charter for Gallaudet University by President Lincoln in 1864.

Deaf History Month is unique in another way also.  The very existence of the celebration is a tribute to a single librarian, Alice Hagemeyer, who in 2006 led the campaign for the American Library Association and the National Association of the Deaf.  Lamenting the lack of services for the deaf and the deaf community’s disinterest in libraries, Hagemeyer pointed out that the ASL sign for public library isn’t city library but hearing library…..

 With a special nod to Alice Hagemeyer, this and future posts about Deaf History Month will had an admittedly librarian-biased cast.  The month offers a chance to explore some of the people, the stories and the resources of deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans.

In an October 2012 issue of Digital Delights, of Minnesota Reflections, Teika Pakalns offers n illuminating introduction to the deaf-related resources recently added to the Minnesota Digital Library.  “Until now,” she writes, “deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing Minnesotans have been all but invisible in the archives of Minnesota’s history.”  Digital technology and a partnership between the Minnesota Digital Library and the Commission of Deaf, DeafBlind and Hard of Hearing have changed everything.  Using digital technology the two organizations have taken on the task of opening the collections of Charles Thompson Memorial Hall, the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens, and the Minnesota Academy for the Deaf Alumni Association Museum.

The history of the deaf community and services in Minnesota is rich with resources and great stories that are only now being told.  What is now opened to the public and to scholars is the rich story of the lives and accomplishments of the deaf community.

Of course deaf and hard of hearing people have always been involved in the history of the state.  Some wonderful legends, such as that of Oscar E. Garrison, the deaf man who founded Wayzata, have survived. The stories of other lives, contributions and impact are lost altogether.

Records in the Minnesota Digital Library actually begin with the opening of the present-day Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf.  Established in 1863 in a Faribault storefront it was soon moved to nearby Mott Hall, the start of today’s campus and the site of countless monumental events in the history of deaf education.  As just one example, Edward Miner Gallaudet and Alexander Graham Bell attended at least one national conference in Faribault.  There they discussed the advisability of employing deaf teachers to teach deaf students which, Pakalns notes, “became part of the oralism vs. manualism debate” that continues to this day.

In 1885 graduates of the Minnesota State Academy for the Deaf held their first reunion; they voted then to form an association that became the Minnesota Association of the Deaf (now the Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens).  The records of the MADC are also in the digital library.  Pakalns cites many of the names to be found in those files, among them the name of Cadwallader Lincoln Washburn of the famed flour milling family  A graduate of the Academy for the Deaf Washburn went on to become a prominent artist renowned for his drypoint etchings

Washburn was friends with one Charles Thompson, a wealthy Minnesotan who had a horse farm near Windom and a camp at the “deaf colony’ in Alexandria.  Charles Thompson and his wife Margaret Brooks Thompson became generous benefactors of the deaf community.

When Charles Thompson died Margaret dedicated the first deaf clubhouse in America to his memory.  The Charles Thompson Memorial Hall, designed by Thompson’s deaf friend and noted architect Olof Hanson, was completed in 1918.  At what must have been the groundbreaking ceremony, a raft of dignitaries joined deaf and hard of hearing Minnesotans to celebrate the auspicious occasion.  The Minnesota Reflections digital collection includes an article from The Companion magazine, dated November 15, 1916, which describes the event in detail.

Today, Charles Thompson Memorial Hall is familiar to many Twin Citians as the stately building at 1824 Marshall West of Fairview in St. Paul, just across the street from the Merriam Park Library.  As of December 30, 2011 The Charles Thompson Memorial Hall is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The designation establishes Thompson Hall’s historical significance “as a building that continues to serve its original mission as a clubhouse and civic center for the deaf community.”  The recognition also celebrates “the historical contributions of the community in establishing and maintaining this cherished building.”  Members of the deaf, deafblind and hard of hearing community are already at work on plans for the Centenary of the Charles Thompson Hall set for 2016!

Technology also delivers a lengthy interview about the history of Charles Thompson Memorial Hall.  The interview with Doug Bahl is part of the Minnesota Deaf Heritage Interview Series which records stories of 14 prominent deaf Minnesotans recorded by the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Metro Division in 1997 and remastered in 2011.  The video collection is made accessible through ASL, open captions, voiceovers and transcripts of audio content with video descriptions included.

Take time during Deaf History Month to explore the riches of Minnesota Reflections and the primary resources that tell the stories of Minnesota’s heritage contained there.  Bear in mind that the Minnesota Academy for the Deaf is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, a good time to reflect on the history with the help of this ever-expanding digital treasure..   You’ll find yourself immersed in a fascinating community about which most of us have much to learn.  The good news, the tools are great and the stories are even better!

Reflections on Reflections – A Digital Archive of Archives

Creating a profile of a single archive seems the best way to celebrate American Archives Month.  The problem is that there are too many, each unique, with its own personality and its own stories to relate.   Some are traditional – print materials and physical objects; others are digital, often based on the traditional.  All are created, tended and shared by archivists who care about preservation of the people’s record.

Minnesota Reflections is a sort of archive of archives, a digital resource to which individual archives of every stripe have contributed their documents and their pictures, with the intent to share the historic record with a broader audience.   Contributors include county historical societies, colleges and universities, state agencies, nonprofits, churches and religious archives, and others.

The photos and the data are not only preserved but cataloged for easy browsing by topic, region and collection (source).  The technical standards are high and the cataloging/organizing standards are the same.  Pick a topic or town or source, search the collection, and see what you find.  Anticipating the season to come, I searched “winter carnival” and found (among many listings) a 1920 photo of the Mankato Winter Carnival parade.  Who knew!

Though the photo collection is perhaps better known, the documents preserved in Minnesota Reflections are incredibly diverse.  Again, a dip into the collection is the best way to appreciate its depth.  For the moment, take a look at a recent installment of “Digital Delights from Minnesota Reflections” that illustrates the range of possibilities. It’s a small sample to be sure, but it will get you started in the right direction.

Happy Archives Month to the archivists and staff at Minnesota Reflections, to the archivists and staff of the contributing organizations, and to the hundreds of Minnesotans who know and value the record left by those individuals and institutions who have gone before, who have adapted to new technologies that extend the reach of those records, and who know full well that some day some one is going to want that exact bit of information – readily accessible and in mint condition.