Tag Archives: University of Minnesota

National Archives Month – A Minnesota perspective

 

We are the only species on the planet, so far as we know, to have invented a communal memory stored neither in our genes nor in our brains. The warehouse of this memory is called the library― Carl Sagan

 As National Archives Month 2017 enters the annals of history, it seems like a good time to delve into a mix of archival collections designed to pique the interest of Minnesotans- not because they’re writing a doctoral dissertation or going to court, simply because they love to learn about people, events and stories that weren’t in the curriculum.

Though you may have read everything there is to know about the professional contributions of Gratia Countryman, a picture is worth a thousand words:   http://digitalcollections.hclib.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/GCountryman?_ga=2.217022102.1812135875.1508609902-1599511560.1497032955

The photo is one of thousands of archival records preserved and made accessible through the Hosmer Collection maintained at the Minneapolis Central Library.  Celebrate National Archives Month by treating yourself to a leisurely learning break at Special Collections, 4th floor of the Minneapolis Library:   http://www.hclib.org/specialcollections Visit the Athenaeum (http://www.hclib.org/about/locations/minneapolis-athenaeum) and take time to experience the exhibits of treasures mined from the archives.

The University of Minnesota Archives at the University of Minnesota Libraries are world renowned by scholars yet sometimes a bit beyond the reach of the rest of us.  Fortunately, the Libraries are “metaphorically” opening the archives doors in wonderful ways, including, for example:

  • The Children’s Literature Research Collections (aka the Kerlan) embraces the digital possibilities with publication of   Children’s Book Art: Techniques and Media.  The unique resource brings to life the works of over 65 artists whose work is based on primary sources held in the Kerlan Collection of the University of Minnesota’s Archives and Special Collections. (https://z.umn.edu/digital) — (https://www.lib.umn.edu/special)
  • The Minnesota Nice series. First Fridays talks about the holdings and happenings in the U of M archives.  Beginning in 2018 here are the scheduled sessions – all free and open, Noon at the Elmer L. Andersen Library, Room 120.
  • In-depth public lectures and discussions of specific archival collections, such as this forthcoming discussion of the work of James Wright. James Wright: A Life in Poetry is a sweeping biography by Jonathan Blunk, based on extensive research by Blunk in the James Wright Papers, held at the U of M Libraries’ Upper Midwest Literary Archives.(https://www.lib.umn.edu/mss) Note: Reading and discussion of James Wright on Monday, December 4, 7:00 PM at the Elmer L. Andersen Library.( https://www.continuum.umn.edu/event/james-wright-life-poetry/)

National Archives month 2017 is an opportunity for each of us to seriously reflect on the unique and essential role of archives in the digital age.  Archives are everywhere, not only in majestic buildings that bear the name but in local government agencies, public libraries, colleges, places of worship, corporations, nonprofit organizations and myriad other settings. Their efforts are our best and only defense against alternative facts.

One way to get a sense of the expanse of the state’s myriad archival collections is not only easy but seasonal: Clear your calendar, settle into an easy chair, turn off your cell, then click on this “work-in-progress:  Minnesota Reflections (http://reflections.mndigital.org/about).

Archivists work in a complex and collaborative way to meet the information needs of diverse users – from scholars to genealogists to inventors to journalists and curious Minnesotans of every stripe.  To share resources and opportunities to learn, archivists shape networks of various stripes.  The collaborative that links a mix of archives and archivists in this area is the Twin Cities Archivists Roundtable (https://tcartmn.org/about/ (aka T-CART).  T-CART and guests will be meeting this month (https://tcartmn.org/minnesota-archives-symposium/)   The T-Cart website lists the names and contact information for several related archives and archivist networks, including these:

To underscore the urgency of archival awareness and the imperative to tend to preservation of the public record was less worrisome in October 2011 when Archives Month warranted this comparatively frivolous post. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1078&action=edit 2011

And just to add a bit of flourish to the topic, let it be known that Tom Hanks has been named recipient of the National Archives Foundation Records of Achievement Award.

https://www.archivesfoundation.org/news/tom-hanks-receive-national-archives-foundation-records-achievement-award/

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tom-hanks-history-national-archives-foundation_us_59ec777ce4b0958c46829e72)

Enjoy this Halloween greeting  from the U of M Archives https://www.continuum.umn.edu/2017/10/underwater-pumpkin-carving-bio-medical-library/?utm_source=continuum+-+News+from+University+of+Minnesota+Libraries&utm_campaign=6d189433b6News_from_RSSFEED_TITLE_for_RSSFEED_DATE_3_17_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_35496412ca-6d189433b6-174925501

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

American Craft Council Library issues open invitation to Salon Series

Because words alone cannot convey the immense and varied resources of the American Craft Council Library (http://craftcouncil.org/library) this post is not so much about the incredible treasures as it is an irresistible “excuse” for readers to visit the Library and thus learn first-hand the riches of this unique resource.

The ACC Library maintains the nation’s most comprehensive collection of print and visual material on American Studio Craft. The collection includes books, catalogues, periodicals and files on individual artists as well as the archives of the American Craft Council, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts and the American Craft Museum Archive and the World Craft Council archive. Much of the collection has been digitized and is available online. (http://digital.craftcouncil.org)

Still, you really want the experience of visiting this exquisitely beautiful Library.

Beginning in mid-October the ACC Library will host a series of Salons, not so much about the library collection per se but an opportunity for attendees to capture just a glimpse of the collections that grace the shelves, fill the file cabinets and infuse the essence of American crafts. It will take countless return visits to appreciate or tap the potential the collection.

This autumn’s Salon Series offers a robust mix of topics, all implicitly, at times remotely, related to the essence of the work of the American Craft Council:

October 14 – The Salon Series begins with a program on “Making Music with Hoffman Guitars”, led by Charlie Hoffman, co-founder and owner of Hoffman Guitars in Minneapolis. For over 40 years Hoffman has been hand-building steel string acoustic guitars, played and coveted by outstanding local and national musicians. Hoffman will share his experience with guitar-making, including the business as well as the craftsmanship experience he has gleaned over the decades.

November 11 – “Meet & Meat” is billed as an opportunity to “Talk Charcuterie with Mike Phillips of Red Table Meat Co.” Building on a life-long appreciation of good food and hard work gained from his experiences growing up in a rural community, Mike Phillips has long dreamed and worked toward opening Red Table Meat Co. in Northeast Minneapolis; there Phillips caters to individuals who “harbor a passion for crafted charcuterie.”

December 9 – Explore the Legacy of Jack Lenor Larsen, a prominent figure in the history of craft. The Salon presenter is Dr. Stephanie Zollinger who has organized the Jack Lenor Larsen Oral History project through the Goldstein Museum and College of Design at the University of Minnesota. Larsen is one of the most influential textile designers in the world. “His hand-made pieces incorporated innovative techniques based on traditional practices and methods learned through his many travels.” Larsen’s business, travel and craft history are archived at the U of M and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The Salon Series – and the ACC Library — are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the conversation beginning at 7:00 p.m. The American Craft Council Library is in the former Grain Belt Brewery, 1224 Marshall, just North of Broadway, in Northeast Minneapolis. Street and lot parking are convenient and public transit is readily accessible during evening hours.

For more information about the Salon Series or about the Library contact the ACC Library at 612 206 3100 or library@craftcouncil.org.  For an extended Voices of Northeast interview with Library Director Jessica Shaykett, click here:

Voices of Northeast Minneapolis, 2014-16

“Rejoice the Legacy!” Andrea Davis Pinkney Delivers 2014 Arbuthnot Lecture May 3

Born in Washington, DC in 1963 Andrea Davis Pinkney was an infant during the Civil Rights Movement, this year celebrating its 50th anniversary.  And yet she tells the stories of those days with beauty and passion – in words and pictures that communicate with children of today.  Today Pinkney is a highly regarded writer, editor and publisher, creator of stories that bring deeper understanding of African American heritage to young readers.

Pinkney’s elegant books for children, many illustrated by her husband Brian, have earned her a host of awards, including the famed Coretta Scott King award.  Her acceptance speech on that occasion warrants legacy status.  (http://www.hbook.com/2013/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/coretta-scott-king-author-award-acceptance/)

And “Rejoice the Legacy!” is the title of the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture she will deliver on May 3, 2014, at Willey Hall on the University of Minnesota campus.   The Arbuthnot Lecture is a prestigious honor bestowed by the Association of Library Services to Children, a network of over 4000 children’s and youth librarians, literature experts, publishers and educators.

Andrea’s husband Brian Pinkney is just one of several talented family members who contributed to a profile of the writer in The Hornbook.(http://www.hbook.com/2013/07/choosing-books/horn-book-magazine/a-profile-of-andrea-davis-pinkney/

To prepare for and further illustrate the Arbuthnot Lecture Lisa VonDrasek, Curator, and staff of the Children’s Literature Research (Kerlan) Collection  at the U of M have prepared an exhibit that brings to memory the stories of the Civil Rights Movement era.  One visual highlight of that exhibit is a real-life reconstruction of the famous lunch counter where protesters sat in to protest the ways in which the civil rights of African Americans were trampled in a nation that prides itself on equality.

The exhibit at the Andersen Library on the University of Minnesota West Bank is open now during library hours.  Included in the exhibit are original art and sketches selected from Pinkney’s children’s and young adult titles, “providing insight into one writer’s creative process as well as a peek into editorial practice.”

The Arbuthnot lecture is set for 7:00 pm. at Willey Hall on the U of M campus.  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.  A reception and signing will follow the event.  Required tickets are free for the lecture and can be obtained from the U of M website.(http://www.eventbrite.com/e/2014-may-hill-arbuthnot-honor-lecture-with-andrea-davis-pinkney-tickets-6654895973?aff=efbnen

For more information or with questions, contact the Children’s Literature Research Collection at https://www.lib.umn.edu/clrc/new-manuscripts.  One treasure on the CLRC website is a great Educator’s Guide to one of Pinkney’s books, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, the story of the peaceful sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter and its role in the Civil Rights Movement.

Read more about Andrea Davis Pinkney:

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/pinkneyAndrea.php

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/andrea-davis-pinkney-interview-transcript

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/12981.Andrea_Davis_Pinkney

 

 

 

University of Minnesota Press: Positioning the Press in an evolving “megacosm”

Not only has the world changed – universities presses are used to that – but the cosmos has shifted, calling into question the place of presses not just in the university – again, a familiar dilemma – but in a far more diverse, fast-moving, and increasingly decentered system of scholarly communications.  The issue at hand isn’t simply print vs. electronic nor even “Open” vs proprietary, copy-left vs. copy-right.  These are economic and thus solvable problems.  It is, to my mind, the emergence of more informal, iterative, and collaborative scholarly communications vs. formal, fixed, and author centered-literally: authorized-scholarly publishing. ~~ Doug Armato, Director of U of M Press.

These are the thoughtful words of the head of the University of Minnesota Press, a one of the state’s rich resources known by academics but beyond the ken of most Minnesotans. University Press Week, November 10-16, 2013, offers a rare opportunity to take a close look at one feature of what Governor Rudy Perpich dubbed “the brainpower state.”  The University of Minnesota Press deserves to take its rightful place in the state’s and nation’s academic and publishing circles.

Since its founding in 1925 the U of M Press has published tomes that could stock a healthy library.  At the rate of approximately ten books each year (culled from the 2000 submitted manuscripts) the Press now boasts 2,270 titles in print.  The yearly sale of books is 345,000 titles of which 5% are published in e-book or similar digital format. The Press also publishes five journals.  The test division which publishes the renowned MMPI in its various manifestations, began publishing in 1943; today it publishes the tests in 29 languages.

The first book off the presses was Cyrus Northrop: A memoir, by Oscar W. Firkins.  (yes, that Northrup, President of the University).  The first Press catalog for 1927-29 included The Marketing of Farm Products, The Attitudes of Mothers Toward Education, The Development of the Twin Cities as a Metropolitan Market and Prunes or Pancakes, a “popular guide to the science of eating…[and] dietetic reform” by the Dean of the College of Dentistry.  Today approximately 75% of Press authors are academic faculty; the rest include “journalists, critics and a broad range of individuals with varying expertise, from chefs to composers to wilderness guides.”

In case you wondered, the all-time best seller from the U of M Press is Terry Eagleton’s Literary Theory: An introduction; the text has sold more than 250,000 copies since its first publication thirty years ago.

The economics of the Press may come as a surprise to legislators and students alike.  Approximately 92% of the Press’s operations are funded by sales and other income from the mix of publications. Two percent of the budget comes from grants, gifts and endowments.  University support comprises the remaining 6% of the total annual Press budget; adjusted for fees paid by the University, the net support from the University is less than 1% of its costs.

U of M Press points to a number of highlights in their decades of publishing.  For example, in the 1980’s the Press was the first university press to define its editorial program by critical method and perspective rather than by traditional scholarly disciplines.  The policy defined the priorities as works that feature “social and cultural theory and interdisciplinary inquiry”.  Those priorities still guide the Press that has evolved to include other areas of inquiry including race and ethnic studies, urbanism, feminist criticism, and media studies. In addition, “the Press is among the most active publishers of translations of significant works of European and Latin American thought and scholarship.” Minnesota also publishes works on the cultural and natural heritage of the state and the upper Midwest region.

The Press heralded another recent innovation with the decision to publish all of its past publications as reprints or e-books.  The Quadrant initiative, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations, explores new collaborative approaches to scholarly research and publication through a partnership with the Institute for Advanced Study at the U of M.

Director Armato envisions “the emergence of a new cosmology of scholarly communication….more akin to the emergence of a new cosmology of scholarly communication – a time not so much of economic reallocation or technological transformation…as much as a dramatic expansion and realignment of the megacosm.”

Take note as the U of M Press takes its place in the realignment of that evolving megacosm.

 

 

Do/Should Minnesota Farms and Agribusiness REALLY “feed the world?”

Last Saturday was “Celebrate Ag & Food Day” at the Gophers game.  It was a day to laud the U of M research resources and the benefits thereof to the economic health of the state’s agribusiness sector.  The celebratory pitch should also give pause for Minnesotans who support that symbiotic relationship to think about the businesses themselves as well as the food products they create, produce, promote and profit from, the hype and the reality.

As recently as yesterday, September 17, National Public Radio carried a major piece on the much touted “Feed the World” promotion favored by corporate farmers and agribusiness.  The “we’re feeding the world” mantra, according to NPR reporter Dan Charles, is ”high-tech agriculture’s claim to the moral high ground.”  Charles Arnot, a one-time PR executive for food and farming companies, now CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, observes that  “U.S. farmers have a tremendous sense of pride in the fact that they’ve been able to help feed the world.”

The problem is not everyone agrees that large-scale, technology-based agriculture is an unmitigated good.  They hold that the cost to the environment and to the nutritional needs of this nation and the world needs to be factored in.  Some, including Margaret Mellon of Concerned Scientists, hold that use of the term itself is waning.

Mellon welcomes the disenchantment with the term.  The problem with ‘feeding the world,’ she says is that “the phrase conflates the important issues of food production and hunger alleviation.  It implies that producing corn and soybeans is the equivalent of putting food into the mouths of hungry people.  But there is no direct connection between U.S. corn and soy production and ending hunger elsewhere (or for that matter in the US).  In fact, the truth is that high production in the U.S. can depress world grain prices and throw developing country farmers off the land.”

It seems reasonable to me that, just because we have such a huge stake in farming and agribusiness, Minnesotans bear some responsibility to be informed about and involved in thinking about the complexities of food production and distribution.

On the one hand, we Minnesotans are a compassionate people for whom feeding the world seems such a worthy cause; access to food is a basic human right.  Moreover, as Mellon writes, the efforts to feed the world conjure “comfortable memories of preparing, serving and enjoying meals.  To satisfy this basic need for the whole world is a noble endeavor.  And, of course, there are grams of truth here. US farmers can feel good that they are helping to meet the food needs of those who can afford to buy their products.” Minnesotans have good reason to be proud of the education system and the political and economic environment that supports the cause.

As compassionate people Minnesotans also care about our neighbors who are hungry and kids who are reared on junk food at the same time we feed the world.  Complex as the issues are, we even pay attention to trade agreements, GMO’s, distribution and the actual consumption of the massive soybean and corn products our rich farmlands yield.  Lots of us, from University researchers to truck drivers, nutritionists to grocery shopper are active links along the food chain

The more I listen and read, the less I understand the complexities of food production, distribution and consumption.  The only thing of which I am certain is that, for the most part, we are not thinking systemically about food policy at the state, national or global level.

Minnesotans have a huge stake, as consumers, taxpayers, as a body politic.  We all care that our families and neighbors, the environment, the economy and people around the world are economically and physically healthy.  We just don’t think about it a lot and we don’t often exchange opinions with individuals or groups that approach the complexity from different perspectives.

As we take pride in our University research capability and community contributions of those who prosper in our agribusinesses, Minnesotans with different points of view and perspectives need to learn together about the results of the investment and the benefits gained as measured in human as well as financial terms.

 

MPIRG at 40

MPIRG – Minnesota Public Interest Research Group MPIRG Board Chair Kathy Dekrey testifies against lifting the nuclear power moratorium in the house environment committee.

www.youtube.com

When Kathy Dekray, current Board Chair of the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG), and a senior at Augsburg College recently testified before the Legislature she argued against the removal of the nuclear moratorium in Minnesota.   She was the most recent in an endless list of MPIRG representatives who have expressed the position of MPIRG student members on scores of issues facing the state.

More than 150 members, former members and supporters of MPIRG gathered on Friday, January 21, to celebrate four decades of advocacy and involvement through this “grassroots, non-artisan, nonprofit, student-directed organization”.  The occasion gives Executive Director Josh Winters pause to reflect on the origins and future of MPIRG.

What Winters sees is change.  The Minnesota public interest research group, along with Oregon, were the first two campus-based public interest research groups.  Though the beginnings are often associated with Ralph Nader, Winters is quick to credit others, including Don Ross, who took a good idea and made it happen.  “A good idea is a good idea, but it takes people to do it,” Winters observes.

An intriguing question Winters raises is just how did a small cadre of students, volunteers and others create a statewide – actually national – network in a pre-social media environment.  The answer, he affirms, must be based in a deep commitment to grassroots organizing coupled with a shared vision to give voice to everyone.  That commitment is expressed in the mission of MPIRG to “empower and train students and engage the community to take collective action in the public interest throughout the state of Minnesota.”

Today some 70,000 Minnesota college students are members of MPIRG;  the ranks are augmented by hundreds of community volunteers, including many MPIRG alumni.

MPIRG operates on nine campuses throughout the state:  Augsburg College, Carleton College, St. Catherine University, Hamline University, Macalester College, U of M-Duluth, U of M-Morris, U of M-Twin Cities, and William Mitchell College of Law. The individual campus-based websites reflect a wide range of individual campus activities.

Campuses offer a mix of membership options, most in the refusable/refundable range, thus avoiding past conflict re. mandatory membership that at times have pitted campus conservative groups against MPIRG which they perceived as too far left of center – or organization that reject mandatory memberships out of hand.

The current statewide identified issues on which MPIRG members and volunteers are working include green transportation, health care for all, and affordable higher education. The roster of scores of issues tackled over the years range from solar tax credit to car lemon laws to a 2006 production of “The Vagina Monologues.”

An ongoing priority for MPIRG members is voter registration and involvement.  Clearly, students are focused on, but not limited to, youth engagement in the political process.

In Fall 2010 MPIRG was one of several organizations involved with what Star Tribune journalist Eric Roper referred to as “a minor battle of generations” brewing in Minnesota politics.  College students gathered at the State Capitol to express their concerns. Speaking as an MPIRG representative Carleton College student Ben Hellerstein raised the question “With only half as many people turning out to the polls, is everyone’s voice really being heard?”

Roper reflects on a number of factors students perceive to leave college students left out of the political arena.  The moved-up primary, for example, meant students were at work or out of the country.  Another issue cited by students is the fact that candidates’ tendency to court over-60 voters may ignore attention to students.

Winters overflows with ideas as he looks to the future – how to harness today’s social media without losing the essential “hands on” essence of the organization.   He speaks enthusiastically about community/campus based initiatives, e.g.  a research-based approach to mandatory business recycling in Minneapolis.

Another priority for tomorrow’s MPIRG is research, particularly in-depth and long-term research. At present, for example, MPIRG is initiating an extensive survey of photo ID on voting.  Another ongoing longitudinal survey focuses on a statewide survey of sexual violence and assault on campus; the report of that study is due out next fall

The recent 40th anniversary recognition offered an opportunity for today’s students and advocates to reflect on the legacy of MPIRG.  Students could learn about the roots of the organization, its accomplishments, changes and intent.  For alumni the event was an occasion to see how their legacy is being carried forward by ambitious and committed students equipped with new tools and putting them to the task of sharing a the vision of “common sense good policies.”

Here Comes Peter! The Magnificent Peter Shea

Writing about Peter Shea, his quietly amazing projects and his magnificent mind, is no easy task.  As my then-young son once observed, Peter is just so “Peter-ish.”  Any profile illuminates but a single facet of a multi-faceted man of ideas.

For example, if you have to ask “Why the Bat of Minerva”? then you probably don’t know Peter Shea – yet.   The Bat is Peter’s long-running cable show (15 years plus – Peter’s not so sure of the inaugural date.) is a midnight Saturday and Sunday night regular on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6 in the Twin Cities.  Peter says that the format, in which a disembodied Peter poses questions from off-camera “allows me, a shy person, to have conversations I want to have and to pursue lines of inquiry with real people rather than with books and articles. …and it does some diffuse good for the community, in several dimensions: providing a model of civil, extended conversation, giving people ideas about the lives they could live, getting ideas and ways of working into circulation, helping bright and under-exercised people realize what kinds of challenging work are available to them.”

Over the years the soft-spoken Peter has posed thought-provoking queries to scores of famous scholars, authors, scientists, Americans on the rise, global leaders.  In recent times the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota has archived The Bat so the hour-long interviews are streamed for those who missed the midnight premiere. A sampling of recent interviews suggests the breadth and tone of Peter’s guests:

  • October 6, 2010 – Juliet Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College where her research focuses on trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the family, and economic justice. Most recently she is the author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (2010),
  • September 29, 2010 – Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell and founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
  • August 30, 2010 – Rob Gilmer, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 2010, he will be teaching Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, a course which has garnered national attention.
  • August 20, 2010 – Paul Barclay, a professor of History at Lafayette College where his research interests include Japanese empire, especially in Taiwan, frontier studies, and the use of images as historical documents or instruments of ideology.
  • August 15, 2010 – Ann Waltner, a professor in both the Department of History and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, talks about Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world, recently acquired by the James Ford Bell Library.
  • August 5-15, 2010 – Minnesota Fringe Festival

Though these are the most recent, the full list of interviews over the years is astounding – Eugene McCarthy, John Davis, Rosalie Wahl are among Peter’s favorites. He also mentions  Maja Cerar (violinist), Carolyn Walker Bynum (medievalist), Morton Subotnik (composer), Andrew Light (environmental ethicist) and Ann Sharp (educator).  The Bat website lists the boundless and boundary-less library of videos Peter has produced since the early days of The Bat when Peter’s two sons (now grown) ran the cameras and, Peter hopes, “got some of the message.” Peter, who allows he’s not much into numbers, produces some impressive ones, e.g. some 82,000 visits  to the IAS website and nearly 10,000 video views since Fall 2008.

True to form, Peter has plans.  One big plan is just unfolding.  In a new series entitled Meet the Neighbors Peter, who also works with Shalom Hill Farm near Windom,  has begun interviewing members of the rural community for cablecast on community cable then archived in a blog.  He’s also been asked by the U of M Department of English to profile all willing faculty – of course he’d like to expand that to other departments.  In general, Peter hopes to produce “rich and coherent archives.”  He cites, for example, “a fine collection of interviews from the Spark Festival of Electronic Music” and a “small but growing collection of interviews done in connection with the Minnesota Fringe Festival.”  One oral history project underway, documentation of the history of the philosophy for children movement.  High on the list of Peter’s current enthusiasms is collaboration on expanding access to  the lectures from “Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010” a U of Minnesota course which IAS is providing online through the Bat.

Peter’s hopes for a bright technology future include great confidence in the future of cable, primarily because “the standard media have messed up fine productions with commercial interruption and commercial packaging to an extent that seems to me suicidal.”  At the same time, equipment is improving and coming down in cost so that “normal people with normal time resources can do interesting niche programming, and the shortcomings will be more than compensated by the lack of commercial distortion and the freshness and immediacy of low to the ground production.”  This offers unique possibilities for rural Minnesotans, Peter expects.  Other dreams include visions of easy archiving and repackaging, Internet 2, and every viewer both a producer of control of his or her own access options.

Learn more about Peter’s background, plans, persona and style by watching an interview archived on the IAS site.

You will never keep up with Peter’s fertile mind and high hopes – to keep abreast of the tangible products, watch the Bat of Minerva website or tune in to Channel 6 at midnight on any Saturday or Sunday.

National Disabilities Employment Month

Text that asks What can you do? The Campaighn for Disability Employment.

My stacks of resources related to services for people with disabilities is staggering.  It’s risky in a way to pick just a few to recognize National Disabilities Employment Month, but I don’t want to let the month pass without naming a select few resources, most of which will lead and link to other resources. .  The topic deserves much more, but a little is better than nothing.

For starts there is the national Campaign for Disability Employment.  The public may have seen the “I Can” public service announcement on the silver screen and on local TV channels and radio stations.  The “I Can” PSA features seven people with disabilities sharing what they can do on the job when given the opportunity.  “I Can” has aired nearly 20,000 times on national television and cable stations and more than 20,000 times on national radio stations.

Closer to home, the identified portal to state services for people with disabilities is the Minnesota State Council on Disability, a good starting point for employers and employees concerned about the employment of people with disabilities.  This is a great start, but there’s much more happening on countless local fronts.  I’d like to just name a few of those I particularly appreciate, not as a  person with disability but as one very concerned about a inclusion and about how much we all have to learn.

 

  • For nearly 30 years Closing the Gap, a conference originally organized by a couple from Henderson, Minnesota, has drawn hundreds of individuals with disabilities, families, teachers and service providers to Bloomington, Minnesota for a most extraordinary mix of displays, concerns and ideas.  Assistive technology originally referred primarily to physical tools of every conceivable description to better the lives of people with a range of disabilities.  I know this because for many years I attended the exhibits if not the entire conference.  It cheered me to see the ways in which the conference expanded from physical to intellectual access as a priority.  Though I just missed this year’s conference October 10-11 I have October 12-14, 2011 on my calendar for the 30th gathering.

 

  • One of my favorite regular reads is Access Press, an excellent statewide newspaper in which Tim Benjamin continues the work of the late Charlie Smith.  For twenty years now Access Press, housed in a humble office on University Avenue in the Midway, Access Press has served the vast community of people with disabilities and those who serve that community.  Access Press continues to grow with the launch this fall of an e-letter and a group of blogs by and for people with disabilities.  It’s an amazing, quiet but effective journal that provides unique and essential information in a timely manner.  Access Press also offers an up-to-date Directory of Organizations with scores of organizations by categories ranging from Advocacy to Visual Impairment.  . (btw:The Annual Charlie Smith awards banquet sponsored by Access Press is November at the Airport Marriott.)

 

  • The University of Minnesota provides extensive information about on-campus disabilities services.  I learned a good deal about the diversity and range of services by poking around at the greatest of all learning smorgasbords, the Minnesota State Fair. (I even took the Accessibility Scavenger Hunt through which I learned that there are exactly four wheelchair rental booths on the State Fairgrounds).  One broad-based locus for services to the U of M community is the Disabled Student Cultural Center in Coffman Union.  The links on the DSCC website take the curious to all sorts of unknown resources.  For example, my librarian heart leapt up (!) when I learned that LUMINA to U is a document delivery service for students with mobility and print disabilities to assure access to library materials.  A great map from DSCC indicates essential services for students with disabilities ranging from paratransit service to disabilities parking and accessible restrooms to the “most accessible football stadium in the Big Ten.”
  • CCP Works! (aka Cooperating Community Programs) “uses an individual-centered approach, community resources and service components to meet the unique needs and goals of the individual.”  For thirty years CCP Works! Has served the community with a evolving array of services.  New to CCP Works is an Independent Living Services program serving people with disabilities in Ramsey and Washington Counties.  Employment services and opportunities are an important feature of CCP Works!

 

The list goes on – cities and towns, colleges, school systems, corporations, health care facilities, places of worship, football stadiums and virtually every other responsible institution has a program or service in place.  And yet…. Just yesterday the Minnesota Council on Foundations’ Philanthropy Potluck Blog presents some sobering facts.   A recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by the Kessler Foundation and the National Organization on Disability offers a reality check.  To wit:

 

Twenty years after passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Americans with disabilities still lag behind on key indicators”

  • Of all working age people with disabilities, only 21 percent say that they are employed,.
  • People with disabilities are still much more likely to be living in poverty.
  • People with disabilities are less likely than those without disabilities to socialize with friends, relatives or neighbors
  • The second-largest gap between people with and without disabilities is regarding Internet access.  Eighty-five percent of adults without disabilities access the Internet, whereas only 54 percent of adults with disabilities report the same.

Disappointing as these observations are, I appreciate MCF’s bringing the survey to the fore during National Disabilities Employment month.  We need to know.