Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Archives Year in Review

I recently read that it must somehow be ingrained in us to make top ten lists. So, along those lines, I have culled the ArchivesInfo tweets for the year and come up with the top news stories / trends for the year. (I have provided links to articles I cited in case you want to learn more about each top ten topic.) What didn't quite make the list?-  "Digital Dark Age," citizen archivists, crowdsourcing, digital curation, net neutrality, social media for cultural heritage institutions, human rights archives, and battles over the rights to personal papers such as the Kafka archives. (These didn't make it primarily because I've got a feeling that these stories will grow in the next year and may make it to the 2011 list)  Smaller stories of note, that also did not make it to the list include reports of the opening up of the Vatican's Archives, the finding of Rembrandts and other cultural heritage items in unusual places, Mark Twain's autobiography, the comeback of my beloved bookmobile, and the popularization of history through new programs such as "Pawn Stars," "American Pickers," and "Who Do You Think You Are?"...   With a nod to David Lettermen, here's the ArchivesInfo top ten of 2010.

Top ArchivesInfo identified news stories of 2010 (via ArchivesInfo on Twitter):

#10 Preparations for 150th anniversary of Civil War
2011 will bring the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and there has been a flurry of activity as cultural institutions (especially in the south) prepare to mark the historic event. A business with REALLY bad timing  joins the anniversary news.
Commemorating 150th ann. of Am. Civil War in TN. "Every Tennessean has a story. Share yours."
Archives exhibit explores little-known aspects of Civil War, marks 150th anniversary, legacy and strife live on
Groups gear up for state's 150th - Kansas get ready for sesquicentennial on a shoestring w Internet
National Trust for Historic Preservation Have something to say about Walmart
Residents share Civil War history. Local war items, documents recorded by state for 150th anniversary project
How we teach lessons about the #CivilWar - 150th anniversary shows us looking at history through a new lens
Archivists want records of Civil War relics: Experts will photograph items for state exhibit
NYT - Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves
Tennessee's Civil War 150 commemoration marches on despite little funding 

#9 World War II and Holocaust
Always an active topic, there seemed to be an exceptional flurry in archives / cultural heritage related WWII news this year. New documents were found or were made accessible, and battles over ownership of Nazi-looted materials made headlines. 
Holocaust Archives Go Online
Documents from WWII digitized, provide info on fate of those rescued from camps.
recordings representing the earliest known oral histories of the Holocaust
Did Germany help Eichmann escape to Argentina? - court set to decide on release of docs.
Museums are morally obligated to return Nazi-looted art, says expert
Vatican puts historical documents, including some from WWII, online
Holocaust Survivor's Story Preserved Forever - oral histories of survivors through University of South Florida
Horrors of WWII captured in found photos
Devastation of War. Archival Discovery Revealsa Ruined Berlin
Vatican secret #archives for World War II will open within 6 years: Cardinal Kasper
Archive project will digitize WWII Enigma messages 
U.S. Holocaust Museum: Auschwitz photos open window into Nazi psyche
43 countries agree to return Jewish property taken by Nazis
New documents surface on Hitler's jail time
Hitler's Prison Memoirs Up for Auction
Getty receives grant money for digital German art initiative. Archiving auction catalogs from Nazi regime
Could WWII have bn avoided? Memoirs uncover Irishman who saved Hitler from being kicked 2 death by mob
Huntington Library to transfer Germany's original Nuremberg Laws to National Archives
German WWII plan to invade Britain revealed in MI5 file
History throws us an interesting tidbit - info re Army counterintelligence officer who found original Nuremberg Laws
AOTUS blog - Nuremberg Laws at National Archives 
Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center at Springfield (MA) Jewish Community Center to close
Struggle in Poland over Jewish war diaries
Getty traces ownership of Nazi-era looted art
Mussolini’s secret diaries
Check out exhibit on NH's favorite monkey  [H.A. Rey archives used 2 interpret authors' WWII experience]
Millions of Jewish Holocaust victims named 
Kimura's photos of Hiroshima after bombing kept by Hiroshima Prefectural Archives and Library 
Log documenting Pearl Harbor attack given to Hawaii museum 
Dutch museum searching for relatives of Southport soldier killed in WWII 
Records detail use of Nazis 
The letter from Hitler that may have saved a woman from the Gestapo 
 believed destroyed by Nazis is found in Berlin: 
British archives make previously classified acct of Hitler provided by19-year-old Austrian public:

#8 Say goodbye to the book as we know it? has just announced that the Kindle has replaced "Harry Potter" as their number one seller. In 2010 we have seen a big jump away from "traditional" books and have had great debates about the future of reading and the future role of libraries.
Picture Books aren't in trouble just because NYT says so
Picture Books No Longer a Staple 4 Children 
No more judging a book by its cover? what will happen to covers in a digital world?
 Libraries: stop doing it by the book - transformation from fusty institutes to hi-tech hubs creates schism in libraries
The death of the library book - Cambridge has gleaming new building, but something's missing
Is your ebook/kindle lacking that fresh new book smell - here's the solution!
THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All
"Will the book survive?...Inquiring minds tend to use whatever means they can to get what they want."
Libraries: Not abt Books 
Library Journal: New Plan Seeks a 'Big Tent' 4 National Digital Library  

#7 The BP Oil Spill
Reeking havoc on the Gulf Coast of the United States, the BP Oil spill has been called the largest accidental marine petroleum disaster in history. The affair raised obvious concerns about caring for the environment and just as obvious questions about a company's legal responsibilities in the event of such disaster, but it also brought up issues about documenting historical events, disseminating information about news in real time, and caring for documents that may provide insight into culpability.
BPs Photo Blockade of the Gulf Oil Spill
BP’s protective ordr: reasonably refrain & resist from changing, alteration &/or destruction of documents
'79 Gulf Oil Spill Leaves Sobering Lessons for BP
Documents: BP cut corners in days before blowout
Museum sends solemn message:

#6 International Repatriation of Cultural Objects
Countries and cultural heritage institutions are seeking ways to "remedy" the removal of items from their original homes. War, treasure hunting, and other circumstances lead to the taking of items from the places where they were created. The cultures that identify with the materials are asking for them back with differing degrees of success.
Venezuela Demands Germany to Return Sacred Stone; more scuffling over cultural heritage resources
Iran cuts ties with British Museum in antiquity row
Korea Asks France to Return Looted Ancient Books
Getty ordered to return priceless Greek bronze to Italy
Should Britain return Africa’s stolen treasures?
Antiques Roadshow highlights stolen artifacts.
More repatriated artifacts as US returns 'cultural treasures' to Iraq.
Returning archives to their rightful owners - the Descartes lettre
Iran’s Cultural Heritage Under Threat
Debate on repatriation of cultural heritage. NYT: Who draws the borders of culture?
Iraq-US begin talks to reclaim Jewish archive
'Bring Back the Act': Historian, archivist fight to reclaim one of Canada's founding documents from British archive
Iraq loses sleep after Torah finds its way into Israel
MFA returns stolen artwork to Italy 
Africa Urges Western Countries to Return Looted Treasuries 
 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Returns Historical Documents To Russian Federation 
South Korea's lost treasure. Officials trying to bring back plundered items around world. 
Yale set to return 4,000 Inca treasures to Peru 
Repatriated records: Missing parish records from England found in New Zealand 

#5 Battle to Save Haiti's Cultural Heritage:
The year began with a major earthquake striking Haiti. The fight to save lives began immediately and the fight to ensure the security of their cultural heritage was not far behind. News revealed that international efforts to try to secure Haiti's heritage resources was swift and has been ongoing throughout the year with the country continuing to live in a state of emergency due to catastrophic damage. 
Experts to assess damage in Haiti museums
UNESCO urges ban on trading Haitian artifacts
Quake's toll on Haitian art, heritage and income
UNESCO fears Haiti cultural heritage might be pillaged
Academics to begin search for Haiti's archives
Workers struggle to save Haiti history buried in rubble of tax office
Save Don't Bulldoze Haiti's Heritage
Gang members in Haiti return to streets after stealing guns & destroying all records of crimes.
Haiti’s Founding Document Found in London -
Rescuing Art From the Rubble of the Quake:
Smithsonian Develops Haitian Cultural Recovery Project
Smithsonian leads recovery of Haiti's art, culture
Conservator from Maryland State Archives helps salvage Haiti's cultural material
A paper conservator’s trip to Haiti: University of Texas conservator and lecturer's experience representing AIC

#4 Google, Copyright, Orphaned Works and more:
Google is shaking up the world with innovation and controversy. This year has brought new means of organizing information and questionable practices for making information accessible via the Internet. Internationally, we are striving to sort out who "owns" information and who has the right to do what with it. 
Google, copyright, and our future
Stanford signs Google Book Search agreement,endorses court settlement
US Anti-Trust Reviewers Still Objecting To Google Books Deal
Google book scanning: Cultural theft or freedom of information?
Google Fights Back Against Book Settlement Critics - Digits - WSJ
'Copyright deal is a cultural disaster'
China Counters Google Move by Partly Blocking Hong Kong Site
Development on copyright legislation for orphan works,will have implications for museums
Digital economy bill rushed thru late nite session in U.K.
Court Says It's Okay to Remove Content From The Public Domain & Put It Back Under Copyright
Canadian Archivist raises questions about copyright - weighs
in & discusses "orphan works" in Google agreement
Boston Globe quotes NEH’s director, office of digital humanities on new Google/Harvard text-mining study 
Google Editions Really Coming Soon 
Google seeks digital rights to Miramax films - report
Google to put Dead Sea Scrolls online 

 #3 A new leader at the U.S. National Archives brings change, faces challenges:
With a mission to bring NARA into the 21st century, the new Archivist of the U.S. takes up issues of digitization, morale, government records management, and valuing archives.
Ferriero takes on NARA's culture, modernization challenges
More potential victims of identity theft notified of hard-drive loss, NARA notifies affected individuals
NPR Interview with US Archivist Ferriero
U.S. Archivist Wants You to Have Access - awed by encounters with history 
National Archives Releases New Datasets on and Invites Public Comment on Open Government Plan
Archivist details challenges of massive declassification job
Federal Office Offers $50,000 Reward for Missing External Drive
Report criticizes archives on security of hard drive w info abt Clinton employees. allegedly mishandled by NARA
The Archivist of the U.S. David S. Ferriero is Now a Blogger
Many [government] agencies earn failing grade for e-recordkeeping
NARA hosts 1st social media scavenger hunt
National Archives Hunts Lost Documents on Facebook - WSJ
National Declassification Center Issues First Report
U.S. Archivist acknowledges morale problems at his agency
Archivist David Ferriero works to improve employee morale after bad poll results

#2 "Poor economy" resulted in layoffs, closures and the selling off of collections: 
Cultural heritage institutions are fighting for their lives in a difficult economy, forcing many changes in the cultural heritage scene and in the way many of us need to run our programs. 2011 should be a turn-around point, allowing us to better see which institutions will survive. We have had a couple of years to work on changed strategies where warranted. Those of us left standing can view this economic crisis as a chance to revisit our missions and procedures for operation, perhaps making us stronger in the long run.
Should (art) museums sell objects in hard times...? [NY Times]
Will US Museums succeed in reinventing themselves? 
Arts funding cuts proposed by Conservatives in U.K. 
Greece shuts more than 40 museums to save money:
New survey shows U.S. public libraries in financial jeopardy
University museums among greatest in UK, yet their core funding is threatened:
ash in the attic: Cash strapped governments consider selling art
Canterbury's Roman Museum could fall victim to the credit crunch - Museum closures British cost cutting trend?
Nation’s Libraries Get More Use, Less Funding
Good news -- and bad -- about museum [and archives] hiring - economy skews good prospects
Cut all librarians before any cop?:
History at risk in PA
History has value beyond nostalgia - funding for historical society's in Oregon
Western Reserve Historical Society Sells Its History to Save Institution
Another consequence of a museum closing, unhappy donors. Ansel Adams' Son Sues Museum for Prints:
Valuable lessons from Western Reserve Historical Society mess 
Cleveland historical society defends sale of items
Why libraries are a good investment in any economy on "Word of Mouth" radio
cultural institutions generate nearly 2x their budgets in local spending annually..."
Museum professionals march on Washington today - lobbying for cultural heritage
Almost half of poor Americans go to the #library for Internet says report by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
State history museum reopens in Massachusetts - some of earliest and most famous US docs housed there
AZ Historical Society & residents taking steps to secure historic sites closed by state budget crisis
On the Posterity Project: This little piggy had none: Libraries and archives considered "pork" by CAGW
Librarians Protest Budget Cuts, Crowding Hollywood Intersection During Rush Hour;  library makes up 2% of city budget
California Budget Drought Threatens Water Archive
11 Most Endangered Historic Places (in U.S.)
Queens Library is facing a potential funding cut of $16.9 million this year
What Happened to Public Libraries During the Great Depression? an interesting look from MA Library Commissioners
Devaluing America's culture: Gov Sanford cuts funding to South Carolina Dept of Archives and History
Sanford's veto overkill 
Library closings temporarily averted in Boston
Closing libraries "a terrible, terrible mistake" akin to "stealing from the future" according to a top children's author
Decline of Britain’s museums
Can Historic Preservation Help Lead Us Out of the Recession?
Local Culture Cuts Are Biggest Threat To The Big Society Says MLA...
Cultural impoverishment in the UK?! Hunt proposes closure of Museum, Libraries & Archives Council
"Fisk Says It Must Sell O'Keeffe Art Collection to Survive"
BBC News - How history can inform spending cuts
NY auction of rare photos aids Eastman museum
Upstate NY small town library deaccessioning draws attention and library director resignation.
A Crumbling Heritage: Italy  
Manchester museums could face cash crisis 
Historic Teamster trucks could soon be homeless. Volunteers heartbroken as money woes threaten Vancouver area museum 

National  of Wales set to 'lose £1m' after draft budget 
Pompeii collapse forces Italy into heritage debate 
Help Zombies Shuffle Over Brooklyn Bridge, Save  
As budget cuts across Europe put heritage under pressure, some say should spur better mgmnt h
Note that YouCut is currently taking votes on cuts in funding for NHPRC & IMLS: 
Congress to put words like "games" "culture" "media" & "museums" on a federal funding watch list:
As more and more communities are cutting library funding, these wonderful web sites have come to my attention:...
U.K. - Urgent warning over cuts threat to libraries in unprecedented joint initiative 

#1 Digital Projects (collaborative and otherwise):
As the world gains momentum in placing information about its cultural heritage resources online, news came out regularly about newly available access to materials. Our accomplishments in this area will be long-lasting, inviting this news to take our number one slot and edging out the hopefully relatively short-lived economic woes. Kudos to my colleagues for embracing the digital revolution and striving to improve access to materials despite the rough economy. The links to your achievements are too numerous to include here.

Monday, December 27, 2010

ArchivesInfo Year in Review

The last week in December provides a perfect opportunity for review of the past year. In a way, this post falls under the heading of "shameless self-promotion," but I hope that you will bear with me and take interest in our cultural heritage work. You may find something here that encourages you to participate in our efforts or inspires you to take a harder look at your own community documentation efforts.

For ten years, ArchivesInfo has worked to promote archives management to ensure that community history is documented, preserved, promoted, and made accessible. My consulting work has aimed to preserve cultural knowledge through the building of strong collections that help tell the story of a community's past to guide its future. An important part of the ArchivesInfo mission has always been to secure cultural heritage by encouraging collaboration among cultural heritage professionals.  However, professionals are discovering that serious work with the public will help to ensure stronger archives programs and better documentation of society. We are realizing that archivists not only have a lot to share with the public, but that the public can share a lot with us.  It has been my goal this year to strengthen that public bond.

Once focused primarily on helping museums, libraries, archives and varied institutional collections, this past year ArchivesInfo has reached out to individuals with personal papers in their homes. This effort is an outgrowth of our "Preserving Memories" program, which has run for many years to provide information  about protecting family archives. The decision to reach out more directly to individuals is also a result of the publication this year of my book "Cultural Heritage Collaborators:  A Manual for Community Documentation," which describes methods for working together to preserve local culture and my new program "Life in Context: Telling Your Story," which I am running collaboratively with organizing guru Sue West of Space4U organizing.

1. I joined Twitter in 2009 (I think), but began tweeting in earnest under @archivesinfo this past year. My tweets cite interesting news in the  museum, archives and library fields with emphasis on preserving our cultural heritage and collaborative projects. Through Twitter, I have met many professionals around the world in related fields from oral history to archaeology. I have also met many people in seemingly unrelated fields, such as mathematics, who have demonstrated an interest in preserving cultural heritage. It perhaps has been my biggest pleasure to meet individuals interested in preserving their local and family history. I am honored to be told by some that they have learned much about archives from my tweets.

2. This year, ArchivesInfo also established a Facebook site. The ArchivesInfo web site has existed for a decade and has tried to include information that helps people with their archives management needs through a regularly updated list of helpful web sites, a newsletter, and other information laden pages. Facebook has given me the opportunity to try to create more of a back-and forth dialogue with an audience. In addition to the ArchivesInfo page, I maintain a page called Cross-Professional Collaboration in Museums, Libraries and Archives and a brand new page called "Life in Context: Telling Your Stories."

3. My summer book release of Cultural Heritage Collaborators: A Manual for Community Documentation was the result of twenty years of experience in archives and packs in advice from ten years of consulting for local communities. The book focuses on preserving cultural heritage through archives management. Its audience includes professionals in museums, libraries, archives, town governments, and other organizations charged with caring for historical records. I am currently writing a book that is set to be released in 2011 and focuses on preserving cultural heritage for the non-professional. These two books will work together to promote community documentation work and the safeguarding of historical resources. The book release this year was followed by the publication of my article "How Collection Planning and Collaboration Supports The Cultural Heritage Institution and Community Memory" in History News this winter. The article is the first by a History News "outsider" to be featured online in AASLH's History News Your Turn. It promotes the principles I outlined in the book.

4. The ArchivesInfo blog began in 2010 and basically (but not totally) replaces the ArchivesInfo newsletter. I found that I had too much to say and wanted more of a back and forth dialogue than the e-mailed newsletter afforded me. Blogging has been a wonderful way to explore news in the field and to share some of my expertise. At times it is also cathartic. I have enjoyed providing my reaction to controversies such as the recent National Gallery censorship issue and to create more lighthearted posts such as my "More Finds at the Local Antique Shop" bits. The newsletter still goes out once a month and highlights my favorite ArchivesInfo tweets and blog posts. I find that it is a vital and more visible way to stay connected to my local community and my core customers.

5. My work with repositories continues and I have also had some opportunity to work with individuals one-on-one to help them preserve papers in their homes. This continues to be my bread-and-butter work. My work with actual people is also the most rewarding, giving me an opportunity to see some of the things about which I write put into practice.

Next year should bring an even greater emphasis on locating family papers that are valuable for our cultural heritage and promoting their safekeeping. Despite difficult economic times, institutions have an opportunity to expand their outreach to the public. We must relay the importance of maintaining historical resources and work harder to include individuals in collecting work. I look forward to playing a part in these efforts and also toward continuing to help develop and properly maintain repository collections. I hope that you play a role too.

Best wishes for a happy and healthy new year!

later this week...the 2010 field in review

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

A recent search in a database that seems to reveal the death of my great-grandmother at Nazi hands and a Blog about History post of Nazi "Christmas" photos ( have inspired my own pre-Christmas blog post today.

To me, Christmas is about all that is decent in this world. It's a celebration of goodness and compassion. It encourages us to show our love for others. It is a recognition of our mutual humanity and an understanding of shared lives, communities, and traditions.   Though I only began celebrating this holiday in my own home as an adult, as a child I celebrated with friends and neighbors. I remember decorating my friend Bobby's Christmas tree and walking through the snow to Beth's house on Christmas to share her mother's fabulous baked goods. I remember admiring the Christmas tree and menorah side-by-side at the mall. In my community growing up, the dominant religions were Catholic and Jewish. We respected each other's beliefs, went to separate places to worship, and shared each other's holidays in small ways -- with an air of respect and friendship.

Our archives remind us of humanity's struggles. Many unhappy events have occurred in the name of religion.  This hits very close to home for me. Much of my mother's family perished in the Holocaust. It was senseless and horrible and crashes greatly with what I recognize in my fellow man.  We are diverse and we have the capacity to respect this diversity.

This Christmas, I am reminded of all that I like about my adopted traditional celebration and wish my readers a season of joy, love, and understanding. May you find happiness no matter what you believe. May you create wonderful family and community memories that you document with care. Show the world and humanity's future what is good about the twenty-first century and its people.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Community Art

My favorite snowman of all the snowmen on parade was inspired by my favorite expressionist and one of my favorite artists.

Expressionism was given a distinctly local flare with images of New England style churches, homes, and covered bridges, which are a particularly valued part of New Hampshire heritage.

This past weekend, I visited North Conway, New Hampshire with my family and was pleasantly greeted by the community's Snow People on Parade. We saw snowmen sculptures near our hotel, near local shops and restaurants. We found ourselves seeking them wherever we went, hoping to get pictures in front of them all. The snowmen added to the festive feel of the area.

This small tourist center nestled in the heart of the White Mountains was made for Christmas. Snowcapped peaks helped us dream of a white Christmas that contrasted greatly with the brown we still have over much of New Hampshire. The art of the snowman is a clever way to emphasize this community's strengths while supporting the local creative economy. The town benefits from the beauty and charm of the winter artwork and the promotion of local identity as a winter destination. While visitors tend to flock toward the area in the summer for its shopping and outdoor activities, winter is usually reserved for the skiers who stay at the nearby mountain resorts. The presence of the snowmen adds a new dimension to my feelings about the place and will encourage me to return during this sleepy time of year.

The snowmen reminded me of a public art display that I saw in Washington D.C. many years ago. In 2002, the city commissioned 100 elephants and 100 donkeys from local artists to display for public enjoyment. It was exciting when my husband and I found new sculptures and it filled me with pride to see my country displaying a piece of its identity in a lighthearted way.

When I mentioned the snowmen on the phone to my mother, she told me about another public art event down her way in Florida. Bradenton holds a bi-annual Geckofest where local artists create their impressions of the adorable local creature that can be found throughout the region. Gecko art is displayed in local buildings and then auctioned off to raise money for county art organizations.

Public art exhibits like these raise awareness of cultural identity and celebrate community pride. They can serve to highlight a particular aspect of a community that one wishes to promote. Public art exhibits can be a valuable outreach tool and increase interest in local art and heritage. Cultural institutions may want to consider collaborating with area artists to create unique displays that will benefit their own organization, their community, and their visitors.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Finds at the Local Antique Shop - All Dressed Up with Someplace to Go

I love this group photo of people all dressed up in fancy winter attire.  Elaborate hats, bow ties, and groomed mustaches add to the charm of the scene. The first thing I thought when I saw this in a shop a month ago was that perhaps those pictured were heading out to church on a snowy Christmas morning. Someone took the photograph to document the special occasion. It seems appropriate to post the image now with the holiday only a little over a week away.

Christmas seems to be one of the few times we care to dress up any more. Where people once prettied themselves to go to dinner, travel, and even go to work, today we are quickly losing this aspect of human culture. Almost all the restaurants I frequent are casual. Comfortable dress is the ideal on a plane or cruise ship. Suits are becoming less and less the norm for everyday business wear. Images such as the one above remind us why it is nice to sometimes be formal. There is something special about seeing people in their finery. Taking care of our dress reminds us of the occasion in which we are participating, heightening our awareness of self and our sense of place.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Censorship is Always Wrong

Censorship hit close to home yesterday when a book was challenged  locally. Articles have appeared around the world about the controversy:
Boston: New Hampshire Parents Object to "Offensive" Book:

When I heard about the issue, the hair on my arm prickled. I have not read the book, but as a librarian/archivist I fall strongly on the side of intellectual freedom. This was the first time that book banning had become more than business or more than an abstract possibility in my community. It had become personal. A challenge to my right to read what I want, and more importantly a challenge against my child's right to be given an education through every book she can get her hands on, is frightening to me. I do not want an ugly precedent set here in my small NH town.

I wrote to my school board to express my opinion that children should be exposed to diverse points of view.  I plastered my personal social web space with quotes from the American Library Association.

‎"... the freedom to read is essential to our democracy, and reading is among our greatest freedoms...every silencing of a heresy, every enforcement of an orthodoxy, diminishes the toughness and resilience of American society and leaves it less able to deal with controversy and difference...intellectual freedom is essential to the preservation of a free society and a creative culture..." - American Library Association

Many people had lots of thoughtful things to say on a local Yahoo web site. Many people with very diverse political and religious views fell on the side against censorship. A friend responding to my ALA posting summed it up appropriately, "Censorship is always wrong!"

1. If we value personal freedoms, as we claim to do in our democracy, we must also make an earnest effort to accept that our fellow citizens have diverse views.
2. School (especially high school) is the proper place to introduce materials for discussion that encourage logical thinking. One does not need to agree with material that is introduced, but should reflect upon it and use critical thinking skills to evaluate it. This will strengthen our understanding of ourselves and of those around us and allow us to make better informed decisions.
3. We all bring our own personal and community experiences to our efforts to evaluate our reading, but rejecting a point of view because it is not your point of view, uses language you wouldn't use, or is borne of a lifestyle with which you think you can't identify, is irresponsible. Strengthen your ability to make logical choices for yourself, your family, and your community by trying to understand why others have alternate opinions.
4. Trying to ban an argument that is not your own without consideration does not help your own cause. One should take in alternate views to make your own argument stronger. Rejecting the opportunity to read all kinds of information does not make you a better person. It makes you a dumber one.
5. Listening to alternate perspectives also prepares you to deal with movements that undermine you, your lifestyle or even your safety. Silencing your "enemy" does not make your "enemy" go away, it just sends the enemy underground. Open discourse helps disperse hostility.

I am pleased that the book will continue to be used in our school for now. It sounds like logical heads are  discussing the value of this particular book. I hope this discussion opens new doors for learning for me and for those in my community.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Gift of Ephemera - Replicated Antique Christmas Cards

As I sat in a class on antiques earlier this fall, the instructor showed us a replicated artifact. A question about the motivation for making copies of historical items ensued and over the length of my 6-week course the subject of copies was re-visited over and over again. At one point, I raised my hand to give my two-cents as a history professional with an alternate perspective. We are all aware of forgeries, recognizing the desire for some to dupe professionals or to con eager buyers of materials to make a buck off of them. Museums, libraries and archives often run into objects of questionable authenticity. (Off the top of my head I can think of at least two very recent inquiries into the authenticity of found Picasso drawings and Ansel Adams photographs.) However, I was realizing that the people interested in antiques were seeming to consider all replications as "forgeries." I had never really thought about this before this time.  Replications are not always created with malicious intent and can be a boon to historical institutions that wish to share what they have. Yes, of course, cultural heritage institutions re-create and sell items to make a little money in the process, but there is no design on passing them off as the real thing.

The original item shown in the class was a kitchen aid from the 18th century. (Unfortunately, my full memory of the object itself is faulty so I'll make no pretense to state exactly what the item was, but as I remember it it was some kind of stone trivet or pan.) The "forgery" looked to me like something I would pick up in a museum gift shop. The instructor told us that often such items are made in China and flood the market with the intention of duping prospective collectors of a popular item. The popularity of specific items ebbs and flows, so the U.S. market could be flooded with different items that make their way into the antique world and float around for ages.  So this all got me wondering, how often do the items that museums create for their gift shops fool people who think they are the "real McCoy."

Above are antique "replica" images with full disclosure intact on the front of the item. Though I'm pretty sure that no one would confuse this with the real thing, in light of my antiques class I am glad that it is blatantly put out there. This is a booklet that was given to me by my friend Regina as an early Christmas present. (She was so excited to give it to me that she couldn't wait and her enthusiasm, as always, was infectious.) The booklet  includes 6 pages of perforated and replicated cards. Each postcards says "Merrimack Publishing Company, N.Y...Printed in Hong Kong. REPLICA OF ANTIQUE ORIGINAL." They REALLY want to make sure that you know this is not the real item, but there is no mention of where the real items are located. 

A quick Internet search of "Merrimack Publishing" did not yield detailed information about the company itself, but the search did reveal that most of their items were selling in out of print bookstores. Items included replicated ephemera similar to mine, reproduced children's and history books. The word "Replica" appeared over and over. I also did a quick business search through my local library's databases to no avail. I am still left wondering where the originals of my replications are housed. I will probably trot to my local library later to see what I can dig up in traditional sources.

Ephemera is a wonderful gift that can be quite meaningful. The historic images in my item are lovely. Should I mind that they are not original? Perhaps not, but I would love my item better with a history and if I find out more about the publishing company that might be good enough for me. If I can find the location of the original items, that would be even better, but I'm not sure how much time I will devote to that task... It is interesting to see the old-fashioned images that are really flaring up my Christmas spirit and the generosity of my friend in thinking of me when she purchased these makes them extra special. Though I don't get the excited feeling I generally have when I touch something old and can dream about the people who touched it before me, there is certainly much to appreciate in this replicated historical item. My daughter will certainly admire the cherubs and Santa when I show this to her. The replica will be a useful tool to teach children about archives...I just wish that I hadn't seen one perforated card from this book advertised online for 9 dollars. I am left with my torn antique class feeling all over again