Friday, July 19, 2013

The Underdocumented and Multiculturalism
Anne Frank stands as a symbol for
respect for human differences.

"My teenage years were a crossroad. They were the point where I learned the contradictions between what I had been told and what was....I didn't know it, but I was learning about life through these novels---a different depiction of life than what the media was selling me..." [Getting Diverse Books Into the Hands of Teen Readers: How do We Do It?]
"Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank." - John F. Kennedy, 1960

Both archival materials and books have the power to help people see the world in a different way. The materials written and created by humankind can speak to diversity and tolerance. Archives and literature can work hand-in-hand to shed light on our differences as well as showing our sameness. The idea that we are not alone and that diverse peoples share remarkably similar feelings -- can exhibit strength AND insecurities -- is important to both express and share.

I often talk about how archivists and librarians should work together, but I am extending my thinking even further. I am realizing just how seamlessly we can work together to reach diverse audiences. This summer I am taking a Children's and YA Literature class to gain my certification as a school information specialist. This week we are talking about "multiculturalism" in children's literature.

Multiculturalism Defined

1. of, relating to, reflecting, or adapted to diverse cultures  [Merriam Webster]

2. Celebrating human diversity by willingly promoting legal, political, and social recognition of cultural, ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences. [Business]

3. a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity. [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy]

In the world of archives, we can use the idea of multiculturalism with our practice of creating diverse collections, including our goals as archivists to document the under-documented. Connect cultural institutions to the classroom and use multiple types of resources to make connections to the real world.
  • Bring primary documents (diaries, letters and the like) into the classroom alongside literary works to better explain realistic fiction. Ideas come from somewhere. Making the connections would be beneficial for education on many levels. Much has been written on how students (and adults) need to make connections between classes and "the real world". This is another reason why and how.

    In fact, Anne Frank's diary was edited to remove some of the more sexual content that was deemed unseemly in 1947. [I am wondering how sexual content can be more unseemly than a girl hiding in an attic in fear of her life, but that relates to censorship. That is actually my other class topic for the week, but I will save that for another post.] However, this is what students need to read, so they can see that their typical thoughts and feelings ARE typical. So that they see that people "different" from them are only human too. Anne Frank is the best known example of archival material that does this, but every small community has its own cultural items that can also make connections between people.
  • Bring literature into the archives to show connections between first person events and the stories that we concoct to explain our reality or getting us thinking. We can bring the literature in by connecting to it in our access tools. Our finding aids can include a bibliographic section that reads: "For more information on this subject, or for a look at how these types of materials have influenced the literary world, see..." We can also use books in our archival exhibits and programming.
Librarians and archivists need to get talking about shared collection development. How can we work together to promote diversity and knowledge? How can our collections play off each other? We should not be operating in separate spheres when our materials have similar things to say. We have shared purposes and different terminology.

1 comment:

  1. I am a strong believer in the importance of diversity in the classroom. I am pursuing teacher certification for secondary mathematics, but find multiculturalism and diversity some of the most relevant topics to real life. Every subject can promote and teach diversity in some way or another - it's great to see others in the education field who also appreciate it!