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Category Archives: archives

three fun (and free!) library/archives ipad apps

I’ve only had my iPad for a few months, but it’s interesting to see how I actually use it now versus how I thought I’d use it.  I definitely thought I would use a larger number (and variety) of apps than I actually do.  I blame this on lack of time due to grad school, but really it’s out of habit.  Just like when I go to my favorite restaurants, I can’t help but order the same few dishes — because I know what I like and I don’t want to “waste” my money on something that isn’t as good.  Or when a favorite band releases a new album — if it doesn’t capture me the first couple times I listen to it, chances are I’m going to choose the older tried-and-true albums over the new one every time (I’m talking about you, Iron and Wine).

But I’ve become more adventurous these days, so here are three very cool — and very free — iPad apps that I’ve been playing around with.  I can’t wait for more to come out!  Please share if you know of any other apps worth checking out.

Biblion: The Boundless Library
New York Public Library

Right now, the app is focused on the 1939-1940 World’s Fair, but I think future “issues” of Biblion will focus on a variety of other collections.

19th Century Historical Collection
British Library

Read (or skim) over 1,000 nineteenth-century books for free!  The book scans look great, and I foresee this app distracting me for many hours to come.  Later this summer, over 60,000 books will be made available for a not-yet-released price.

 

Today’s Document
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

Also available on Android devices and iPhones, this app features a different archival document every day.  A few days ago, the featured document was the oath of allegiance signed by Marquis de Lafayette.  Later this week, it will be the Watergate building’s security officer log from June 17, 1972.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2011 in archives, photographs, pop culture

 

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#askarchivists day 2011

Not only is today International Archives Day, but it’s #AskArchivists Day on Twitter!

If you’re interested in what archivists do and what’s in their collections, just ask.  Archives and archivists from all over the world will be taking your questions.  Check out the Ask Archivists blog for a list of participating archives.

 
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Posted by on June 9, 2011 in archives

 

what’s missing from fashion archives? women of color

One of my favorite blogs out there right now is Of Another Fashion, brought to you by the bloggers of Threadbared.  Of Another Fashion posts vintage and archival photos of stylish women of color in the United States, creating a digital archive that provides a perspective largely missing from mainstream fashion archives and exhibits.  The photos posted are from archives, other online sources, and public submissions.

This blog is particularly inspirational to me for a few reasons.  Foremost, the blog’s purpose is to highlight and share photographs that have a rich yet overlooked history.  Most of the photos’ subjects aren’t of models, but your everyday average woman.  Another key element of the blog is that it actively seeks contributions from the public — not only to post but with the larger goal of creating an actual exhibit.  Many of the photos shared are from family albums, which I think adds a richer narrative to the fashion record.  In the creators’ own words:

In providing a glimpse of women of color’s material cultural histories — a glimpse that no doubt only begins to redress the curatorial and critical absence of minoritized fashion histories — this archive and the forthcoming exhibition commemorates lives and experiences too often considered not important enough to save or to study.

This idea links directly to Rand Jimerson’s point about the power of archives and archivists (which I’ve written about previously).  In determining which histories, experiences, and narratives are preserved in archival institutions (and the context given of those materials), we greatly influence the cultural record and memory.  Archivists have a responsibility to ensure diversity in the archival record, and Of Another Fashion is a great example to look towards.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2011 in archives, diversity, links, photographs

 

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how to find books in 1905

CC image courtesy of ttcopley on Flickr

I’m currently working on a paper about the history of the DC Public Library and have been looking through articles in the Washington Post from the early 20th century (thank you, ProQuest).  While public libraries have transformed in many ways, some things haven’t changed.  Here’s an excerpt from an article published February 19, 1905 titled “How to Find Books.”

LOOK FOR THE CALL NUMBERS

At the District Public Library, readers often wish a certain book or books, but dislike to take the trouble to consult the card catalogue to find the call numbers.  This feeling is perfectly natural, and those who work in libraries thoroughly understand it.  But, nevertheless, annoying though it is to some, to find these call numbers is in most cases absolutely necessary, for it is by them that the books are arranged in classes and put in their places on the shelves, and without the numbers to guide them the pages are at a loss to find the books — or at best the books can only be found after a long search, which means a tedious wait for the reader.  Consequently care should be taken to copy the whole call number accurately…

The catalogue itself as used in the District Public Library is the simplest and most widely used form of the card catalogue, and should be consulted exactly like a dictionary.  It is arranged in alphabetic order, and books are entered under their author’s name and also under their subject.

Citation:
“How to Find Books: Method of Cataloguing at the District Library. Look for the Call Numbers System Employed is Much Like that of a Dictionary — Books Listed Under the Name of the Author, the Subject, and the Title — Recent Additions to the Shelves — some Useful Information.” The Washington Post (1877-1922): R3. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The Washington Post (1877-1993). 1905. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/144534396?accountid=8285>

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2011 in archives

 

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the power of archives

I just finished reading Randall C. Jimerson’s 2007 article “Archives for All: Professional Responsibility and Social Justice” — and I loved it!  I can’t wait to read his book Archives Power: Memory, Accountability, and Social Justice.  Here’s the article abstract:

Archivists should use their power—in determining what records will be preserved for future generations and in interpreting this documentation for researchers—for the benefit of all members of society.  By adopting a social conscience for the profession, they can commit themselves to active engagement in the public arena.  Archivists can use the power of archives to promote accountability, open government, diversity, and social justice.  In doing so, it is essential to distinguish objectivity from neutrality.  Advocacy and activism can address social issues without abandoning professional standards of fairness, honesty, detachment, and transparency.

Some personal background will tell you why I liked it so much.  Politically, I sit on the very far left of the spectrum.  Academically, I am of the critical theory and postmodern persuasion.  In college, I was a social justice activist.  So this article was meant for me.  This post is an initial reaction from reading the article, so forgive me if these thoughts are not completely cohesive.

As “record keepers,” archivists have power.  A lot of it.  The archives profession is associated with the history discipline for a reason.  We influence the context of how documents are perceived through our description, finding aids, etc.  The (not so) simple act of choosing which records are preserved or accessioned is a huge exercise of power — it can determine if a narrative or event is ever remembered or known.  Jimerson’s article includes many examples of how documents have held governments accountable.  Because archives shape our historical memory, it’s important that we not only keep records of institutions and their leadership, but the “ordinary” everyday people as well.

Today, if someone isn’t online, if they don’t have a findable web presence, or if their online presence isn’t archived — will they cease to be remembered in the future?  It’s a scary thought.  We aren’t living in a completely digital world yet and can’t forget about those who only exist in the analog.  I feel like so many archival institutions are busy either working on a backlog of unprocessed collections, digitizing already processed ones, or trying to figure out how to preserve electronic records.  With the romanticism of technology and shifting focus towards digital preservation, I hope we don’t forget about our responsibility to preserve the paper records that are still being created.  Not to say archives aren’t currently fulfilling that responsibility — it just seems like no one is talking about it.  This hybrid world we live in seems to only create more questions about the future, and while we should anticipate and plan for it, we can’t forget about our responsibilities to the present.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2011 in archives

 

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the blurry line between private and public: what do we have a right to know?

This question is one I’m constantly thinking about, so I suspect this post will only be “part one.”  Last semester I wrote a research paper examining different cultural values of knowledge sharing and the impact of open access on cultural materials, specifically Native American archives.  And the question came up once again after reading this Boston Globe article on restricted Robert F. Kennedy papers and this response by Representative John Tierney.  I also often think about this question because our society seems to have an obsession with speculating about the private lives of celebrities, as well as trying to learn everything about secret societies (and scientology).  What information does the public have a right to know?

I completely understand the argument for opening access to the RFK papers because I’m a huge advocate of government transparency (I’m not very trusting when it comes to big institutions like the government and massive corporations).  I do believe that open access to government information is the foundation for a strong democracy, but how does knowledge of people’s private lives or cultural rituals promote democracy?  Or rather, is not knowing personal details damaging in some way?  Sure, I may be curious occasionally (or often) about who is dating who and what they were wearing on the street, but I don’t believe I have any sort of right to know.  When it comes to public officials, I think I ultimately only care about their character and integrity — and lying or misleading the public about their personal lives and beliefs can certainly affect my opinion, leaving their personal lives in a swampy grey area.

In my research paper from last semester, I argued that open access is not always in the interest of the public good, nor is restriction of access always in conflict with the values of information science.  Because access is not a simple issue, archivists must become familiar with different cultural perspectives on information, privacy, and knowledge sharing.  We need to be aware of what things can be considered culturally sensitive, even if we don’t necessarily follow guidelines such as the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.  Archivists are certainly not alone in facing these issues but can learn from and work with other professionals who critically examine similar questions, especially anthropologists and sociologists.

Another story to add to this discussion concerns Franz Kafka’s papers.  Kafka burned most of his work during his lifetime.  When he died, he left his papers (manuscripts, diaries, correspondence, sketches) to a close friend — and asked that the material be burned unread.  This request was ignored and resulted in the publication of The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.  Did Kafka’s friend do him a favor, or should it be considered a betrayal?  Currently, his papers are trapped in a legal battle.

This posts asks many complicated questions, and I know they’re not easy to answer — but they’re all important ideas to explore.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2011 in access, archives, privacy

 

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