Sunday, March 13, 2016

Good Day, Sunshine!

(To listen to an audio recording of this post, click here.)

Earlier this week, I got an email telling me that today (Sunday, March 13) kicks off Sunshine Week, a national initiative to promote open government and freedom of information, and the National Archives' Citizen Archivist program is celebrating by releasing transcription "missions" with a different historical theme each day of the week. I'm not participating this time around, but as I mentioned earlier I am interested to try out a few different types of crowdsourced history project, so I'm going to add volunteer transcribing for the National Archives (NARA) to the list. In short, volunteer transcribing is when you look at a scan or photo of a document online, and type it out so that other users can do full-text searches, so it shows up in keyword searches based on its full text, and so that people who use screen readers can access the text. NARA has a "featured records" page for documents that are particularly likely to be exciting. At the moment, featured records includes parts of Eisenhower's diary of his presidency, The Complaint in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, and documents from the War of 1812 and World War II. If this seems up your alley, don't wait for me to get around to trying it out -- I'd love to hear from readers who have done it.

In honor of Sunshine Week, the loose theme of this post's list additions is materials that are freely accessible to the public.

  • Do some volunteer transcribing for the National Archives. See above for my reasons why!

  • Complete someone's board on Pindex, on a topic that relates to my goals for this blog. Pindex is a new "Pinterest-style" site for collecting educational videos. They have a feature where you get completion awards for watching all of the videos in one collection. It's designed to be a teaching tool for teachers and just for learners who want to share.

  • Steve B. suggested reading “Contesting Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives” edited by Susan Sleeper-Smith. I'm interested in this book because it is international and multidisciplinary. It looks like it goes beyond the "don't display indigenous cultures (only) in natural history museums, brown people are not specimens of nature" argument which is a very necessary and valid point, but I understand that point and want to go deeper than that in my understanding.
  • Visit the Commonwealth Museum. My only excuse for not having visited the museum of the Massachusetts State Archives is that it has fairly limited hours. Apparently it does have weekend hours in the summer, which I didn't know about. I'm going to take advantage of them.
  • Watch or listen to five historical speeches from a database like this one by Online University. Primary sources aren't just text! 
  • Meet with an elected representative as part of a state or national museums advocacy day. Museums advocacy days are designed to raise awareness of what museums do for their communities in terms of education benefits, tourism dollars, and more, and raise awareness of how the government can support independent, non-profit museums. 
  • Watch Monuments Men, the feature film about saving artwork and other cultural resources during War II. I've already seen The Rape of Europa, which is kind of its nonfictional counterpart, and I recommend it.
  • Gretchen P. recommended "This Book is Overdue" by Marilyn Johnson. All I know about it is that it's about librarians, but I've never really read a book about librarians, and my mom is a reference librarian, so I'm sure I will enjoy it. This will continue my looking at the intersections of museums and libraries, and on this post's theme, continue looking at public resources.
  • Two items in one: Sarah J. suggested I read Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Friere and Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks, both of which are modern classics of educational theory. The latter is in many ways a response to the former, so I'm listing them here together although they will be two list items. Both of these are available as free PDFs online, but I don't know whether either the authors or the publishers authorized this, and in my preliminary research haven't been able to find out, so I don't know whether they count as publicly accessible resources. 
  • Sara G. Suggested, "Spend a significant amount of time (a few hours or a full day) in places where you don't share a language with the majority of the people around you. For example, you could go hang out in a restaurant in East Boston, which is majority Hispanic. Or find a Haitian Creole restaurant. I don't know what languages you speak, but I'd be interested to read your reflections on something like this, especially because this mirrors the experiences a lot of immigrants and English language learners in schools have all the time -- being surrounded by unfamiliar language." I love this idea! I have had a little of this experience while traveling, but I imagine it's different in my own town, and also different when I'm really paying attention to the experience of language. English is my first language and I'm somewhere between proficient and fluent in French, but I know from living in Boston that that's not enough to understand Haitian Creole, by a longshot. I'm learning Spanish but very slowly (using Duolingo) so both are options.

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