Monday, June 12, 2017

Saving Brinton: The World Premiere

Saving Brinton is a documentary that will have its world premiere at the AFI DOCS film festival on June 17, 2017. The film recounts the discovery by retired history teacher Mike Zahs of some of the earliest films ever made that were shown in small communities by William Franklin Brinton, the "barnstorming movie man" who toured Iowa, Texas, and the Midwest from around 1895 to 1910.

Zahs acquired some 35,000 feet of footage at an auction in 1981, and only thereafter realized the rarity of his acquisitions, which include works by such production companies as Edison, Méliés, Lumiere, and Pathé. Zahs eventually enlisted the help of staff at the Library of Congress and the University of Iowa to preserve and digitize what in some cases was the only known surviving copy of a film title. Saving Brinton was directed by Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne, and further information can be found at the documentary's website.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Bob Dylan's Nobel Lecture in Literature

Awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature, Bob Dylan recorded his Nobel Lecture, with piano accompaniment, on June 4, 2017 in Los Angeles. He emphasizes the role literature has played in his music, and describes in particular the influence of three classic works: Moby-Dick, or, The Whale; All Quiet on the Western Front; and The Odyssey. A full transcript of the Lecture is available on the Nobel Prize website.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Celebrating the JFK Centennial: A Strategy of Peace

John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the U.S., was born 100 years ago today on May 29, 1917. The video above is an excerpt from Kennedy's speech, "A Strategy of Peace," delivered at American University in Washington, D.C. on June 10, 1963 [transcript]. In his address, Kennedy exhorts:
Let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that war is inevitable--that mankind is doomed--that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.
We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade--therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable--and we believe they can do it again. 
Kennedy further observes:
So, let us not be blind to our differences--but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's future. And we are all mortal. 
The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum offers countless resources related to Kennedy's life and legacy. The JFK Centennial website provides additional information on events and programming related to the 100th anniversary of Kennedy's birth.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest

Entries are now being accepted for the 2017 National Collegiate Book Collecting ContestBegun in 2005 by the Fine Books & Collections magazine for student bibliophiles, the competition is now jointly sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies, as well as the Center for the Book and the Rare Books and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress. 

number of contests are currently held at colleges and universities around the U.S., with Swarthmore College's competition being the first in the 1920s. College-level students from all educational institutions, however, are encouraged to participate. Entries for this year's competition are due by May 31, 2017. Contest rules and further information are available at the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America website. Winners of the last several years can be viewed here: 2016, 2015, 2014201320122011, and 2010.

Monday, May 1, 2017

MayDay 2017: Saving Our Heritage

Since 2006, the Society of American Archivists (SAA) has designated May 1st as MayDay, or a day of action for both individuals and organizations such as archives, libraries, museums, and historical societies to improve their capacities to deal with emergencies that can threaten or destroy historical collections. The ravages of natural disasters such as the tornadoes and hurricanes of recent years are just some of the physical risks facing cultural heritage institutions.

Although the landmark study, A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America's Collections (2005), systematically documented that most institutions lack an adequate disaster preparedness plan, the SAA has worked to mitigate these deficiencies. The SAA web site provides recommendations for MayDay activities, as well as a compilation of resources, including technical literature and tools, disaster plan templates and examples, tutorials and courses, bibliographies, and other resources.

In recent years, the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) has undergone severe cuts to both collections and services, which are documented in detail in a recent White Paper produced by the Save Iowa History Alliance. Leading historians on both a state and national level have addressed their concerns directly to Governor Branstad and to Mary Cownie, Director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the SHSI.

Further details on these efforts, as well as contact information for key decision-makers, is available in the previous Common Curator posts: Save Iowa History and Save Iowa History 3. The complete White Paper on the State Historical of Iowa can be downloaded as a PDF.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Fight for Libraries; Fight for Museums; Save the Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS)


For this year's National Library Week (April 9-15, 2017), the American Library Association (ALA) has designated April 13 as Take Action for Libraries Day as part of an ongoing advocacy campaign to counter the Administration's proposed draconian budget cuts, which include the elimination of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the leading federal agency supporting the work of museums and libraries nationwide.

Specifically, the ALA is calling on Congress to preserve funding levels for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), as well as the Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) program. For those wishing to engage directly in the effort to support libraries and museums of all types, the ALA offers an array of advocacy resources online.

The stated mission of the IMLS is "to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement," by providing "leadership through research, policy making, and grant making." The Common Curator can attest firsthand to the vital importance of the IMLS mission, having worked on two major IMLS digitization grants to help create two substantial and significant digital collections that are freely accessible online.

As Project Director, the Common Curator received a $120,300 grant to build the North Carolina History of Health Digital Collection, which makes available some 350,000 pages of core health-related journal literature from 1849 to the present. Earlier, as Digital Production Editor & Metadata Coordinator, he helped build American Journeys: A Digital Library and Learning Center, which features eyewitness accounts of early American exploration and settlement from around 1500 to 1850. It, too, has been heavily utilized since its launch, attracting hundreds of thousands of users annually.

It is estimated there are 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums in the U.S. Moreover, it is estimated that 169 million people over 14 are library users (69% of the population), while 148 million people over 18 visit a museum annually. Clearly, there is a critical demand and need for memory institutions, which is consistent with the IMLS vision, namely, "A democratic society where communities and individuals thrive with broad public access to knowledge, cultural heritage, and lifelong learning."

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence . . . Fifty Years after MLK, Jr.



Fifty years ago on April 4, 1967 (exactly one year before his assassination), Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., delivered a major speech at Riverside Church in New York City which articulated his reasoning for his opposition to the Vietnam War, and how the conflict was intertwined with racism and other pressing social issues facing the nation. Entitled "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence," King traces the evolution of his thought on the war, and argues for a "radical revolution of values," stating:
. . . [W]e must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
Towards the conclusion of his speech, King posits a fundamental question:
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. 
Wise words still today, fifty years hence. The full transcript of King's speech can be read here; the YouTube video above contains audio only.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April Fool's Nostalgia


For earlier April 1st posts, see The Origin of April Fool's Day and April Is the Foolest Month, which describes various spaghetti harvests around the world.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

From "Over the Rainbow" to "Straight Outta Compton," 25 New Selections Named to National Recording Registry

In the fifteenth year of the National Recording Registry, Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden has just announced 25 sound recordings as the official entries for 2016, stating: "This year's exciting list gives us a full range of sound experiences. These sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation's cultural history and our history in general."

Under the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000, selected recordings must be "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and at least ten years old.

Spanning the years 1888-1997, the selections for 2016 are as follows:
  1. The 1888 London cylinder recordings of Col. George Gouraud (1888)
  2. Lift Every Voice and Sing (singles)Manhattan Harmony Four (1923); Melba Moore and Friends (1990)
  3. Puttin’ on the Ritz (single)Harry Richman (1929)
  4. Over the Rainbow (single)Judy Garland (1939)
  5. I’ll Fly Away (single)The Chuck Wagon Gang (1948)
  6. Hound Dog (single)Big Mama Thornton (1953)
  7. Saxophone ColossusSonny Rollins (1956)
  8. The Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants at the Polo Groundsannounced by Vin Scully (September 8, 1957)
  9. Gunfighter Ballads and Trail SongsMarty Robbins  (1959)
  10. The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes MontgomeryWes Montgomery (1960)
  11. People (single)Barbra Streisand (1964)
  12. In the Midnight Hour (single)Wilson Pickett (1965)
  13. Amazing Grace (single)Judy Collins (1970)
  14. American Pie (single)Don McLean (1971)
  15. All Things Consideredfirst broadcast (May 3, 1971)
  16. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from MarsDavid Bowie (1972)
  17. The Wizoriginal cast album (1975)
  18. Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)Eagles (1976)
  19. Scott Joplin’s TreemonishaGunter Schuller, arr. (1976) 
  20. Wanted: Live in Concert—Richard Pryor (1978)      
  21. We Are Family (single)—Sister Sledge (1979)
  22. Remain in LightTalking Heads (1980)
  23. Straight Outta ComptonN.W.A (1988)
  24. Rachmaninoff’s Vespers (All-Night Vigil)Robert Shaw Festival Singers (1990)
  25. SignaturesRenée Fleming (1997)
The full National Recording Registry currently numbers 475 recordings, and can be viewed here. The Registry solicits nominations annually for inclusion on the registry; further information on the criteria and procedures for making nominations for 2017 is available at the Registry website

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Chuck B. Goode, Chuck B. Gone: Rock in Peace

Rock & Roll legend Chuck Berry [1926-2017] died March 18th at age 90. Johnny B. Goode, one of his many pioneering songs (and featured above in a live performance), was recorded at Chess Studios on January 6, 1958 and released as a single a few months later on March 31st.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Support Freeform Radio @ WFMU

Love free-form radio? Then consider supporting independent station WFMU during its annual fundraising Marathon that runs March 5 through March 19, 2017. WFMU first hit the airwaves on April 24, 1958 at the now-defunct Upsala College and has never looked back. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, WFMU broadcasts at 91.1 Mhz and via a second signal at 90.1 Mhz in Mount Hope, New York. WFMU has also long been an Internet pioneer, streaming its programming 24/7 in multiple formats, including iPhone and Android. An extensive archive of past shows is also available for easy access.
 
What is free-form radio you might ask? WFMU describes itself as follows:
WFMU's programming ranges from flat-out uncategorizable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English as well as country and western music.
And because the station is listener-supported, WFMU DJs have for years maintained complete autonomy and control over their own programming, which is extraordinarily eclectic. Check out the current WFMU audio smorgasbord, and see for yourself!

Note: The 2017 Marathon premium at the right was designed by Akira Yonekawa.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

International Women's Day: #BeBoldForChange



March 8th marks the 106th anniversary of International Women's Day. The United Nations' theme for International Women's Day 2017 is "Women in the Changing World of World: Planet 50-50 by 2030." The video above features remarks by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

First celebrated on March 19, 1911 by more than one million people in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland after a proposal by Clara Zetkin [1857-1933] in 1910 at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, International Women's Day is now observed in many nations throughout the world.

The United Nations first began celebrating March 8 as International Women's Day during International Women's Year in 1975, and in 1977 approved a resolution proclaiming a United Nations Day for Women's Rights and International Peace for member states.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

March for Science on Earth Day


The March for Science will be held on Earth Day, April 22, 2017, in Washington, D.C. and at several hundred satellite locations throughout the United States and around the world. Thousands of scientists and scientific-minded individuals will be marching in solidarity to support the work of the scientific community and the critical role it plays in formulating sound, evidence-based public policy, particularly in the realms of public health and environmental protection.

The March for Science "champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science," and its stated goals for the upcoming event are to:
humanize science; partner with the public; advocate for open, inclusive, and accessible science; support scientists; and, affirm science as a democratic value. 
Further information about the movement's goals and principles, as well details about local marches, can be found on the March for Science web site. Be there or be square!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Climate of Concern: Shell's 1991 Warning of Global Environmental Damage

In 1991, the multinational oil company Shell released Climate of Concern, an educational video warning of the risks of environmental damage on a global scale due to climate change caused by the increasing consumption of fossil fuels. Confidential reports as early as 1986 document Shell's awareness of the risks of anthropogenic climate change, but the 1991 video has not been widely available (WorldCat shows that it is apparently only held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France). The Correspondent recently acquired a copy, and it can also be viewed at their website.

Monday, February 27, 2017

"Alternative Facts" Are Not Facts


Not only are so-called alternative facts not facts, they are not even alternatives. The Map of the Square and Stationary Earth . . . shown above was published by Prof. Orlando Ferguson of Hot Springs, South Dakota in 1893. He asserts that 400 biblical passages "condemn the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and none sustain it." For 25 cents, Prof. Ferguson offered a book "explaining this square and stationary Earth." He states further that "It knocks the Globe Theory clean out. It will teach you how to foretell eclipses. It is worth its weight in gold."

The Ferguson map was donated to the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress in 2011, and is fully described in the Library's online catalog. High-resolution images of the map are also available for download.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ALA Opposes New Administration Polices That Contradict Core Values

American Library Association (ALA) President Julie B. Todaro on January 30, 2017 released the following statement on behalf of the ALA that reasserts the association's commitment to core values concerning access to information, intellectual freedom, diversity, social responsibility, and other issues:

“We are shocked and dismayed by recent executive orders and other actions by the new administration, which stand in stark contrast to the core values of the American Library Association. Our core values include access to information; confidentiality/privacy; democracy; equity, diversity and inclusion; intellectual freedom; and social responsibility.

“The American Library Association strongly opposes any actions that limit free access to information, undermine privacy, or discriminate on any basis. This includes the temporary suspension of visas and entrance to the US based on anyone’s nationality or religion as well as the increased scrutiny of any individual’s communication such as mobile phone and/or social media activity.

“Our nation’s 120,000 public, academic, school, and special libraries serve all community members, including people of color, immigrants, people with disabilities and the most vulnerable in our communities, offering services and educational resources that transform communities, open minds, and promote inclusion and diversity.

“ALA believes that the struggle against racism, prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination is central to our mission. We will continue to speak out and support efforts to abolish intolerance and cultural invisibility, stand up for all the members of the communities we serve, and promote understanding and inclusion through our work.

“We will continue to speak out and support our members as they work tirelessly for access to library and information resources on behalf of all of their community members, while advocating for privacy, intellectual freedom, critical global research, information literacy, ongoing access to scientific research, and fair and equitable treatment for everyone.

“As our strategic plan states, ‘ALA recognizes the critical need for access to library and information resources, services, and technologies by all people, especially those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, housing status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment and housing.’

“We encourage our members to continue to speak out and show their support for and work on behalf of our core values, in their communities as well as with their local, state, and national elected and appointed officials. Additionally, ALA has tools and resources online to help you advocate for our core values:
“ALA is committed to using its national platform for speaking up and speaking out for its members and constituents in these chaotic, unprecedented, and challenging times. We appreciate the library community’s continued support.”

Mother of Exiles: Send These, the Homeless, Tempest-tost to Me

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Emma Lazarus [1849-1887] wrote "The New Colossus" on November 2, 1883, and donated it for use by the Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty. A source of inspiration to countless new immigrants and Americans alike, it was inscribed on a plaque on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1903. Then as now, however, Nativists and others have opposed immigration on various grounds, as the political cartoon to the right, captioned "The Proposed Emigrant Dumping Site," reveals (Judge, March 22, 1890).
 
The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift from the people of France to the United States. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, it was designated as a National Monument in 1924, and has been maintained by the National Park Service since 1933.

Note: The image at the top first appeared in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper on July 2, 1887 at pp. 324-325; it was entitled "New York -- Welcome to the Land of Freedom -- An Ocean Steamer Passing the Statue of Liberty: Scene on the Steerage Deck [of the "Germanic"] / from a sketch by a staff artist." Further information on this item is available via the Library of Congress' Prints and Photographs Online Catalog.