One day in the late 1960s, a number of flyers showed up at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. It’s the Vietnam War Era, and the flyers, which alleged to be from the Americong, stated that to protest the military use of napalm in Vietnam a dog would be burned with napalm to show just how horrific the agent was. Both the mayor of Philadelphia, James Hugh Joseph Tate, and the police department decried the flyer, stating that the perpetrator would face significant jailtime.
At noon on the day specified 2,000 people and four ambulances arrived in front of the University of Pennsylvania library; the place where this horrific exhibition was to take place. But when these people arrived there was no dog. There was no napalm, there was no Americong, but there were more flyers. They read, “Congratulations, you have saved the life of an innocent dog. How about the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese that have been burned alive?”
Although there was no dog, this was indeed the largest antiwar demonstration to ever take place at the University of Pennsylvania. The mastermind behind this demonstration? Civil Rights activist extraordinaire, Kiyoshi Kuromiya.
Kiyoshi Kuromiya was born May 9th, 1943 in Heart Mountain, Wyoming, in one of the U.S. government’s Japanese Internment camps during World War II. He arrived at the University of Pennsylvania in 1961 to pursue a degree in architecture. It was here his work as a Civil Rights activist began. He was involved in the Antiwar Movement during the Vietnam War, participated in sit-ins with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Maryland in 1962, and marched in the March on Washington in 1963.
Kuromiya was an activist in many of the social movements that defined the 1960s, and he was an activist all his life. This included his involvement in the Gay Rights Movement beginning in the 1960s when he worked with the Gay Liberation Front. When the HIV/AIDS epidemic arose in the 1980s, Kuromiya was once again on the front-lines with other AIDS activists, which later included organizations like ACT UP in the 1990s. It was also during the 1990s that his efforts went digital.
For those who know Kuyomiya’s story of AIDS Rights Activism he is perhaps best known for the Critical Path Project, a program he founded in 1989 to provide treatment, resources, and prevention information to People With AIDS (PWA). The Critical Path Project began as a newsletter routinely delivered to thousands of people living with AIDS around the world, including incarcerated Americans. From its earliest days the Critical Path newsletter was meant to provide access to all information pertaining to HIV/AIDS.
Kuromiya did not stop with the newsletter, however, despite how widespread it was. As was his way, he began incorporating new technologies to increase the accessibility of the information, and to grow and strengthen the network of PWAs to ensure their access to said information. The Critical Path Project set up a 24-hour hotline/pager service to improve efficiency. In 1992, they established a computer bulletin board system to provide individuals and agencies around the country with news updates about HIV. Then, in 1993, Critical Path established an email listserv to facilitate conversations between PWAs, medical providers, and activists. This was crucial in organizing for cutting-edge research and clinical trials for the many men desperate for treatment.
The ingenuity of Kuyomiya’s digital activism, particularly in the early days of the internet, seem boundless in hindsight. By 1995 the Critical Path Project became an internet service provider comparable, at that time, to AOL, or for younger readers, like Xfinity and Comcast. Critical Path provided free internet access and email to PWAs, opening up an entire digital world to them where information on the newest treatments and places to access them was at their fingertips. According to the Critical Path Project’s website, between 1995 and 2008, over 10,000 people in the greater Philadelphia area signed up for and used Critical Path.
In 2000, Kiyoshi Kuromiya died from complications related to AIDS. His lifetime of activism continues beyond his own life, as the Critical Path Project continues to provide resources and information for people with HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other chronic conditions. The Critical Path newsletter became Philadelphia FIGHT’s Greater Philadelphia AIDS Resource Guide which continues to publish new editions annually. These organizations, extensions of Kuromiya’s lifelong commitment to help others, live on as a testament to the impact he had on countless lives. What a remarkable legacy to leave.
Dear Reader, would you be my Valentine?
This past week many celebrated St. Valentine’s Day, which undoubtedly involved countless letters, chocolates, and other tokens of affection. As I considered what to write about this week and pondered how I might incorporate that into a nice Valentine’s Day-inspired post I remembered another way people often express their devotion: through the presentation of flowers.
I have always been fascinated by the significance we as humans embed within arbitrary symbols, like flowers. This manifested in Victorian England in what became known as the language of flowers. Each individual flower had its own specific meaning, and the specific color added additional depth and specificity of meaning. For example, the perennially-popular rose (to follow our connection to Valentine’s Day) is representative of love, broadly defined. Only the red rose means romantic love, and if we add an additional layer of symbolism, a red rose without thorns signifies love at first sight. Roses of other colors, however, mean something different altogether; crimson signifies mourning, coral signifies desire, and yellow signifies friendship.
Here are some examples of other flowers and their attributed meanings: a tulip, regardless of color, signifies a “perfect lover,” and a specifically variegated tulip (meaning of two colors) indicates that this perfect lover has beautiful eyes; blue violets signify faithfulness to a loved one. It should be noted, however, that not all flowers have tender-hearted meanings. A hypothetical example comes from Romie Stott’s article on Atlas Obscura states, “[If an admirer] sent you a mix of geraniums to ask whether they can expect to see you at the next dance. If you have any striped carnations blooming in your conservatory, you can send them to the enquirer to say, “afraid not.”” The yellow carnation is even more forceful than the striped, signifying outright rejection, which if paired with basil would declare, “I reject you, and I hate you.” Seems rather like something Elizabeth Bennett might have sent to William Darcy early on in their relationship, no? Without a doubt, depending on a bouquet’s composition, the spectrum of meanings possible is expansive.
The Language of Flowers (also called floriography), according to Stott, originated in an eighteenth century letter from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (then married to the English ambassador to Turkey, and the same woman who advocated for smallpox inoculation in the early eighteenth century) in which she described the secretive language of Turkish harem women called selam (“hello”). Lady Montagu wrote that these women would use flowers to communicate under the noses of their guards. Lady Montagu misrepresented this form of communication, and afterwards some argued whether she had simply misunderstood or romanticized a Turkish rhyming game. Nevertheless, the floriographic fad persisted and grew.
Though misconstrued by Lady Montagu, the concept of a secretive language used to speak freely under the eyes and ears of one’s oppressors is a fascinating one to me, and it relates directly to another secret language used among Britain’s LGBTQ+ community during the twentieth century. Polari originated around 1900 as a means of allowing the U.K.’s gay community to speak with one another freely while sounding as though they spoke nonsense to the cis-gendered, heteronormative masses. Polari was spoken primarily between 1900 and the 1970s at which point it fell out of use. Its mortality was tied in equal parts to the passage of a 1967 law which decriminalized homosexuality, and its appropriation in British popular culture shortly beforehand.
Polari is a form of cant slang with a linguistic base in Parlyaree, an earlier form of the language which originated around the Mediterranean and in Italy where it was traditionally associated with prostitutes, beggars, and travelers. After it arrived in the U.K. in the twentieth century, gay men and female impersonators adopted it, and as they added additional linguistic elements to it (slang terms from French, Cockney slang, Yiddish, and backslang [pronunciation of a word as if it were spelled backwards] among them), Polari came into full bloom. As an example of a Polari phrase, a gay man might spy a handsome, albeit short, man across the way and say to a friend, “Vada the dolly dish, shame about his bijou lallies,” which means “Look at the attractive man, shame about his short legs.” It is easy to see how someone unaccustomed to the language would have no way of comprehending it, thus protecting the speaker.
Polari’s fall from favor began around 1960 for several reasons, among which was a new radio comedy show called Round the Horne which embedded a simplified version of Polari into its scripts. For some, this spoiled the secrecy of the language. This, in conjunction with the 1967 decriminalization of homosexuality in the U.K., removed the necessity for Polari and it fell into disuse. While it was in use, however, it provided a covert way for knowledgeable gay men to find one another and create a sense of community in the shadows. LGBTQ+ history is rife with such means of community building, and although that history is rooted in oppression, I think that Polari, much like the Language of Flowers, is something to be celebrated among LGBTQ+ individuals on a holiday so rooted in love, both romantic and communal.
I wrote the following piece in 2018 as part of a class reflecting on the 1918 centennial, and all that came with it; the end of World War I, the early beginnings of the Soviet Union, and the Spanish Influenza pandemic that gripped the world, pun intended. For those familiar with my background, it will come as no surprise that I decided to dedicate a number of posts to the story of Pennhurst and those who resided there in 1918, just ten years after the institution for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities opened. It is now 2019, but I think the following story maintains its importance, and for that reason I share it again here where, perhaps, more people can read it.
In 1918, as the First World War drew to a close and soldiers returned home, they arrived to a horrific scene. By the end of 1918 the Spanish Influenza pandemic held the world on the brink. In Philadelphia, public officials waited until it was too late to acknowledge the existence, let alone severity, of the influenza epidemic rocking the city; further heightening panic and hindering any future attempts at quarantine. When the so-called Spanish Lady finally vanished in the summer of 1919, it left anywhere between 50 and 100 million people dead globally. In Philadelphia the influenza epidemic hit hardest between September and November of 1918, and roughly thirty percent of the city’s population of 1.6 million residents contracted the disease (roughly 47,000 cases were reported), and it ultimately claimed upwards of 12,000 lives, a death toll significantly higher than any other major American city in 1918.
Things were more than dire enough in a city of 1.6 million people, but what were the experiences of those forced to live in a world apart? How did the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918/1919 impact people with intellectual and developmental disability who were in institutions? For Pennhurst, anyway, the situation was hardly much better behind its walls than it was in the city. In fact, the epidemic impacted the institution severely enough to alter its practices for handling the remains of residents who died while in the institution’s care.
Although Pennhurst’s superintendents over the years would publish biennial reports covering the institution’s operations and any issues that arose, no such report has been found for 1918, when the influenza epidemic would have been present. Lacking this, one must look elsewhere: to the cemetery. In examining the dates on the tombstones in the cemetery on the former Pennhurst property, one realizes that no resident was buried there prior to 1918. At the same time, however, just because there are tombstones dated 1918 does not mean it was Spanish Influenza that took the person’s life. For that information one must look to the death certificates which have fortunately been found and digitized.
In the Pennhurst cemetery there are forty graves, and based on the grave markers, of these forty, twenty-three indicate 1918 as the year of death. Of those twenty-three grave markers, there are twenty-one corresponding death certificates available. Given that the Spanish Influenza pandemic affected the world between 1918 and 1919, it is also worth examining the records available on the four residents who died in 1919, though of these four only the death certificate of one Mortimer Thompson (1861-1919) is available, so for the purposes of this post I will not address 1919.
So, of these twenty-one individuals for whom we have death certificates, how many died from complications attributed to influenza? Twenty. Almost all of the Pennhurst residents whose death records we have access to died from the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918. The sole exception was Frank Meredith who, unfortunately passed from exhaustion and tuberculosis of the intestine at eighteen years old. The others, among who were Albert Bennet Freas, Alfonse Rizzoto, Alverna Johnson, Angelina Randazzio, Anna Nesklatis, Charles Ernst, Clara Butler, Clayton A. Gibbs, Dorothy Broghamer, Florence Hinkle, Florence Pidgeon, Henry von Hecker, James Coster, James Daley, Mazie Martin, Morris Finkle, Nooman Small, Walter Rothrock, William Ross, and William Todd, all died from complications relating to influenza. I name them all, because all too often those who were most negatively affected throughout the history of intellectual and developmental disability are stripped of identity. They become the monolithic unknown former residents of Pennhurst, when in reality they were children, teenagers, and even adults with names and families, and they deserve to have their names remembered.
Those with graves dating to 1918, regardless their cause of death, all died in a very brief period; all in mid- to late-October (roughly between October 12th and the 29th). This concentrated period of elevated infection and death correlates to that In Philadelphia, the nearest major city to Pennhurst, where the worst of the epidemic took place over five weeks, between September and the beginning of November. The question remains though: the residents in Pennhurst were there to be kept from the general population, to be kept in a world apart; how did the disease reach them? Though I lack the source materials to support this assumption, I do suspect that the most likely explanation is that the staff who ran the institution, but who did not live there, brought the influenza virus into work with them, thus infecting residents. Though they might not have been afflicted by the disease, they acted as unwitting carriers of contagion.
Something else worthy of note, is that prior to 1918 no deceased resident at Pennhurst was buried on the property. Indeed, the cemetery that exists now with forty markers originates from 1918. Gregory Pirmann, a former employee at Pennhurst and activist in preserving its history and the memory of those who lived there, explained that when someone died at Pennhurst but had no next of kin, the institution was responsible for arranging the burial and usually did so elsewhere. However, in the cases of the twenty-four who died in 1918, he suspects that the sheer volume of deaths and fear of further spreading the epidemic by returning the deceased’s remains to their various counties of origins forced the administration to create the cemetery. Dr. James Conroy, co-president of the Pennhurst Memorial & Preservation Alliance, shared Pirmann’s assessment, “The bodies of folks who died were returned to the county from which they came. However – during the epidemic, it seems, the counties refused to accept the bodies.” This then required Pennhurst to allocate land to bury the deceased on the property.
Although Pennhurst was meant to be a world apart, the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 found its way into the institution's walls. The epidemic thus impacted Pennhurst so severely, despite its separation from society, that the institution's management was forced to alter their policies on handling the remains of those who died in the institution, adding yet another layer of tragedy onto the lives of the men and women who were sequestered there.
Hello again, welcome back!
If you scroll down to the previous post you will see it has been more than two years since my last blog post. Much has happened in that gap, and in the interest of reviving this blog it seems fitting to provide some context.
In the interim, I wrote, revised, defended, and passed my Master's Thesis, ultimately completing my time in Temple University's Public History Graduate Program. The title is "Queering Significance: What Preservationists Can Learn From How LGBTQ+ Philadelphians Ascribe Significance to History Sites." My thesis explores the ways in which LGBTQ+ individuals in Philadelphia ascribe significance to various places based on oral history interviews and additional primary source material collected initially for the National Park Service Northeast Regional Office’s LGBTQ+ Heritage Initiative. By examining stories from LGBTQ+ individuals of places that matter most to them in Philadelphia, this thesis argues that historic preservationists can expand their definition of significance to include personal testimony and broaden their practices to better engage the communities whose histories they seek to preserve. Should you be interested in reading more about this, my thesis is available through the Temple University Library [here].
For six months after graduation in May of 2018 I did what post-grads usually do: I applied for jobs and networked, along with some summertime adventures to keep myself sane. I have since returned home to Reading, Pennsylvania to see how my skills could benefit my community, and in doing so I became more active in my church community. Sometime in the not-too-distant future I'll be undertaking a digitization project to ease accessibility to the church's records (financial, foundation, and whatever other documents the governing body deems important).
Most excitingly, back in October I accepted a position with the Organization of American Historian's Public History program as their Public History Program Associate. I serve on a contractual basis as a manager for projects organized as part of the OAH's partnership with the National Park Service. I am the first point of contact for researchers on more than twenty projects, which range from administrative histories of parks to special history studies which contribute to the narratives interpreted at different parks and sites. Alongside Paul Zwirecki, the OAH Public History Program Manager, I contact and contract researchers for these studies, and manage the projects' schedules and monitor their budgets. It is a fast-paced and thrilling experience, and I've had the pleasure of meeting many of the field's outstanding public historians.
This photo comes from a visit to Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland; specifically their Misty Mount Camp, the first camp completed in the park in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration. I visited here with OAH in October 2018 as part of a project startup/site visit for an administrative history of the park!
Although I don't have an abundance of time to dedicate to new research of my own, there are some important stories I've uncovered in the past year or so that I want to share with you here. To that end, I aim to post here more often. So welcome back, and I look forward to some thoughtful comments here in the near future.
In 1997, The Gay and Lesbian Archives (GALA) was founded to combat the systematic erasure of queer stories from official archives, histories, and elsewhere in South Africa. Now, in 2017, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (still under the acronym GALA) celebrates its 20th Anniversary, and part of this celebration comes in the form of their exhibit, “Out of the Box.” This exhibition presents to visitors the stories, objects, and people preserved in GALA’s collections. The archives currently contain more than 200 collections, many of which go back as far as the 1940s. All of these materials are preserved in accordance with the archives’ mission, “to act as a catalyst for the production, preservation and dissemination of knowledge on the history, culture and contemporary experiences of LGBTIQ people.”
Their collections include materials relating to cultural organizations and events like the Out in Africa Festival, they hold a large collection of news items, as well as a collection of oral histories. These oral histories seek, “to flesh out our white-dominated, male-dominated recorded history with the roles and stories of black, female and trans activists, as well as the everyday lives and experiences of queer black South Africans.”
Among the questions I have about GALA is how they appraise materials donated to them. The only indication on their website is to call them and speak with them, but that they are happy to take, “that box of letters you saved not quite knowing why.” Their appraisal practices and organization of their collections interest me because I understand that there are differences in archival practice internationally. Their Archival Guide is available online via pdf for those who wish to examine their collections before a visit. In reading through it myself, I saw the names of their collections, which are further described but only at the collection level, which includes the number of boxes or folders. This is an excellent resource for those who would seek to use their materials. One of the questions that remains for me, having read their Archival Guide, is how they address original order, and the other processes that precede a finalized finding aid or Archival Guide. In all, GALA is a fascinating repository that does much to give back to its community outside what I have described here, and should my blog somehow find South African readers interested in LGBTIQ history, you should visit.
 Linda Chernis, “Out of the Box: A Glimpse Into 20 Years of Queer Archiving,” Huffington Post, November 20th, 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.co.za/linda-chernis/out-the-box-a-glimpse-into-20-years-of-queer-archiving_a_23280655/. (Accessed 12/1/17).
 Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, “Donate Your Records,” Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, http://www.gala.co.za/archives_research/collections.htm. (Accessed 12/1/2017).
 Anthony Manion, Graeme Reid, et al., Guide to the Archival Collections of Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action (updated 2017).
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) is now searching for fellows to conduct research based on the stored data available through their Indigenous Digital Archive (IDA). The IDA emerged last year, funded by national grants, and contains materials from around the country with a specific focus on New Mexico’s Indian boarding schools, and water and land claims from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries. Applications for these research fellowships were due November 11th, and by the time research commences in March, the MIAC intends to have IDA fully operational. The research fellowships exist primarily to jump-start the use of the museum’s collections, and furthermore to encourage others to do so as well. Their hope is that when others see the knowledge being produced through the records available through the Indigenous Digital Archive, they will be encouraged to follow suit. This strikes me as a fascinating form of outreach. Instead of telling folks what is available in their collections, the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is funding researchers to show what is possible.
This is only the latest step in outreach that the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture has taken. The IDA itself originated to meet the needs of those who wanted to access the museum’s records but could not travel to them in order to do so. A few years ago when Della Warrior first became the MIAC’s director, she met with roughly 100 representatives from New Mexico’s many tribal communities in an effort to learn how the MIAC could better serve them. The general response called for easier access to materials, which culminated in the IDA. The IDA itself will start by publishing 150 linear feet of government microfilmed records, which equates to roughly 270,000 pages from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the U.S. National Archives.
I wrote before about Arizona State University’s efforts to use their holdings to tell the state’s diverse histories. Theirs was one story of outreach that I felt held potential. I would say the work being done at MIAC, led by Della Warrior, is an exceptional example of archival outreach. Their Indigenous Digital Archive was created to accommodate public demand and to increase accessibility, and to further increase the usage of their digitized records the MIAC is funding research fellows to show the tribal communities across New Mexico the possibilities waiting for them. These research fellows can conduct genealogical research into their families or create projects that “amplify the information in the indigenous documents.” The work being done at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture strikes me as exemplary, and I strongly agree with Director Della Warrior’s expectations for their collections newfound accessibility; “It’s going to be like a gold mine.”
 Megan Bennett, “’A Gold Mine’ of Native Documents,” Albuquerque Journal, November 10th, 2017. https://www.abqjournal.com/1090776/a-gold-mine-of-native-documents.html. (Accessed, 12/1/17).
If you walk the area around the Independence Seaport Museum, you will find historical plaques, monuments, and other testaments to memory. In Spruce Street Harbor Park is the monument to Christopher Columbus which was built in 1992 to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of his 1492 voyage. The monument calls him a cartographer, mathematician, charismatic leader, and naturalist among other things. These titles then, impose on the visitor a perception of Columbus that deviates from a more objective reality of who he was.
Across the street from Spruce Street Harbor Park are larger monuments to veterans of the Vietnam and Korean Wars, and the conflict in Beirut. These were all constructed after 1980, long after the area where they now stand was razed of its homes to make room for Interstate 95. These military monuments are meant to honor those who died in service to our country, but they also seem to honor those responsible for funding its creation, as their names, too, are carved into the polished granite. This, for me, left me feeling somewhat confused. Certainly, those who donated to this cause deserve praise for their patriotism, but what does it say that we place their names adjacent to those who fought in a brutal war a world away?
Memory is an interesting and fickle thing. The title of this post is inspired by John Green’s popular novel, An Abundance of Katherines, in which Green succinctly expresses just how impressionable memory is. He writes, “And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” Green does not write this with memorials and monuments in mind, but the point does indeed transfer to mnemonic infrastructure. Penn’s Landing, Spruce Street Harbor Park, and the immediately surrounding area are packed full of memorials and monuments, which creates an environment that shapes the way visitors remember the history these monuments seek to commemorate. These monuments do not, and perhaps cannot, express the full historical reality surrounding things like the Columbian conquest or the Vietnam and Korean Wars, but the narratives they do tell by their very presence and design influence viewers own memory and understanding of those histories. Their memory, thus, crystalizes as historical fact. This becomes particularly dangerous when thinking of difficult histories, like those of slavery and racism, gender, sexual orientation, disabilities and mental illness, among others. The physical landscapes we build to enforce certain historical narratives in collective memory have real implications for the present, and given the current climate, perhaps it is time to start building an environment that challenges this status quo.
 John Green, An Abundance of Katherines (Speak, 2006): p. 207.
Late in the night of December 22, 2002, Nizah Morris, a Philadelphian trans woman, was found at 16th and Walnut streets injured and unconscious. She later died from blunt-force head trauma at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. In the wake of her death came a maelstrom of controversy and scrutiny aimed at the Philadelphia Police that had offered Morris a courtesy ride to the hospital earlier that night due to her intoxication, but who left her at the corner of 13th and Walnut, three blocks from where she was later found suffering from a serious headwound. But what does this have to do with archives?
In the years following Morris’s death, which the police department deemed an accident despite an alternative decision from the coroner (which labeled the case a homicide), questions abounded regarding the police’s choice to leave Morris for a traffic stop, particularly when Morris needed medical attention. In 2009 and 2013 Philadelphia Gay News presented the District Attorney’s office with the dispatch records for the officer’s traffic stop. The formats between these records differed, but in 2015 the D.A.’s stated that it had destroyed the original copy of the 2009 record following its records-retention policy. Last month, however, the D.A.’s office came forward saying they discovered the original record after all, though did not explain the circumstances of its discovery.
When we discussed retention schedules a few weeks ago, we addressed the potential legal issues surrounding records destruction. In reading this story, considering the circumstances surrounding this particular record which was related to a suspicious death closely tied to the city’s police department, the idea that the District Attorney’s office would destroy a related document strikes me as profoundly unethical. Additionally suspicious, is the fact that they rediscovered this record two years later amid the continued scrutiny regarding this case. The District Attorney’s office is no archives, but it is a government body with a retention schedule that should account for situations like this. The mishandling of records like this really only enables the perpetuation of systemic violence against trans women of color like Nizah Morris.
 Tim Cwiek, “D.A.’s Office Finds ‘Destroyed’ Morris Record,” Philadelphia Gay News, November 15, 2017, http://www.epgn.com/news/local/12778-d-a-s-office-finds-destroyed-morris-record. Accessed 11/16/17.
In efforts to develop and expand their archival collections, Arizona State University is reaching out to their community for help. ASU wants to use their holdings to tell the state’s diverse history through the stories of community members, and a sizable grant has recently made this objective more achievable. This grant allows the ASU Archives to conduct free workshops over the next three years, providing them an opportunity to connect with their communities and show them how to care for their fragile items that help them tell their stories. The Arizona State University Archives especially wants to connect with local Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, and LGBTQ+ individuals in preserving and sharing their individual stories, which together contribute to the state’s larger historical narrative. The ASU Archives will help digitize materials and teach participants how to interview relatives and other community members, all of whom have their own stories.
In class this week, two of our main topics were advocacy and outreach, and one of the questions we raised was how to advocate for this kind of work in communities whose experiences do not reflect the largely white and middle-class experience most often reflected in archives? We all agree that these underrepresented populations’ experiences need to be preserved and shared, but how do we reach them and advocate for them to do so? Archives like the one at Arizona State University provide possible answers. Granted, how they plan to garner audiences for these workshops is not explicitly stated in this article, but considering they have the funding to conduct such workshops for the next few years, they certainly have time to develop an effective methodology. I hope that once they determine an effective formula for community engagement they will share that information with other archives who share their ambitions, but lack their economic support.
 Allison Rodriguez, “Arizona State University looking to expand community archives,” ABC 15 News, November 2, 2017. http://www.abc15.com/news/region-southeast-valley/tempe/arizona-state-university-looking-to-expand-community-archives.
In Material Culture last week, we spent our class period aboard the Cruiser Olympia, a late 19th Century warship most famous for leading Admiral Dewey's "Great White Fleet" through the Battle of Manila Bay. During our tour of the Olympia, I found an interesting artifact in the open section of the ship inhabited by the sailors. A piano. A plaque on the piano states that after the victorious Battle of Manila Bay in 1898, sailors celebrated their victory through song. What is particularly fascinating, however, is that this piano was neither present for the battle, nor originally found in that room when the Independence Seaport Museum accessioned the ship decades ago. The piano was found in the wardroom, where the ship's officers would meet. Furthermore, the piano's design is more accurately representative of a piano built in the 1920s. The wardroom of the Olympia is stylistically Victorian; a product of its time between the late Industrial Revolution and the Victorian Era. If the piano itself were to reflect this, it would be more ornate, like the wardroom itself.
Despite these facts, there remains the possibility that the piano is originally from the late 1800s, and was simply altered after the fact leaving its appearance as it is. There also remains the fact that these sailors did have access to a piano after the Battle of Manila Bay and celebrated musically. It is also worth mentioning, that not far from the piano's current location is the ship's original band room. All of this together provides a largely untold aspect of military life at sea. As part of their Cruiser Olympia exhibit inside the Independence Seaport Museum itself, they interpreted the story of a musician who played trombone. Perhaps between these two objects, and whatever other related objects they have in their archives, the Independence Seaport Museum could design an exhibit about what music meant to sailors aboard the Olympia throughout its life (from the late 19th Century and well into the 20th).
I would love to see this piano transformed into an immersive exhibit experience. They could plug period appropriate piano music in to set the scene for visitors, and in conjunction there could be panels with examples of the music that sailors would play or sing along to in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Given this piano's "original" location in the wardroom, this exhibit could also be divided spatially, with classical music playing in the wardroom where the higher class officers would meet, and more popular sailor tunes playing in their public space where the piano is today. Finally, because many of the exhibition panels on the Olympia already share first person stories from sailors, I think it would be a great idea to share their stories regarding their musical experiences on the ship. With all of this in mind, I think the Independence Seaport Museum could craft an immersive experience that shows an auditory shift between the "classes" aboard around the turn of the 20th Century, and tell a more personal, social historical narrative into the lives of those who sailed aboard the Olympia.