This week’s readings all discuss tackling difficult histories, whether in historic preservation, museum exhibition, or some combination of the two. Ken Yellis asserts that the responsibility of museums like the Smithsonian Institution is to stand fast in their intellectual convictions and present complicated interpretations in their exhibitions to encourage public discourse rather than idle informational acceptance in his article, “Examining the Social Responsibility of Museums in a Changing World.” In Robert Weyeneth’s article “The Architecture of Racial Segregation: The Challenges of Preserving the Problematical Past,” he tackles the architectural legacy of segregation in American history, as well as whether, and how, we should preserve these physical remnants of a significant and traumatic part of our past. Finally, Seth Bruggeman takes from both of these authors in assessing the Cruiser Olympia’s difficult history as a harbinger of American imperialism and its current status as both a preserved architectural form on the Delaware River, and an exhibit at the Independence Seaport Museum.
In his article “Examining the Social Responsibility of Museums in a Changing World,” Ken Yellis reflects on his 2009 article, “Fred Wilson, PTSD, and Me: Reflections on the history Wars,” and the subject on which it was written: telling difficult stories in museum exhibits that he public may react to in unanticipated ways. His previous article addressed the backlash towards the exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bombings over Hiroshima, backlash which so stunned the museum world that, in Yellis’s words, “Most of us seemed to have decided to avoid bar fights by staying out of bars.” In retrospect however, Yellis asserts that museums are better off attacked than ignored, for if they do not take risks and demonstrate their necessity, who will care? He argues that “the museum field needs to be clearer about what we think we are doing when we make an exhibit. If we were, we could embrace these fights as opportunities to spend our prestige on something worth buying: a firmer public understanding of our work and why it matters.”
Robert Weyeneth further embraces this attitude of tackling these difficult but important histories head-on in his article “The Architecture of Racial Segregation: The Challenges of Preserving the Problematical Past.” The premise of his article is that segregation was not only a political, legal, and social institution, but also a spatial system whereby African Americans and Whites were kept separate. He identifies two primary way the races were separated spatially, isolation and partitioning. In the final section of his article, however, he asks whether any of the remaining examples of the architecture of racial segregation should be preserved due to their connection to this problematic but important period in our history. He argues that, while “no African American alive wishes to return to the era … many would like their children and grandchildren to understand it.” The main challenges we face, then, in considering preserving these spaces are those of disappearance, invisibility, and selectivity. Many of this period’s remnants are gone, those that remain can be difficult to recognize, and we as preservationists are prone to favor places that “articulate optimistic and ennobling narratives.” Ultimately, Weyeneth asserts that, despite how painful this history is, “Preserving the architecture of racial segregation in all its forms can be a way to facilitate public education, understanding about modern race relations, and social tolerance.”
The two previous articles reflect both on the responsibilities of preservationists and museum officials to challenge the public by presenting them with educational interpretations of difficult histories, and Seth Bruggeman seems to combine both of these in his article on the Cruiser Olympia which resides just beyond our classroom at the Independence Seaport. The Olympia, which itself has a complicated history as the “birthplace of modern American imperialism,” is both an architectural wonder as the world’s oldest floating steel warship and the last remnant of the United States’ first steel navy, and an exhibit to be explored by those who visit the Independence Seaport Museum during trips to Philadelphia. Bruggeman argues that by exposing the Olympia’s preservationist history, we can better understand modern nationalism and engage less privileged audiences. He ultimately concludes by saying that, whereas clinging to the Olympia’s story of American power failed to resonate for decades, determining how the ship’s story resonates with those who never benefited after World War II, who do not celebrate militant masculinity, or worship American military might, could very well provide the ship with a profitable future.
The bottom line in each of these articles, is that public historians have a responsibility to embrace difficult histories and present them to a public that can only benefit from their presentation or preservation. Whether it be the exhibition commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the preservation of a building constructed under segregationist policy, or the reinterpretation of the Cruiser Olympia, each of these stories, arguably now more than ever, needs to be heard, discussed, and learned from if we are to truly understand the fullness of our American history.
 Ken Yellis, “Examining the Social Responsibility of Museums in a Changing World, Artes Magazine (November 13, 2011), http://www.artesmagazine.com/?p=7046.
 Robert Weyeneth, “The Architecture of Racial Segregation: The Challenges of Preserving the Problematical Past,” The Public Historian 27 (Fall 2005): p. 12.
 Ibid, p. 37.
 Ibid, p. 40.
 Ibid, p. 44.
 Seth Bruggeman, “’Save the Olympia!’: Veterans and the Preservation of Dewey’s Flagship in Twentieth-Century Philadelphia,” p. 1.
 Ibid, p. 34.
While perusing the Google forum on “Archives in the News,” there was one article that struck me. On October 16th, an article connected to Pittsburgh’s 90.5 WESA radio station reported that a group based in the city dedicated itself towards digitizing the works of 19th Century Cardinal John Henry Newman. Archivists in Birmingham, England had worked on this project for four years, taking high-quality images of John Henry Newman’s unpublished writings on theology, education, and philosophy. This alone was only the first part of the project, which was completed recently. The next part of the project involves uploading nearly thirty terabytes of information to the website being operated by this Pittsburgh-based group, called the National Institute for Newman Studies. The Institute itself was founded in 2007 after the founder of the national Newman Association of America died in 2000, leaving behind a sizable number of Newman’s works. Since its founding, this article reports that scholars from around the world visit the center to study their collections. Most recently, the National Institute for Newman Studies launched the Scholars Common, a platform where researchers can access Newman’s published works, letters, and diaries among other materials. When this project is completed, meaning when all of Newman’s works have been digitized and made available via this platform, scholars anywhere will be able to access these collections without having to travel to Pittsburgh, PA.
The reason this article caught my attention, was because it reminded me so much of Roberto Busa, an Italian Jesuit priest credited with creating the Index Thomisticus for roughly thirty years, between the 1940s and 1970s. Though Busa was the mastermind behind this project, which was an early form of computational linguistics and an inspiration to the modern field of Digital Humanities, the project’s work was in fact conducted by Italian women, hired from surrounding areas. Furthermore, the Index Thomisticus was digitized on the internet in 2005, adding yet another parallel between the two projects. It is fascinating to me, how roughly seventy years after the Index Thomisticus project began, a similar project about a religious scholar is being conducted primarily through digital media in Pittsburgh.
 Sarah Schneider, “A Pittsburgh Group Dedicated to a 19th Century Cardinal Digitized His Life’s Work,” 90.5 WESA: Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station, October 16, 2017. http://wesa.fm/post/pittsburgh-group-dedicated-19th-century-cardinal-digitized-his-lifes-work#stream/0. (Accessed 10/26/17).
 Melissa Terras, entry on “For Ada Lovelace Day – Father Busa’s Female Punch Card Operatives,” Melissa Terras’ Blog, entry posted October 15th, 2013, http://melissaterras.blogspot.com/2013/10/for-ada-lovelace-day-father-busas.html (Accessed 10/26/17).
This week’s readings address themes like sense of place and what "commodity” means. Igor Kopytoff’s piece, “The Cultural Biography of Things,” addresses this notion of commodification by assessing the historical commodification of people through slavery. Dell Upton’s article “White and Black Landscapes in Eighteenth Century Virginia” also discusses slavery, but focuses on the relationships of place between Virginian slaves and their owners in the 18th Century. Also considering a sense of place is John Brinckerhoff Jackson in his book A Sense of Place, A Sense of Time, in which he questions how we as Americans can find any sense of place in cities that look so much alike. Finally, we were assigned a section from John Stilgoe’s book, Alongshore, in which he describes the seashore as a place through various terms that have described it over the centuries, and what these tell us about the coast as a marginal space between sea and landscape. For the purposes of this blog post, however, I will focus exclusively on the works by Kopytoff and Stilgoe.
In his chapter “The Cultural Biography of Things,” Igor Kopytoff describes how people can undergo a process of commodification by which they become things in becoming slaves. What I found interesting in this section, however, was his idea of writing biographies for objects. This struck me, because this is what my classmates and I are doing with our own objects. We are not simply researching their history as representatives of similar things, we are devising full-fledged biographies from birth (manufacture) to interment (accession to the Independence Seaport Museum). Kopytoff poses several questions to ask in writing such a biography, some of which I have already broached in studying my eel fyke net. He asks, for example, “Where does the thing come from, and who made it? What has been its career so far, and what do people consider to be an ideal career for such things? What are the recognized “ages” or periods in the thing’s “life,” and what are the cultural markers for them? How does the thing’s use change with its age, and what happens to it when it reaches the end of its usefulness?” I will not spoil anything by answering these questions of my fyke net now (such answers will be available within a week), but I consider these substantive and practical questions that we as historians can ask of the objects we study as sources.
Truth be told, of the readings for this week, I connected most with Stilgoe’s Alongshore, in which he analyzes what it means to exist within the strange marginal space that is the coast between ocean and land. To substantiate this assessment of the coast as “strange,” he references the half-naked beach-goers who lie carefree next to strangers for hours on the sand, and how it is a place where children are free to play within the reach of wild animals that could harm them (he names jellyfish). I remain compelled by Stilgoe’s descriptive language regarding the margin, the coast, as this kind of spatial in-between rarely considered its own area, because for many of us our own objects were created as a means for this area’s populace to survive and thrive. From this marshy, estuarial wonderland come strangely shaped nets, shallow boats that hide amid the reeds, and wooden ducks that lure unsuspecting prey to land. What other space than the marshes around rivers, and the coastlands could inspire these creations?
 Igor Kopytoff, “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as a Process,” in The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective ed. Arjun Appadurai (Cambridge University Press, 1986): pp. 66-67.
 John R. Stilgoe, Alongshore (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994): p. 10.
The readings for this week revolve around the similarities and differences between records management and archives and how the two professions can work together. Sue Myburgh’s 2005 piece, “Records Management and Archives: Finding Common Ground,” efficiently summarizes the differences between these two professions. She writes that these similarities include that both: must determine which documents or records they will manage, must maintain their records’ physical and intellectual integrity, and must describe and arrange their records and provide context as well as access. A key difference is that where archives are political (in the sense that they preserve what records they choose for a reason, and even how the records are organized implies a stance) records management maintains their records for the governing organization’s productivity and efficiency.
The most interesting point of comparison to me, however, is how archives and records management determine what records to keep and what to discard or deaccession. Here emerges the continuum theory which Myburgh also addresses in her article. The continuum model, “emphasizes that as records end up in archives, records managers should have equal social responsibilities in deciding what is captured and preserved for posterity.” In other words, it encourages records managers and archivists to collaborate at critical junctures along this continuum, particularly when records are created and when they are to be discarded. In examining the other websites that Prof. Sly assigned for this week, I was fascinated by the plans records managers establish for when to discard certain records; something that is established temporally. For example, the Better Business Bureau has a record retention schedule, and states that records like accident reports and claims, expense analyses and distribution schedules, and subsidiary ledgers need only be retained for seven years. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission has a similar set of retention and disposition schedules for County and Municipal Governments. From the County retention and disposition schedule, I learned that records like deeds to county-owned property must be retained permanently for “administrative, legal and historical reasons.” Alternatively, some election records, like absentee ballot records, need only be retained for two years. What I remain curious about, is how records managers determine what length of time a series of records need to be retained, and how archivists determine at what point they need to review their collections for potential deaccessions.
 Sue Myburgh, “Records Management and Archives: Finding Common Ground,” The Information Journal (March/April, 2005): p. 25.
 Ibid, p. 26.
 Better Business Bureau, “Records Retention Schedule,” https://www.bbb.org/storage/0/Shared%20Documents/secure%20your%20id%20day/bbb%20records%20retention%20schedule.pdf. Accessed 10/20/17.
 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Bureau of the State Archives Harrisburg, “Administrative and Legal Records,” in County Records Manual, 2002 Edition. (Updated April 2017): p. 2
 Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the Bureau of the State Archives Harrisburg, “Election Records,” in County Records Manual, 2002 Edition. (Updated April 2017): p. 1.
The themes for this week’s readings are preservation and disaster planning. The timing for these readings seems particularly apt, given the ongoing recovery efforts in areas assaulted by hurricanes in the past few weeks. It is with archives in those regions in mind that I read the texts for this week, and focused particularly on archival disaster planning, and on permanence as expanded upon in James O’Toole’s article, “On the Idea of Permanence.”
In reading the Northeast Document Conservation Center’s (NEDCC) resource on disaster planning, I found their template for developing such a plan useful. It is particularly useful, because when one goes to create a disaster plan this template provides a six-step set of directions on what to focus on and in what order. First an archives should state the lines of authority and kinds of disasters the plan accounts for, followed by what actions should be taken if advanced warning of an impending disaster is available. Third, an archives needs to figure out who the repository’s first responders should be depending on the emergency, the steps to be taken, and how staff will be notified. Fourth, one needs to outline the emergency procedures to be taken for each kind of disaster and emergency to be accounted for in the plan, including what should be done during the event, and what the procedures are for salvaging materials after the scene is safe. This step should also include a floor plan of the repository. The next step is how to get the institution back to typical operating order, and finally, one should include appendices of contact information for staff, floor and evacuation plans, emergency contacts, etc.
Fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and manmade emergencies all have the potential to harm a repository and its collections, and these various disasters have increased probability depending on where the archives is located. The NEDCC provides an excellent guide on how to account for and attempt to prevent extensive damage to archival collections, but one cannot consider how to protect archival collections without acknowledging their material mortality. It is this mortality that James O’Toole addresses in his article, “On the Idea of Permanence,” in which he outlines the history of how humankind has considered the “permanence” of their records, and supplies his own suggestions on how to deal with “permanence.” O’Toole concludes, saying that the idea of permanence has changed considerably among archivists over centuries, which raises questions about the concept’s utility. It is worth clarifying that a material’s permanence refers to its continued existence in its original form, meaning that microfilmed or digitally scanned and reproductions detract value from the material. O’Toole’s article serves as a call to archivists to consider to what lengths they will go and what money they will spend to extend the lives of their materials, and how they can protect them. It is also a call to remember that, although we would like our materials to be undying vestiges of the past, this is not inherently true.
These readings all address protecting historical materials already held within archival collections, but as I read these I found myself wondering about those collections happened upon after they are already degraded by poor housing, mold, water damage. Restoration can certainly only go so far, and the physical original materials may need to be discarded, but if the content from these records can still be saved, ought archivists not still accession and guard that history? What inherent value is lost in excising the information from the original format? How does one determine the collection’s value prior to deciding whether to save the information without the physical original? If the original physical copies waste away, does the documentation and preservation of their content, prior to their disposal, carry equal value? Does it afford such collections a kind of afterlife?
 Ben Lindblom Patkus and Karen Motylewski, “Emergency Management: Disaster Planning,“ Northeast Document Conservation Center, 1993. https://www.nedcc.org/free-resources/preservation-leaflets/3.-emergency-management/3.3-disaster-planning. Accessed 10/12/17.
 James O’Toole, “On the Idea of Permanence,” American Archivist, Vol. 52, No. 1 (Winter, 1989): p. 23.
For my archives post this week, I have decided to, once again, discuss the relations between archives and law. I found an interesting article from Columbia Journalism Review which discusses the legality or illegality of President Trump deleting his tweets. Author Jon Allsop clarifies this question, first, by redirecting it. Allsop states that the issue is not whether the President deletes his tweets, but rather whether he is keeping copies per the 1978 Presidential Records Act; an act passed after Watergate. The best way of doing this would be going through the National Archives, which keeps and organizes federal records.
Allsop directly addresses those wondering whether the President deleting his tweets could lead to his impeachment, saying, “Almost certainly not.” Between the legal ambiguity of the situation, and the White House asserting that they are archiving his tweets, he argues that it is highly improbable that any serious legal ramifications will arise. Simultaneously, Allsop also remarks that this is no reason to stop thinking about this. According to him, the National Security Archives “is suing the Trump Administration over broader breaches of records laws,” outside of Twitter. Furthermore, the Knights First Amendment Institute at Columbia University reported on September 27th, that the White House will not contest its claim that, “Trump has blocked users for criticizing the president and his policies,” something they view as a restriction of the public's exercising their First Amendment Right to free speech. Finally, erasing tweets and attempting to alter the historical record his own presidency is a bad idea generally.
All in all, this article provided an interesting perspective on something I have seen people on social media discussing for some time now. Based on what I read here, I do not expect anything to come of it anytime soon, but I look forward to seeing how archivists continue to document and record the events around this administration as time goes forward.
 Jon Allsop, “Seven Legal Questions about Trump Deleting his Tweets,” Columbia Journalism Review, September 29, 2017. https://www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump_delete_tweets_twitter.php. Accessed 10/5/17.