Friday, January 30, 2009

Nixon Archives and Enemies List

Nixon archives shed light on his campaign to investigate enemies
Meghan Lee, archivist at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace, holds some of the Jeb Stuart Magruder papers recently added to the library's holdings. The library also released about 198 hours of tapes from the Nixon White House dating to November and December 1972 and consisting of nearly 1,400 conversations.

In a recent LA Times article, Christopher Goffard writes about the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum's holdings, some of which involve the creation of the president's infamous enemies list.

As part of a release of archival tapes and documents Monday, the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum revealed fresh records that reflect the 37th president's heated campaign to investigate, intimidate and smear political rivals and opponents of the Vietnam War.

Among the documents is a handwritten note from Nixon's top aide, H.R. Haldeman, on June 23, 1971, which may shed light on the origins of Nixon's infamous "enemies list." In the note, Haldeman records Nixon's order to bring the weight of the IRS down on attorney and former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, who had been critical of Nixon's Vietnam policy, and on the antiwar movement.

"Pull Clark Clifford & top supporters of doves," Haldeman writes. "Full list . . . full field audit."

In the next paragraph, Haldeman reminds himself to take action against "TK," believed to be Sen. Ted Kennedy. Haldeman writes: "Get him -- compromising situation . . . Get evidence -- use another Dem as front."

Read Nixon archives shed light on his campaign to investigate enemies

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Flowing Data

Britain From Above

Recently, my brother sent me a link to Flowing Data, a website that "explores how designers, statisticians, and computer scientists are using data to understand ourselves better - mainly through data visualization."

There I learned about Britain from Above, a BBC series which displays the routes of taxis, airplanes, telephone, and Internet traffic. Flowing Data chose it as the best data visualization project of the year.

Read 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Postmodernism and the Archives

Jacques Derrida

Members of my archives class were discussing postmodernism recently. Postmodernists believe in the subjective nature of the world and, more specifically, the subjective nature of written documents. In Understanding Archives and Manuscripts, O’Toole and Cox assert that, in the literary world, “we can be more definite about things” (4). Moreover, they claim that with the advent of writing, “knowledge can be objective rather than subjective, acquiring an existence of its own, apart from the knower” (5). Not everyone in the class agreed with these statements.

The idea of postmodernism and the archives led to discovering Thomas Bartlett’s article, "Archive Fever." It discusses the battle over Jacques Derrida’s papers between his family and the University of California at Irvine. Postmodernist or not, every archives needs a clear, specific deed of gift!

In his final interview, given to the French newspaper Le Monde in the spring of 2004, Jacques Derrida spoke of death and writing: "I leave a piece of paper behind, I go away, I die: It is impossible to escape this structure, it is the unchanging form of my life." He worried that everything he wrote would simply disappear after he was gone.

"Who is going to inherit, and how?" he wondered. "Will there even be any heirs?"

It was a strange anxiety for a man whose role as a pioneer of literary theory brought him international fame. Best known as the father of deconstruction, a playfully aggressive method of analyzing texts, Derrida was also keenly interested in what people leave behind, and how it is stored and remembered. He even devoted one of his many books — Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, published in 1996 — to the subject.

And the philosopher himself left behind a lot. Along with his intellectual legacy, a voluminous paper trail of Derrida's thought remains. Most of those papers — 116 boxes and 10 oversized folders taking up 47.8 linear feet — are housed at the University of California at Irvine. Derrida, who held a professorship at Irvine, had, more than a decade before his death in 2004, chosen the university's library as the final resting place for his manuscripts. But there are more papers that remain in the office and attic of his house outside Paris, including his later writings, letters to colleagues, books from his personal library, and so on.

Last fall the university sued Derrida's widow and his children after they refused to turn over the remainder of his papers. It was a startling move, considering the almost casual way in which the deal was struck: Neither Derrida's initial gift of his papers to Irvine, nor an amended version of it, was witnessed by a lawyer or notary public. The dispute between Derrida's heirs and the university had gone on in secret for more than two years. The lawsuit brought it into the open and, at the same time, infuriated scholars who were close to him.

It was a decision that may have ended up doing more damage to the university than did the loss of Derrida's remaining papers. While decades of his thought have been exhaustively documented, what exactly he intended to give to the university remains unclear. That has left the heirs he longed for to squabble over larger questions about the nature of archives — and the slipperiness of language — that Derrida himself might have pondered.

Continue reading "Archive Fever"

Review of Information Literacy Programs in the Digital Age: Educating College and University Students Online

Information Literacy Programs in the Digital Age: Educating College and University Students Online

My review of Information Literacy Programs in the Digital Age: Educating College and University Students Online. Compiled by Alice Daugherty and Michael F. Russo (Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2007).
Published in Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35(1) January 2009.

In Information Literacy Programs in the Digital Age: Educating College and University Students Online, Louisiana State University information literacy librarians Alice Daugherty and Michael F. Russo solicit academic librarians to describe the emergence, implementation, and appraisal of their online bibliographic instruction programs. The resulting twenty-four case studies of for-credit courses, discipline-integrated classes, and general and subject-specific tutorials serve as a resource for institutions with Web-based instruction, as well as those considering initiating programs.

Academic librarians are challenged with teaching basic information seeking skills to students who are writing college-level research papers, navigating academic libraries, and taking online classes for the first time and must consider that personality traits shape students’ reactions to Web-based pedagogy. Those who enjoy personal interactions feel more comfortable in the real-time classroom, while others with self-discipline and independence thrive in asynchronous, online environments. Programs should be crafted with the audience in mind: consider how the information needs and experience differ between on-campus undergraduates and distance education adults. Offering physical and digital options responds to a wider range of learning styles and better promotes library services.

Online information literacy programs enable collaborative teaching models and community building, especially because stakeholder support is vital to their success, because programs are shaped by institutional circumstances, mandates, and facilities. In “Online Information Literacy Course at UIS: Standing the Test of Time,” librarians Pamela M. Salela, Denise D. Green, and Julie Chapman write, “As our student population becomes increasingly diverse, as well as dispersed across time, space, and cultural perspectives, it will become increasingly important to devise ways of enabling community building in the online classroom” (70). This burgeoning environment develops dynamic relationships between librarians, IT staff, and faculty.

In “Sophisticated Simplicity in e-Learning: Online Instruction at UNC-Chapel Hill,” librarians Suchi Mohanty, Lisa Norberg, and Kim Vassiliadis discover three principles applicable to any online program: simplicity of design, focus on key issues, and reusable, scalable modules. Since content is updated continuously due to the constantly shifting information environment, the delivery system must be intuitive and flexible to respond to changes without reprogramming.

Online information literacy programs assist students in understanding the multifaceted, iterative nature of information retrieval and the strategies and competencies involved. Information searching is an intellectual process that remains similar despite institution, discipline, or academic level. Research universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges are well represented throughout the book, with the “Lessons Learned” section of each essay offering strategic planning advice unique to school and program types. In reading Information Literacy Programs in the Digital Age: Educating College and University Students Online, academic librarians will discover an institution and curriculum that fits their needs and receive essential counsel for developing and implementing a bibliographic instruction program that serves their students.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Understanding Archives and Manuscripts: Chapter 1 Summary

Understanding Archives & Manuscripts

The Society of American Archivists published the Archival Fundamentals series, which outlines essential archival concepts in an engaging, informative way. Understanding Archives and Manuscripts by Richard J. Cox and James M. O’Toole is the first in the series.

The first chapter discusses motives for creating records. Understanding these motives help place records in context, so archival functions of appraisal, arrangement, and description may be carried out. Motives include:

Economic: Records document how money is acquired, managed, and spent.

Legal: Records document the protection of rights, proof of ownership, etc.

Instrumental: Records serve specific functions, such as a blueprint assisting in construction.

Personal: Records document life events and memories, such as letters and diaries.

Social: Collective activities produce documents such as membership rosters and meeting minutes.

Symbolic: Records display cultural values. A diploma, for example, is more symbolic than practical.

O’Toole and Cox also discuss the characteristics of contemporary records:

Abundance: This means both ease of creation and ease of duplication. This is where More Product, Less Process comes into play.

Collective: Along with abundance is the emphasis on records and papers in the aggregate. Appraisal, arrangement, description, and even preservation and reference focus on groups of materials, not individual items.

Decentralized: Archivists no longer collect only the papers and records of the elite. History demands a more democratic approach to archival acquisition and preservation. But changes in record keeping practices and technology have altered how records are created and stored. The days of secretaries typing the letters and central storage files are over. People create their own documents and keep them on their own computers.

Interrelated: Government, corporate, and non-profit organizations are connected and interrelated. Archivists need to work with their colleagues as the records of any organization are likely to be spread among repositories.

Social Nature: The decentralized and interrelated nature of records creation and communication have emphasized the role they play in communication among people. O’Toole and Cox remind archivists to pay heed to the ways in which records represent social interaction and community building.

Shifting Usefulness: Records are created by individuals and organizations in the course of doing day-to-day business. They are used for the function for which they were created for a period of time. At some point they are no longer needed for that initial function, and archivists must decide if the records have enduring value for other reasons and use.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Black Ops and Material Culture

Don't Ask! NOYFB

Trevor Paglen, an artist, writer, and experimental geographer, wrote I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World.

Here's the book description:

They’re on the shoulder of all military personnel: patches that symbolize what a soldier’s unit does. But what happens if it’s top secret?

Shown here for the first time, these sixty patches reveal a secret world of military imagery and jargon, where classified projects are known by peculiar names (“Goat Suckers,” “None of Your Fucking Business,” “Tastes Like Chicken”) and illustrated with occult symbols and ridiculous cartoons. Although the actual projects represented here (such as the notorious Area 51) are classified, these patches—which are worn by military units working on classified missions—are precisely photographed, strangely hinting at a world about which little is known.

By submitting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, the author has also assembled an extensive and readable guide to the patches included here, making this volume one of the best available surveys of the military’s black world—a $27 billion industry that has quietly grown by almost 50 percent since 9/11.

Here's a three-part series where Paglen describes the patches (including the one above):

Black World - Black Projects

Black World - Symbology

Black World - The Culture

The third video discusses how the patches, representing confidential projects that cannot be discussed, serve as records of enduring value that can only be interpreted correctly by a select group. They reveal everything and nothing. I would love to accession these babies!

Read the New York Times article, Inside the Black Budget, which has more photos of the patches with explanations of their meaning.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Yale's Family and Community Archives Project

High school students

In the November/December 2008 issue of Archival Outlook, Nancy Lyon and Christine Weideman write about the Family and Community Archives Project (FCAP) jointly launched by Yale archivists from the Manuscripts and Archives Department and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The project introduced the archives profession to local highschool students by training them to be archivists for their own familes and communities.

What most impressed me was that they created lesson plans that explained archives in a simple, elegant way. Although I grew up with libraries and worked in them, I was only introduced to the archives as a graduate student in History. Outreach is needed to make the archives more accessible to those outside academia.

Explore the FCAP wiki of lesson plans, handouts, and resourses here.

The Society of American Archivists has also created an online resource, "Celebrating the American Record with Young People" here.

Review of Carl Larsson: An Annotated Bibliography

Carl Larsson: An Annotated Bibliography

My review of Carl Larsson: An Annotated Bibliography by Ann J. Topjon (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2008).
Published in College & Research Libraries, 70(1) January 2009.

Ann J. Topjon, Associate Professor and Librarian Emeritus at Whittier College, California, spent more than twenty years researching Swedish artist Carl Larsson. Topjon wrote exhibition catalog bibliographies for the 1992 retrospective in Stockholm and 1997’s “Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of the Swedish Style” in London and consulted Swedish archives, libraries, and museums to create Carl Larsson: An Annotated Bibliography, a well-researched guide to his life and work.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) is best known for his watercolors of domesticity and nature, which “represented the traditions of a peaceful and rural Swedish countryside as well as an uncomplicated existence, an idealized world” in the midst of the Industrial Revolution (vii). One benefit of this modern, mechanizing force was new color reproduction techniques in the 1890s, which brought his eight published albums of art and text into European homes. The German-published Das Haus in der Sonne (The House in the Sun), an amalgamation of three albums, became a 1909 bestseller and Larsson’s first international success.

Born into poverty, Larsson worked as a newspaper illustrator and photograph retoucher to support his family. He struggled at the Royal Art Academy in Stockholm and as an artist in Paris, dealing with depression and rejection from the art community, until he was finally recognized in the early 1880s. At Grèz-sur-Loing, a Scandinavian artists’ colony outside Paris, he painted breakthrough watercolors, abandoning his earlier oil painting style, and met his wife, artist Karin Bergöö (1859-1928). Larsson and Bergöö had eight children and inherited a house, Lilla Hyttnäs, in the small village of Sundborn in Dalarna, Sweden. Their lives and art have characterized the image of Sweden at home and abroad to this day.

Due to a rainy summer in 1894, making plein air painting impossible, Larsson’s energetic family life became the subject of his warm, bright watercolors of domestic comforts, epitomized in his first well-known album Ett Hem (A Home). The “Larsson style” of interior decorating, known for “freshness, light, clear colors, and ‘Swedishness’,” as compared to the dark, dignified Victorian interiors of the time, is the “apotheosis of Swedish design both nationally and internationally” (vii, 143). As well as contributing to design and interior decorating, Larsson was a master of all mediums and was influenced by British Pre-Raphaelitism, the 18th century provincial Gustavian period, Art Nouveau, Japonisme, and traditional Swedish arts and crafts.

The annotated bibliography contains his chronology, publications, book illustrations, and periodical writings and illustrations, as well as works about him, such as monographs, incidental works, encyclopedia entries, exhibition catalogs, and journal, yearbook, and newspaper articles. Sixteen color plates display his considerable skills.

Included is his last monumental, controversial work, “Midvinterblog” (“Midwinter Sacrifice”), a mural for a stairway at the National Museum of Stockholm, which was rejected by the its board of directors in 1916 for its dark subject matter. The “massive paean to paganism” depicts the Norse legend of King Domalde, who sacrificed himself to avert famine (223). Although Larsson’s work is sunny and sentimental, his dark side was demonstrated by his suicidal thoughts as a young man and his struggles with “Midvinterblog,” which some critics assert broke him psychologically.

The work differs from his other frescos for the museum, such as the triumphant, nationalistic “Gustav Vasas intåg i Stockholm 1523” (“The entry of Gustav Vasa into Stockholm, 1523”), also included in the book. One of the criticisms of “Midvinterblog” is that it is not historically accurate, but neither is “Gustav.” The controversy over the work culminated in 1987 when a Japanese executive purchased it, and again in 1997 when the museum bought it back and displayed it where it was originally intended.

Through the bibliography, one traces his narrative through art history. His impact on the Swedish national conscience is noted by the outpouring of grief after his 1919 death. Interest waned until 1953, when a new edition of Jag, his autobiography, was published and a retrospective was mounted in Stockholm to commemorate his hundredth birthday. While earlier works explored Larsson’s formal art, a new generation of scholars shifted their focus to Carl and Karin’s design aesthetics and influence. Also traceable is the “Midvinterblog” controversy, starting in 1911, with peaks during the 1987 auction and 1997 museum purchase.

Carl Larsson: An Annotated Bibliography is an accomplishment, with almost 6,000 entries from around the world, spanning his lifetime to the present. To “engender further interest in scholarly research on Carl Larsson to ensure his continued and rightful place in the history of art,” Topjon skillfully and systematically documents and annotates works of and about the artist (viii). The book is recommended for art history libraries, as well as institutions that focus on interior decorating and design, due to the Larssons’ enduring impact in these areas.