February 2008


Please peruse these brilliant history-themed comics, featuring many Canadian history in-jokes!

Talking about the internet is one of my favorite pastimes, as you may have noticed.  Mark your calendars for March 1, when I may possibly be talking about the internet in person with lots of other smart people (journalists!  librarians!  scholars!  writers!  etc!) at an event called “Afloat in a Wireless Pond.”

The event, supported by a grant from the Sesquicentennial Commission, is a co-production of the MN Coalition on Government Information and the MN Independent Scholars Forum.   It’s all day at Luther Seminary in St. Paul and costs twenty bucks (not sure if scholarships are available).

[The} digital revolution expands access to the records of Minnesota’s history at the same time it presents unprecedented challenges to those responsible for assuring transparency in government and an informed populace.  Henry David Thoreau might have observed that Minnesotans are “afloat in the wireless pond.”  He might also have advised taking time to stop and reflect on the meaning of it all.

Supported by the Minnesota Sesquicentennial Commission, Minnesotans will have just such an opportunity on Saturday, March 1, 2008.  One of the Sesquicentennial’s early events is a day-long conference aptly entitled “Afloat in the Wireless Pond”, described by planners as a chance to “celebrate by joining other Minnesotans to think about the changes the Internet is making in our lives and in the ways we explore the past, preserve the record of our own times, and shape public policies that enforce the people’s right to know, now and for the future.”

Coincidentally enough, I’ve been rereading Walden.  In the section called “Baker Farm,” Thoreau tells an anecdote about going fishing with John Field, a new immigrant.  HDT is having a successful day, catching a great string of fish, but John Field gets nothing.  HDT proposes they switch seats, but John Field still catches nothing.  In the context of the “wireless pond,” this is a heads up that the digital divide is a strong social factor.  The internet may have greatly changed the lives of some Minnesotans (including me!) and improved our access to many kinds of information, but there’s a whole class of digital have-nots that don’t yet have the resources to catch fish.

Let’s talk about it on March 1st!

Every year the city and county team up for various Black History Month activities; this year’s theme is “Economics in the Black Community.”  All of these lectures will be held on Wednesdays, 11:30-12:30 in City Hall or the Government Center.

Feb 6:  Barbara Jo Davis, Ken Davis Products, Minnesota Black Chamber of Commerce, County A-24 (Okay, this one has already happened.  Sorry!)

Feb 13:  Jacqueline King, Federal Reserve Bank of Mpls, City Council Chambers, Rm 317

Feb 20:  Hussein Samatar, African Development Center (and former city Library Board member!), Level A Auditorium, County

Feb 27:  Dr. Rose M. Brewer, U of M, City Hall Atrium

It’s not clear how historical these presentations are going to be, but the speakers are all pretty interesting. I have various posts planned about Minnesota black history for this extra-long February, so stick around.

Here in Minnesota we had “historic turnout” for the DFL caucuses, which is lazy journalist shorthand for “unusual” (with the new social history, almost anything can be historic!).  Obama swept the state.  We had more than 200,000 voters come out statewide, which is, for instance, 3/4 of the population of St. Paul, or as many people as in Duluth and Rochester combined.  This beats the previous largest DFL turnout, 75,000 in 1972, when Minnesotans came out for Hubert Humphrey.*

At my precinct caucus location, lines were out the door, and my caucus itself was filled with about 300 of my neighbors.  Minnesota caucuses are sort of a hybrid of a caucus and a straw poll.  We cast binding votes for president, but we sit around and talk afterwards.  After submitting our presidential preference ballots (pieces of blank-on-one-side paper) we wrangled about delegates to the district convention (I’m one) and whether or not we should do walking sub-caucuses (which I think sounds like a zombie movie; we didn’t, thank heavens).  There were lots of familiar neighbors, and resolutions and points of order and speechifying and orneriness.  I love this kind of meeting.  Anyway, our totals for the presidential preference ballots were as follows.

Minneapolis (SD 62A) precinct 9-6:
Obama:  237
Clinton:  60
Edwards:  3
Gravel:  1
and somebody voted for Ron Paul, which made it a spoiled ballot.

*That was the history content of this post.  Hope you liked it!

Just a reminder that, along with over twenty other states, Minnesota is holding precinct caucuses today.  Go to the Secretary of State’s caucusfinder page for your caucus location.  DFLers* are urged to come at 6:30 to sign in, since high turnout is expected; Republicans can just show up at 7 (Green Party caucuses are in March, and the Independence party is holding an online caucus, which sounds great in theory). 

I tried to find some historical content for this post but I’ve been stymied.   What would be nice to find:  how the candidates stand on historical issues! or, who has the MHS endorsed?  but there’s not really a history voting bloc, except for those “Historians for [candidate]” groups, which are mostly made up of academics.  If you want to support small historical organizations, support localpoliticians who are willing to fund education, libraries, the humanities and culture, since most history is local and municipal.  Local funding challenges generally impact small organizations more than national ones.  I suppose if the next president decides to gut the IMLS, that will be a big problem for history museums (especially if we start to depend on federal formula grants), but if you elect a county commissioner, for instance, who doesn’t understand why the county is funding a little house filled with old plows, that will be an immediate and possibly fatal problem. 

My caucus is at Roosevelt High.  See you there! 

*In Minnesota, the Democratic party is the “Democrat-Farmer-Labor” party, FYI for readers from elsewhere.

Coming on the heels of the Library of Congress’ flickr experiment, The Commons, the National Museum of Health and Medicine has just put a portion of their photo collection up on flickr announced that they have been sharing their photo collection on flickr since 2006.  There are some amazing things up, see links below. This announcement has been making the rounds of the history of science listservs, and I’ll reproduce it below, but I found out about the project from Morbid Anatomy, and then Boing Boing. Unfortunately, bb called the museum “The National Museum of Public Health,” adding a layer of confusion to the museum’s name. I myself have a hard time remembering the NMNH’s full name and generally call it the Army Medical Museum, its previous name (and in my opinion still more descriptive of their exhibit/programming bent, with their excellent resources on Civil War pathology).

The Otis Historical Archives of the National Museum of Health and Medicine (Armed Forces Institute of Pathology) has recently digitized several texts of historical significance, including
* The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, a
six-volume, in-depth study of Civil War wounds and diseases, based on specimens collected from the battlefield;
* A History of the United States Army Medical Museum, 1862-1917, a formerly unpublished manuscript;
* A Catalogue of Surgeons’ Instruments, Air and Water Beds,
Pillows, and Cushions, Bandages, Trusses, Elastic Stockings, Inhalers, Galvanic Apparatus, and Other Appliances Used by the Medical Profession (1866);
* The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World
War, 15 volumes recording “…the permanent written record of the
accomplishments of the Medical Department in [World War I]…;”
* A Medical Survey of the Bituminous-Coal Industry (Report of the Coal Mines Administration, 1947), well-illustrated with photographs of life in coal towns; and
* A collection of several medical texts and journals, some
hand-illustrated, from a captured Viet Cong physician. We hope to have these materials available soon. Most are too large to provide access through on our website.

We’ve been mostly digitizing photographs, working with Information Manufacturing Corporation (IMC), to scan the Medical Illustration Service (MIS) Library. The MIS Library is one of the NMHM’s largest collections, with 4,500 boxes of medical photographs. The Library was transferred to the Museum in late 2004, and houses millions of photographs from World War II through the 1990s representing diseases and their effects on humans and animals. Included in the collection are rare illnesses such as smallpox and the Asian flu. Over 191,000 images have already been scanned and are currently almost completely catalogued and indexed including the Army Medical Museum collection of pictures of the Spanish-American War, Museum and Medical Arts Service (MAMAS) photographs taken by Museum staff during WWII in Europe and Asia, images from the “Atlas of Tropical and Extraordinary Diseases,” historical portraits, medical pictures dating from US involvement in World War I through World War II, the Medical Museum’s 19th-century logbooks, Korean War pictures from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR), AEF autopsy and other photographs from WWI, Anita McGee’s pictures of the Russo-Japanese War, Signal Corps medical images (a subset of those held by the National Archives), and Vietnam War images (especially of surgery) from the Swan and Hansen collections while also scanning inhouse thousands of photographs from the Civil War.

Additionally, Otis Historical Archives has just begun to digitize a
collection of about 8,000 combat casualty cases from the Vietnam War known as WDMET (Wounds Data Munitions Effectiveness Team), comprised of approximately 200,000 pages of original documents, 120,000 slides, and several filing cabinets of bullets and shrapnel, collected from 1967-1969. The project is expected to take somewhat over one year.

We are working on solutions to providing access to these images on the internet, including a plan to load the Museum’s entire catalogue for online use. For slightly over a year, we have been uploading selected images on Flickr, and http://www.boingboing.com [sic] recently noted that and dramatically increased viewership of our photographs. Links to our 3 Flickr sites are below as is a link to the museum’s website.

Mike Rhode & Kathleen Stocker

http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum
http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/collections/archives/archives.html
http://www.flickr.com/photos/99129398@N00 and
http://www.flickr.com/photos/7438870@N04/ and
http://www.flickr.com/photos/22719239@N04/ – favorite photos from the
Archives staff

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