September 2007

Since I can’t resist any event with 2.0 in the title, I’ll be going to the Bell Museum on the East Bank tonight to see some science bloggers, including PZ Myers.

Speaking Science 2.0: New Directions in Science Communications

Friday, September 28, 2007

7:30 p.m.
Bell Museum Auditorium
$5 Suggested Donation

Seed magazine writers and influential science bloggers gather to discuss new directions in science communication. This lively panel discussion will cover a range of topics, including science and culture, public engagement with science, the role of scientists in the public discussion of science, and communication via the Internet, film, museums and other media. Author and journalist Chris Mooney, American University communications professor Matthew Nisbet, anthropologist Greg Laden and U of M Morris biology professor PZ Myers will join moderator Jessica Marshall, a U of M science journalism professor. A reception in Dinkytown will follow the event. Co-sponsored by the Bell Museum of Natural History; Seed Magazine/ScienceBlogs; The Humphrey Institute’s Center for Science, Technology and Public Policy; and the Minnesota Journalism Center.


Minnesota ghost towns, and towns that fear that fate. From the thinktank Minnesota 2020. Related event: ghost town tour up in Grant County, October 6.

Electrifying Minnesota Exhibit explores sustainable energy & encourages visitors to conserve energy.

The Bakken Museum unveils its newest exhibit, Electrifying Minnesota, this Saturday, September 29, 2007. The exhibit recounts the history of electricity in Minnesota since one of the nation’s first hydroelectric plants whirred into action 125 years ago at St. Anthony Falls. It shows how everyday life has been shaped by electrification through artifacts, photos, first-hand accounts, early advertisements and film from the 1880s to the 1950s. Electrifying Minnesota prompts visitors to imagine life without a computer, cell phone or microwave and demonstrates how not so long ago, appliances we take for granted today were often considered luxuries. It features hands-on activities that demonstrate electromagnetic induction, how the process utilizes natural resources and how the use of those resources impacts the environment. Visitors will learn about sustainable energy and how to take responsibility for their electrical future by joining The Bakken Team and taking the Minnesota Energy Challenge.

A survey for Minnesotans on the preservation of electronic records, from the state Office of Enterprise Technology.

The Hamline-Midway History Corps (in St Paul) is getting serious. Go to their organizational meeting on Oct 14 or one of their interesting programs.

Now open:  the Right on Lake Street exhibit at the Minnesota Historical Society, produced with students from Macalester and artists from In the Heart of the Beast.  I’ve lived within a few blocks of Lake St my whole time in Minneapolis, and I’ll review this exhibit here in a few weeks. To tide you over, there’s some neat web content, including a Flash ride on the 21A bus, something I never thought would be reproduced on the web.  (I live around the Cedar section.)

And now, for one academic link!

Meagan links to an article on the cost of the academic job search for one (probably average) scholar. It costs much more time and money than you’d think (unless you’ve been on the market already).

GRAND TOTAL= $5,126.81*

(*after reimbursement for airline tickets for campus interviews, total = $4,774.81**)

(**Annual stipend for TA at my institution = $12,000; range of advertised salaries: from an assistant professor at a Midwestern state college with a 4/4 teaching load, $38,000, to a non-tenure-track director of a writing center at a community college in California, with a one-course/year teaching load, $67,000)

The list of MacArthur Fellows for this year and has been announced, and it includes all sorts of people I’ve never heard of doing fascinating things that I haven’t heard about.   The list includes Jay Rubenstein, a medieval historian from Tennessee, as well as a museum director from Alaska, who I’m going to talk about.

Sven Haakanson, runs the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska.

Sven Haakanson is the driving force behind the revitalization of indigenous language, culture, and customs in an isolated region of North America.  A native Alutiiq trained with a Ph.D. in anthropology, he is straddling worlds in an effort to preserve and give contemporary meaning to Native history and local legends, rituals, and customs.  The Alutiiq Museum, which he directs, is an archaeological archive and anthropological repository of cultural artifacts of the Kodiak archipelago.  Under Haakanson’s leadership, the museum also serves as a traveling resource, bringing innovative exhibitions, educational programming, and field research to the landlocked villages throughout the island of Kodiak by boat and small plane.  The museum provides Haakanson with a unique opportunity to establish and cultivate collaborative relationships with museums throughout the world whose holdings include ancient Alutiiq artifacts.  Bridging cultures and continents, he has orchestrated the exhibition and acquisition of Alutiiq masks and other artifacts dispersed throughout Russia and France in the 18th and 19th centuries.  He has also organized first-time, traveling exhibits of antiquities on loan to museums in Alaska.

Not only is he a gifted museum director, with his anthropologist hat he runs studies of sacred sites, and as an artist he takes photographs and makes masks.

Haakanson is a great example of how to integrate a museum into the community it serves, using history, art and science as paths to telling the stories of Alutiiq life.  The bookmobile-like airbourne museum is also a great example of how museums can serve as community resources that come to people where they are.  And his international networking is also pretty amazing.

The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository also has a fine website with tons of content and some 2.0 features, like the ability to favorite or comment on various articles (you do have to register with the site).  You can subscribe via RSS to their Alutiiq Word of the Week feature, which also appears on local radio.

Congrats to Haakanson and the Alutiiq Museum!

I found another blog from a small historical society in Minnesota: the Holdingford, Minnesota-historical blog, from a small town in Stearns County (central MN).  Posts cover local and historical society events.

The Stearns County MNGenWeb also has their own blog.

Thanks to Christine for passing this on to me!  I’ll be at SHOT the weekend this conference takes place, but perhaps some of y0u, gentle readers, may be able to go to this interesting-sounding digital humanities conference with an extremely unwieldy theme:  “Exploring the scholarly query potential of high quality text and image archives in a collaborative environment.”

I will be grateful if you could bring this announcement of the second Chicago Digital Humanities and Computer Science Colloquium to the attention of interested faculty and graduate students in your department. The Colloquium will be held on October 21-22, 2007 at Northwestern University, and detailed information about the program and logistics is available at

There is still room on the program for poster sessions, and we have some matching funds for graduate students whose poster proposals have been accepted.  Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis and should be submitted to Sooner is better.

The theme of this year’s colloquium is “Exploring the scholarly query potential of high quality text and image archives in a collaborative environment.” The objects of attention are “cultural heritage objects,” ranging from tiny Mesopotamian cylinder seals to clay statuettes in a 16th century Buddhist temple, Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginning to the Present, Newton’s alchemical writings, the Colonial and State Records of North Carolina, and the United States Supreme Court Corpus. The question is what happens to the study of these multi-modal and diverse objects when they are available as digital surrogates that allow scholars to do things with them that cannot be done with the originals.

This question runs through the papers and poster sessions of the program, and I hope participants will come away from the colloquium with a deeper appreciation of the query potential of the digital surrogate.

The keynote speakers are:

Matthew Kirschenbaum (University of Maryland): The Remaking of Reading

Lewis Lancaster (Berkeley): Beyond 2-D-Text/Plain: The Chinese Buddhist Canon in 3-D

This colloquium is jointly sponsored by the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago.  We hope that it will turn into an annual event that will nurture conversation about information technology and the humanities in the Great Lakes Region and beyond.

The fall list of lectures from the History of Medicine program have been announced.  All take place from 12:20-1:10 pm in 555 Diehl Hall, U of M East Bank. More info.

October 8        “Gender and Depression in the Twentieth Century”  A Dorothy Bernstein Lecture in the History of Psychiatry, Laura Hirshbein, MD, Ph.D. (University of Michigan)

October 22      “The Contradictions of Scientific Motherhood: Women, Physicians, and                                 the Politics of Expertise” A Bruce and Sally Kantar Lecture
Rima Apple, Ph.D. (University of Wisconsin)

October 29      “The History of Organ Transplantation at the University of Minnesota

John Najarian, MD (University of Minnesota)

November 5     “Causation and Cleanliness: George W. Callender and the Debates over Listerism”

Peter J. Kernahan, MD (University of Minnesota)

November 12   “Medicine and Madison Avenue”

A Charles E. Culpeper Lecture

Nancy Tomes, Ph.D. (SUNY, Stonybrook)

November 19  “Saving the World: Histories of Health as a Global Cause”

A Charles E. Culpeper Lecture

Gary Belkin, MD, Ph.D. (New York University)

The History of Science and Technology/Philosophy of Science Colloquia take place in 131 Tate Laboratory of Physics, at 3:35 pm every Friday.  More info.

September 21
Staffan Mueller-Wille *
The ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society (EGENIS)
University of Exeter
“Fleck and Kuhn on Scientific Change”

September 28
Kenneth Lipartito
Department of History
Florida International University
“It’s Not Rocket Science:
Operations Engineering and Human Space Flight”

October 5
Michael Weisberg*
Department of Philosophy
University of Pennsylvania
“Three Kinds of Idealization”

October 12
No colloquium

October 19
Stuart McCook
Department of History
University of Guelph
“The ‘Malaria of Coffee’:
Hemileia vastatrix and Changing Ideas about
Health and Disease in Plants, 1870-1930″

October 26
These two talks are part of a symposium on Time and Relativity organized by the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Advanced Study
3:30-4:10 Amit Hagar
Department of History and Philosphy of Science
Indiana University
4:10-4:50 Don Howard
Department of Philosophy
University of Notre Dame
“Einstein’s distinction between principle theories and constructive theories”
4:50-5:10 Coffee
5:10-5:20 Chris Smeenk, commentator
Department of Philosophy
University of Western Ontario
5:20-6:00 Discussion

November 2
Carlson School of Management, Room TBA
Kenneth Manders *
Department of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh
“Representation vs Ontology in Mathematics”

November 9
John P. Jackson
Department of Communication
University of Colorado-Boulder
“The Boundary Work of the ‘Blank Slate’:
Creating the Disciplines of
Evolutionary Psychology and Cultural Anthropology”

November 16
Lillian Hoddeson
Department of Physics
University of Illinois, Urbana
“Analogy and Inventive Style:
Lessons from Studying Stanford Ovshinsky’s Approach to
Alternative Energy Technologies”

November 23
No colloquium: Thanksgiving

November 30
Evelynn Hammonds
Holyoke Center
Harvard University

December 7
Laura Snyder *
Department of Philosophy
St. John’s University
“Bold Leaps:
Guesses or Inferences?
Analogical Reasoning in Science”

December 10
Monday, NOON, Carlson School of Management, room TBA
Giovanni Giorgini *
Department of Ancient History
University of Bologna
“Relativism and Its Discontents”

* Cosponsored by Studies of Science and Technology, the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, and Department of Philosophy.

Welcome to PH‘s new food history series, Foodways Tuesdays.  This will be occasional, but will always appear on a Tuesday.  I plan to mostly discuss connections between foodways and living history; that is, actually doing historic food preparation.  I will also consider other intersections between food, museums, and history, such as storage issues for old canned items.

Today we consider the leather breeches bean.

LEATHER BREECHES BEANS–String tender green beans.  Fill a long needle with a long strong thread.  Push the needle through the center of the bean, pushing the beans together at the end of the thread, from knot end to needle.  Hang up the string by one end in the warm air, but not in direct sunlight.  This gives the beans a better flavor.  Let them remain hanging until the beans become dry.  Store in a bag until ready to use.

(The Foxfire Book, p. 175)

Drying is a simple food preservation technique that requires no special equipment (though one can certainly use a fancy dehydrator), and persisted even after the popularity of home canning (beginning around 1860) and freezing (post-electrification, around the 1920s and 30s).  For the Appalachian folks interviewed in the Foxfire books, drying beans, along with pickling and canning, were a way to stretch the harvest all year and provide some variety in a somewhat monotonous diet.

TO COOK LEATHER BREECHES BEANS:  Sometime during the winter take a string of dried green beans down, remove the thread, and drop them in a pot of scalding water.  Then add “a good hunk’a meat” (ham, pork, or the like, depending on your taste) and cook all morning.

As Andy Webb said, “Now they’s somethin’ good ta’eat.  I’d rather have them then canned beans.”

(The Firefox Book, p. 167)

Foxfire started as a magazine produced by high school students in Rabun Gap, Georgia, in 1966, with help from teacher Eliot Wigginton. (Check out the Foxfire Fund.)  The students drove out into the mountains and interviewed their grandparents and other people of their grandparents’ generation about self-sufficient living in Appalachia.  The first Foxfire volume, for instance, discusses building log cabins, dressing hogs, planting by the signs, building a still, making soap, basketweaving, snake lore, and more. The books also included profiles of people living self-sufficient country lifestyles, like Aunt Arie, who became an informant and friend to the student historians.  The magazine became a success, and generated a number of collected volumes, which with their practical tone and great curiousity and zeal for documenting the past, spoke to back-to-the-landers in the 70s.

The DIY projects in the Foxfire books are easy to follow, as seen above, and can be recreated as group projects for K-12 + public history programming.  I strung beans in my kitchen with a friend and left them to dry at home.  Not only the individual projects, but also the whole Foxfire ethos, can be useful for teaching and learning public history.

Foxfire also became an inspiration to other students interested in documenting the disappearing cultural heritage of their regions, and several dozen other Foxfire-type magazines were started across the world, including Salt in Maine.  Salt’s teacher/adviser, Pamela Wood, wrote a treasure of a DIY book on starting your own Foxfire magazine, You and Aunt Arie:  A guide to cultural journalism based on Foxfire and its descendants in the US and abroad.  (I recently found a copy at a used bookstore.)

You and Aunt Arie includes an excellent introduction for teens to doing oral history, with step by step guidelines for how to set up and conduct an interview, including suggestions for interview prompts and examples from other magazines.  An example of Pamela’s practical wisdom:

There isn’t an interviewer alive who hasn’t asked a stupid question at one time or another.  If your contact likes you and feels you mean well, chances are he won’t chase you out of the house with a shotgun when you ask a stupid question.  Chances are he’ll grin and set you straight.

Besides, aren’t you there to learn?  A stupid question will convince your contact that you need his help if you’re ever going to find out what you need to know.  Don’t ask a stupid question on purpose, but don’t be petrified for fear you’ll ask one.  We’ve all done it.”

(You and Aunt Arie, p. 22)

It also includes almost everything else one would need to know to put out a low-budget magazine in the seventies:  how to take photographs, write a story from your interviews, lay out a page, organize your editorial staff.  Though the technological bits are rather outdated, everything is clearly written and useful, and filled with an admirable sincerity and optimism.

You and your magazine are a search party looking for mystery and meaning in your own familiar world.  In your worst moments you will be tricked by what seems commonplace:  “just a yucca plant” or “just a lobster boat” or “just the old fellow down the street” or “just an empty mountain.”

In your best moments you will stand in awe and make others stand in awe:  “this is a yucca plant” or “this is a lobster boat” or “this is the fellow down the street” or “this is an unspoiled mountain.”  In your best moments you will register like damp sand the tracks of your life that throbs around you, and people will know from looking at your pages that something live is passing by.

And it is then that you become what you are, the proud link between the past and  the future.

(You and Aunt Arie, p. 219)

History/museum bits and pieces from the tubes:

Information policy for Borges’ Library of Babel (via)

Mapping organ donations:  making visual traces of kidney donation algorithms; is this the way to make biomedicine visible to museum audiences?  asks Biomedicine on Display.

Bill Turkel creates the ambient noise of the past, an auditory equivalent of the fuzzy, distant quality of old photographs.  Possible uses: “history appliances,” living history museums, the-way-people-lived exhibits at local history museums.  The past doesn’t have to sound like recorded music.

Joan Cummins at the Brooklyn Museum documents the purchase of a large-ticket piece of art, an ancient Indian bronze sculpture (in 4 parts):  totally fascinating, especially since my museum can’t afford to buy any artifacts.

Submit a paper to the Victorian Underworlds conference, to be held in Toronto April 11-13 2008; proposals are due by October 15.  Someone should really present about sewer-building.  I am continually in awe of the scale of these late nineteenth century public health projects, and the kind of committment it took to build that kind of infrastructure (though the London sewers, for instance, were poorly drained, and they had to hire workers to scoop them out). 

Collection Resurrection declares:  collection resurrected.  If you haven’t read this blog, it was a one-year project to document the restoration, organization, and general ‘resurrection’ of the collections and facilities of a local history museum in Gananoque, Ontario.  It’s a great story of how, with community support, a neglected local history museum can be rebuilt and positioned for the future.

The Otter Tail County Historical Society in Fergus Falls has commissioned a local artist to make a reproduction of “the municipal nude,”  also known as Gerta, a painting excavated in the 1960s from the old City Hall.  I seem to link to the OTCHS quite a lot, and it’s because they’re one of the few county historical societies in Minnesota to have a blog.  Are you a local history organization in MN (or Wisconsin, why not) with a blog?  Write to me, and I’ll keep you on my radar!

Also, look for a new feature here on PH starting next week:  Foodways Tuesdays!  This is a transparent excuse for me to talk about my preservation projects.  Next Tuesday:  leather britches beans. 

Hey, ever wanted to be a Mars Outreach Coordinator?  NASA is hiring (#6422).  (via)

Today is the first day of classes over at the U.  It doesn’t mean much to me, since I’m not teaching or taking classes, and haven’t for years. (And congrats to Abby on not teaching in her fellowship year!)  I biked in for an appointment today, grumbling about the huge crowds of people walking in the bike lane just because they feel like it or, worse, trying to peer at bridge wreckage.  I have realized, however, that I am now the most advanced grad student on campus in my program (6th year, if you’re wondering), everyone else in my cohort having moved away.

Meanwhile, AFSCME clerical, technical and healthcare workers at the U are probably going on strike beginning tomorrow, in response to a pathetic contract offer from admin.  There’ll be a rally tomorrow at noon at Northrup.  To help out, visit  I was involved in strike support the last time folks had to strike.  They struck for several weeks, we occupied Morrill Hall, and folks won a better contract.  I remember it particularly well because it was right after the victory party that I had to fly back to Detroit because my mother was dying.  It must be four years ago now.

On a slightly more pleasant note, an article from the Chronicle about the yearly job shortage hoax.  Welcome back to school!

Next Page »