April 2008

Just a quick note about activities and opportunities here at AAM (I’m on one of AAM’s email computers, so links will come later).  So, some highlights:

  • Valuable and interesting Emerging Museum Professional sessions, including a great facilitated discussion about leadership and a happy hour at a bookstore in LoDo, where I put in a plug for early 20th C Minneapolis librarian Gratia Countryman as a great model of leadership.
  • Great insights from a small museum doing Web 2.0 work, the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History in Arkansas, who won a Muse Award for their podcasting, in the company of two Smithsonian museums.
  • Breakfast at the vegetarian restaurant Watercourse
  • Meeting tons of people, “emerging” and not
  • An interview that went well, a not-exactly interview that went well
  • At the gay lunch (okay, the ALGC PIC business meeting), hearing about the fascinating new issue of Museums and Social Issues entitled “Where is Queer?”
  • A great session on virtual worlds facilitated by the always-wise Nina Simon.  Of course, the technology is just not there for small museums to participate yet.
  • sharing insights with other one-woman shows
  • An address from Denver’s mayor about the Denver metro’s innovative funding stream for museums and cultural and scientific organizations. 
  • Terry Tempest Williams’ moving keynote on museums as places to be “quietly subversive on behalf of the land.”
  • the opportunity to explore a new city! 

I’m right now off to the history museum and probably the public library! 


I’m off to Denver tomorrow!  This will be my first AAM meeting and I’m excited to be going as an Emerging Museum Professional fellow (and excited to leave the snow behind).  I plan to give you a few dispatches from the conference and the various small museums, technology, and diversity sessions I’m planning to attend.

This is also the first year that AAM has a conference blog, pointing out attractions in Denver and interesting things happening at the conference, so you can get your dispatches from a number of sources.

If any of my charming readers would like to meet up with me while at AAM, drop me a line (my email is on the about page) or leave a comment.

A conversation between me and Ben Franklin:

Suzanne: Who do you support in the Pennsylvania primary?

Ben: Human beings. Are you testing me?

Suzanne: No, I just wanted your opinion on politics.

Ben: Interesting question.

Suzanne:  Do you like Barack Obama?

Ben:  Some people like it.  I like any faithfully sung hymn.

Suzanne:  How are you celebrating Earth Day?

Ben: Everything is going extremely well.

(Sarah Waugh via Rob McDougall)

The library formerly known as the Minneapolis Public Library has some exhibit internships available.  They’re unpaid, and you have to be a student–but you get to work with extremely nice people in a lovely building with great collections.  My suggestion for a project:  convince the county library board to rename the Central Library the Countryman Branch.

Hennepin County Library has two internships available, one for Summer 2008 and one for Fall 2008. Each internship is part-time with a commitment of approximately 60-150 hours per academic term. The work hours are flexible and may require some evening or weekend hours.The Curatorial Intern will work under direct supervision of the Partnerships Coordinator for Arts and Business. A mentor will be assigned to the Intern from the Hennepin County Library Exhibition Review Committee. The Intern will assist with planning and implementing the exhibition program at Minneapolis Central Library. The Intern will work with library staff and community partners.

Depending on the Intern’s background and skills, projects that the Intern may work on are:


– Create a scale model of the Cargill Gallery and furnishings
– Update the community library exhibit spaces web page to include the Southeast Library
– Alexander Hamilton exhibit: work with library staff to research and gather related materials from our collection, design display for materials in gallery vitrines, write and make labels; exhibit opens late August
– Assist with de-installation of Sesquicentennial exhibit mid-August and assist with summer exhibit programs June and July


 Update:  I hate the new wordpress admin interface.

The New-York Historical Society has a great-sounding new exhibit up:  Plague in Gotham!  Cholera in 19th C New York.  Cholera was an urban scourge in the 19th century, and public health physicians and bacteriologists studying cholera epidemics led to some really interesting discoveries and innovations (cf John Snow; also the London sewers).  Charles Rosenberg’s brilliant little book, The Cholera Years, which discusses cholera epidemics mostly in New York, in 1832, ’49 and ’66, is a classic in the history of medicine, and an artifact-based telling of these epidemic stories sounds great.  The NYHS has an exhibit blog up, which provides additional material on cholera, the epidemics and the exhibition, including a neat map of important locations in their story in 1832.  Go see it for me; I won’t be in NYC this year. The exhibit runs through June 28.

The 51st Annual Midwest Junto for the History of Science was held last weekend here at Minnesota.  Here’s a report from Steph, and one from Nathan.  There was a real diversity of presentations and research areas, as well as some geographic diversity, with our usual folks from Minnesota, Wisconsin, various places in Missouri, Iowa State and Oklahoma, and visitors from elsewhere  around the Midwest and the country.  My paper went well, fyi, and I got lots of great questions.

Some standout papers:

  • Samuel Spence, from Oklahoma, talked about the role of the sf writer Jerry Pournelle in the development of Reagan’s Star Wars project.
  • Judith Kaplan from Wisconsin gave a paper on James Henry Breasted, the Egyptologist who founded the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.  I don’t know anything about the history of Egyptology (at least after Napoleon) and found it a totally fascinating story.
  • Krystal Rose from Eastern Illinois spoke on the course of the 1918 flu pandemic in rural Illinois, with particular attention to how it progressed in the local newspapers.  Comics in the local papers provided jokes about the flu, eg:  Did you hear that they quarantined the library?  They found influenza in the dictionary!
  • Amy Bix talked about the gendering of home repair, from household equipment classes at land-grant universities to pink hammers.

Also worth mentioning was the presentation of Eric Ward of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City (home of next year’s Junto), who discussed a book setting scientific color standards for ornithology; the LHL has digitized the book, and it’s online.  They also have online a great collection of star atlases and materials relating to the building of the Panama Canal.  Next year in Kansas City!

The public history job market is so bad right now that a job was recently posted that admitted “salary is minimum.”

It’s so bad that a job was recently posted offering a yearly salary of $14,000.

If our field can’t support a trained professional for much more than the minimum wage, how sustainable is it?  We’re heading for a fall, folks.  Both federal and foundation funding is down (except for the IMLS–thanks, Mrs. Bush).  Our traditional volunteer base is dying.  Recent studies indicate that a majority of nonprofit executive directors are planning to leave in the next 10-15 years, and a majority of young people working at nonprofits are planning to leave the sector.    We’re going to see a wave of local history museum closings, and we’re going to see it soon, unless we tackle some major structural issues around funding, staffing, consolidation and sustainability.

I’m pleased to tell you that I’ll be going to the AAM conference in Denver later this month; I received an Emerging Museum Professional fellowship to go.  Thanks for supporting early career museum folks, AAM!  See you all in Denver.

Come one, come all to the Midwest Junto for the History of Science, the regional history of science/technology/medicine conference, held this weekend at the University of Minnesota.

The program is not online as yet, so I can’t point you to it, but suffice it to say that there will be lots of terrific and diverse papers on Saturday April 5 and Sunday, April 6.  All papers will be given in EE-CSCI 3-230 (Electrical and Computing Engineering, University of Minnesota, East Bank, on Washington Ave).

I’ll be talking on Sunday morning.  Here’s the plan of my session:

Session 2:         20th Century Medicine

10:30-10:55 a.m.:    Suzanne Fischer (University of Minnesota)
“’Say ‘Yes’ to the General’: How Advertising and Organizing Saved a Hospital.”

10:55-11:20 a.m.:    Cara Kinzelman (University of Minnesota)
“Twilight Sleep and the Professionalization of Obstetrics.”

11:20-11:45 a.m.:    Krystal Rose (Eastern Illinois University)
“Called to Death: A Case Study on the 1918 Influenza Pandemic in Coles County, Illinois.”

11:45-12:10 a.m.:    Kirstin Lawson (University of Missouri)
“Healthcare as a Citizen’s Right: Public Health at the Hayward Indian School, Wisconsin, 1901-1920.”

I’ll be talking about how Minneapolis General Hospital became Hennepin County General Hospital.  One reason to come to my talk is that I’m going to play a record on my 1980s portable record player.

Stick around for the rest of the afternoon on Sunday, and you can hear a talk by my pal Christine:

2:10-2:35 p.m.:    Christine Manganaro (University of Minnesota)
“Race Biology in Hawaii: Harry L. Shapiro, the Station for Racial Research, and the Chinese-Hawaiian Project, 1920-1937

You can still register for the conference by contacting Jole Shackelford at shack001@maroon.tc.umn.edu.