July 2008

Catching up on my local history reading, I found that in the May-June issue of the Minnesota History Interpreter, I’m quoted talking about the value of architectural remnants in the collections of my old museum.  And that quote in turn is from a blog comment from last August.  I’m certainly glad that they could use the information, and I sound pretty eloquent, but what a surprise!

Here’s an interesting job posted recently at Museum Professionals, to manage Jim Watson’s papers.  It would be a good fit for a historian of biology who knows XML, or an archivist who cares about recent biology and genetics.*
Archivist – Cold Spring Harbor , NY, USA

Position Title: Archivist
Job Category: Archives
Employer Name: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives
Street Address: 1 Bungtown Road
City, State, Country: Cold Spring Harbor , NY, USA
Postal Code: 11724 [Map It!]
Contact E-Mail Address: jobline@cshl.edu
Contact Website: www.cshl.edu

Position Description/Responsiblities: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives seeks an enthusiastic candidate to fill the position of the JD Watson Special Collection Archivist. The position involves working primarily with the extensive and rapidly expanding collection of scientific and personal materials of CSHL Chancellor, Nobelist James Watson (formerly CSHL Director 1968-94 and CSHL President 1994-2003). This is an extraordinary opportunity for an individual with career aspirations in archives to work on a collection of high historic and research value.

Description of the collection: As an active writer and outspoken scientist, James Watson continues to receive correspondence, produce manuscripts and other historic materials, and to donate these materials to the archives. The collection at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory contains: scientific and personal correspondence (1949-present), manuscripts and typescripts, teaching files and administrative files (Harvard, CSHL, Human Genome Project), financial records, scientific reprints, photographs, personal gifts, and memorabilia.

Responsibilities and Duties:
1. Process, arrange, and describe new accessions to the collection (and to some extent the materials in the existing collection and the digital collection).
2. Provide reference assistance to scientific staff, scholars, students and other patrons and visitors to the J.D. Watson Collection.
3. Develop and update the JD Watson web site, http://library.cshl.edu/watsoncollection/index.html
4. Prepare EAD (Encoded Archival Description) finding aids for the archives.
5. Address copyright issues in the physical and digital collection.
6. Maintain in-house databases of reference and usage statistics.
7. Participate in the development of archival projects, i.e. exhibits, conferences, etc

Desired Qualifications: MLS from an ALA accredited library institution and three years of professional experience in an archival setting (processing, arranging, describing, and providing reference for archival/manuscript collections) is required. Knowledge of computers and programs, such as Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Adobe PhotoShop, etc., is preferred. Also a strong knowledge of descriptive standards, such as Dublin Core, MARC, METS, EAD, and XML, is necessary. The candidate should also have the ability to establish goals and priorities and to work both independently and cooperatively with other archivists and librarians on the staff. Excellent oral and written communication skills are needed. This position will report to the Director of Libraries and Archives.

Salary is dependant on qualifications and experience.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, located on the North Shore of Long Island, NY, is a world-renowned research and educational institution with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology, genomics and bioinformatics. The Laboratory is recognized internationally for its excellence in research and educational activities.


Please apply to: jobline@cshl.edu

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Department of Human Resources
1 Bungtown Road
Cold Spring Harbor , NY 11724

* (I’m only going to post job stuff occasionally from now on, since I’m now officially off the market.)

The Daily Planet is reporting that the Minnesota Artist Exhibition Program is facing hassles and hurdles from a newly reorganized Minneapolis Institute of Arts.  The details from the vociferous public meeting at the Daily Planet; here’s a primer on the MAEP.

The MAEP is a democratic, self-governing exhibition program that is horizontal rather than hierarchical in its structure. A panel of artists elected by the program’s membership of artists curates five shows per year. Since 1977, the program has been administered by Stewart Turnquist, a museum staff coordinator who has reported directly to the museum director—putting him on an equal footing with the museum’s other curators. Two galleries in the museum’s new Target Wing are dedicated to MAEP exhibitions. The autonomous, artist-run program is unique to museums in this country, and it has operated smoothly since its inception as a pilot program in 1975.

Turnquist has recently resigned.

Also in the Daily Planet, Pipestone’s Hiawatha festival is celebrating its 60th and last year.  This was a re-enactment of Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” in this small SW Minnesota town.  The festival is ending as a result of Pipestone’s declining population and growing disinclination to mount a 125-person pageant every year.   Pipestone may be familiar to readers of this blog as the subject of Sally Southwick’s Building on a Borrowed Past:  Place and Identity in Pipestone, MN, which analyzed and indicted the town’s appropriation of native culture for touristic purposes.  Though the “Song of Hiawatha” (which you can’t help thinking of while riding around south Minneapolis; we have the Longfellow neighborhood, Lake Nokomis, Lake Hiawatha, Minnehaha Creek) is less virulently awful than some other portrayals of First Minnesotans, it has no place as the center of a public festival.   60 years was too long a run.

Lastly, did you know that Liberia recently convened Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings?  They were in St. Paul.

The Charles Babbage Institute at the U of M has a great exhibit up now, Gendered Bits: Identities, Artifacts and Practices in Computing, put up in conjunction with their recent conference on gender, history and computing.  (See some pictures) The exhibit is superawesome and will be up till July 23rd at Andersen Hall on the West Bank of the U in Minneapolis.  Run, don’t walk! You only have a few days left to check it out!

Also in news from CBI, they’ve posted full scans of the full run of the early internet journal Connexions: The interoperability report. They are definitely worth a visit to see internet pioneers debating IP, learning about internetworking around the world, and groaning at poems by Vint Cerf about ARPANET. (I personally scanned the whole thing last summer, so please drop over and read some of this great stuff.)   And on the CBI blog, Steph has been writing a series about a day in the life of an archivist.  There are many reasons to use and support this vital resource for the history of computing.

How nice to see, upon my return from Detroit, that PH has been noted as one of 80 blogs central to history blogging by Cliopatrician Ralph Luker.  Thanks, Ralph!

It’s a great list, full of blogs I admire and blogs I’ve never read, and I look forward to exploring it more.  I’m happy to have helped to make a place for public history in the mainstream of the history blogosphere.

More symptoms of job market blues:  The public history job market is so bad that a museum thought it was acceptable to include this in their job posting:

“PLEASE NOTE: This position is PART TIME and will remain so for the foreseeable future. If you are NOT interested in PART TIME work, please do not bother applying. This was a major problem for us the last time we hired for this position. With both collections positions open we frankly do not have the time to waste on people who are really looking for full time.”

Two things jump out at me from this post.  Since there is a large pool of folks applying for every history museum job out there  1) Even small historical societies think that it’s perfectly acceptable to put up a hostile addendum to their job ad (don’t waste our time, duplicitous seekers of a livable wage!) and 2) even small historical societies think it’s perfectly fine to conduct a national search for a part-time job in a small town far from possibilities of other part-time employment.  (Though I’m shocked at the language in this ad, I do understand that most small historical societies can’t afford to pay many employees and that finding people willing to move to small towns for these jobs is not easy. ) These are dark days, folks.

The Iowa public history community, probably in low spirits due to all the recent flooding, finally has some good news.  Humanities Iowa is announcing the Iowa History Prize, “a biennial award of up to $90,000, to honor an Iowa history scholar, promote Iowa history appreciation, public discussion and community-based programming.” This is a public history prize–Humanities Iowa’s director Christopher Rossi said that “pure scholarship will not be rewarded”–which can be awarded to anyone working in Iowa history, from museum directors to independent scholars to high school history teachers.  The focus is on giving “untapped and underutilized history authorities” the means and audience to engage the public in Iowa history.  This is the greatest innovation of the prize:  local historians and citizen historians will be empowered to do both basic and cutting-edge public history work.  For historians used to working with very little money, 45K a year could keep several small history centers afloat and enable great exhibits, programming, and digital history work, and really jumpstart public discourse about Iowa history

The Prize is modeled on the Poet Laureate program, which of course appoints a person to be the state’s official poetry advocate; “the Iowa History Prize winner will be become the face of Iowa history for the state,” a “historian laureate.”  (I think we can officially call history the most poorly funded of the humanities when poetry is our model for successful, relevant humanities programming.  Poor Clio!)  In an op-ed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen, Rossi says that the Prize winner will be “the public’s personal sherpa of historical memory who guides us across the landscape of accomplishment and struggle that make up our Iowa past.”  He notes that Iowa’s state historical society still lacks a director after 2 years, that Iowa history is inconsistently taught, and that Iowa ranks low in support of cultural organizations, including local history societies.  With this Prize, Humanities Iowa hopes to turn around this trajectory and “help scholars and the public interpret the stories that give meaning to our lives, invigorate Iowa history studies, elevate public appreciation of our common past and honor a deserving Iowa history expert as the Iowa public historian.”  I wish them the best of luck!  If this program is successful, it could be a model for historian laureate programs across the country.  The Prize will be awarded in November.  We’ll keep our eyes on Iowa.

The scifi author Thomas Disch died of suicide on July 4.  His work was brilliant, difficult, and formally groundbreaking, especially his 334 and Camp Concentration. Born in Iowa, he spent his teens in Minnesota, and often returned here in his fiction.  His first novel, The Genocides, which I highly recommend, features an earth invaded by giant plants, and a group of Minnesotans, farmers and others, striving to live in the changed and depopulated world.  It’s particularly compelling to read if you’re from the North Shore, which is never featured in disaster tales.  In The Genocides, Lake Superior is sucked up by the plants for irrigation, and Duluth is lovingly and thoroughly destroyed.  The farmers do not survive.  And now we’ve lost Disch himself.

A few fun things to celebrate my four-day weekend:

An interview with Kate Beaton, who writes brilliant history comics, and from whose comics I learned all my Canadian history (sorry, Adam!).


Great Moments in History, drawn on the Etch-a-sketch.

That’s all! I’m spending the weekend with Shakespeare in lovely Winona, Minnesota. I’ll be less scarce in July, I promise. History doesn’t stop just because it’s summer

Update:  Wow, I had to update with this:  Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross get married in Philly! (thanks, Mary)  Happy 4th!