The exciting news of 2008 so far is that the three Minneapolis branch libraries which had been closed for over a year have reopened, including my library, the Roosevelt Library on 28th Ave and 40th St in the Standish neighborhood.  On Saturday when I visited with a librarian friend, the place was as cozy and charming as ever, but with more computers.  The Southeast and Webber Park branches, both also closed for all of 2007, are also open.  (Southeast, FYI, has the best scifi collection in the city.)  These reopenings are due to the merger between the Minneapolis Public Library and the Hennepin County Library system, which I think will be good for everyone.  There will be a big party at all three libraries next Saturday, Jan 12, from 10-6, and there will be music at Roosevelt from 3-6.  Library party-hopping! 

The Daily Planet wrote an article about the reopenings as well.


Last night I went to a fascinating talk by Mark Dimunation, head of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Library of Congress, on his project on the reconstruction of Thomas Jefferson’s library. Dimunation, a Minnesotan and St. Olaf grad, spoke at a well-attended program of the Friends of the U of M Libraries (at which I was the youngest person in the audience, natch).

When the British burned Washington City in 1814 (as revenge for the earlier American sack of Toronto), they destroyed every public building in town, including the fledgling 3000 volume congressional library. The next year, Thomas Jefferson, owner of the largest book collection in North America at the time, offered to sell his collection to the nation: thus was born the Library of Congress. Jefferson had some 6500 books on almost every conceivable topic, an e universalist library, organized bibliographically by Jefferson along Encyclopedian lines of Memory, Reason and Imagination, which he took to mean History, Philosophy and Fine Arts.  There was dissension on the floor of Congress about buying Jefferson’s library, given its high proportion of “immoral” (aka French) books, but it was finally sold and drawn by carriage to Washington in carriages taking two different routes, in case of robbery.  Unfortunately, the library building burned down thirty years later, destroying two-thirds of the library.  Dimunation’s project was to reconstruct Jefferson’s library.  Some three hundred books still elude the LoC, including a 12-page Italian pamphlet on growing pomegranate trees, but the bulk of the collection is on display at the LoC in a circular arrangement of bookshelves, the whole of knowledge surrounding the reader.  Dimunation told other stories about the RBSC’s amazing collections–a great program!

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. 

Come by the Education Building at the MN State Fair today and you’ll find me hanging out with computers and librarians, at the Try Cool Tools @ Your Library booth, sponsored by the MN Digital Library, Minitex, and the U of M libraries. We’ll be demoing Minnesota Reflections*, ELM databases, where you can access fulltext newspapers and magazines, the MNLink Gateway, by which one can access items from most libraries in Minnesota, MyHealthMinnesota GoLocal, connecting folks to health information and resources, and the Research Project Calculator. While you’re at the Fair, stop by the Creative Activities building and take a look at my lovely okra pickles. Anyway, I’ll be at the booth from 3-9. Come by, say hello, and try out the Cool Tools!

*the HCMC History Museum photos are up! Go look at them on Minnesota Reflections!
Update:  One of the best parts about this experience was having people come up to me to express their love and admiration for “you librarians.”  Folks don’t really get the warm fuzzies for historians, or museum people in general, in the same way they do for librarians.  Nice to have some of that reflected goodwill.

Gov. Pawlenty astonishingly vetoed the money needed for the Minneapolis–Hennepin County library merger.  Meanwhile, my community library is still closed.

A scholar who moved from academe to public history (and a creator of the great, though never-updated, Beyond Academe) talks about the transition.

Another story of a move from academe to public history, this time in publishing, but with lots of strawmen.  Manan Ahmed responds.

Public Resource put 6000 photos from the Smithsonian on flickr to protest lack of  free access to public domain works.  Read their ‘dear internet’ letter.  The conversation about the project on MCN-L has been fascinating, especially around how the photo metadata was migrated from the SI to flickr.  The answer seems to be poorly, and brings the discussion back to the question of provenance and context.

Museum 2.0 on making 2.0 easy for museums–post-its, anyone?:

Web 2.0 means stepping away from fancy flash-based applications that lock content behind programmed doors and towards clear, text-based, multi-access content. It may not be gorgeous, but it’s easy to create, manipulate, and access for techies and newbies alike. The low barrier to entry makes it easy for users to transition from consumers to participants—whether in wikis, blogs, or on social networking sites.

Ray Bradbury says Fahrenheit 451 isn’t about censorship, it’s about TV.

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