Remote working and remote learning

Posted on by Raymond Maxwell

I put this on Twitter in an abbreviated form, then expanded it slightly and moved it to LinkedIn. This blog may be its final destination. Or it may not be.

Working remotely requires greater effort from supervision and from management. For that matter, it also requires special effort from workers to make it all work. Being at the worksite with all the stuff you need and all your bosses present provides a built-in level of engagement, between workers and managers, between workers and workers, and between workers and the task being accomplished that remote work lacks. Remote workers are silo’d, from each other, from feedback by supervisors, and even from their assigned tasks. Collaboration is neither easy nor second-natured. In fact, you have to go out of your way to play well with others.

When we work remotely, supervisors and managers need to up their game in a manner of speaking if they expect the same positive results. And workers need to up their game. This telework experience may prove to be the long awaited disruption needed to weed out weak managers. Economists have been studying this phenomenon of ineffective management in the firm since I was in grad school 30 years ago.

The same challenges and the same effect may exist in remote education. Weak, ineffective and just bad teachers will not be able to step up to the challenges inherent in remote education. Remote education, as we have learned from the Coursera platform, requires creativity in opening up channels for learning in the absence of face-to-face instruction, body language cues, facial expressions that indicate either understanding of concepts or the failure to grab the meaning conveyed. Another weeding out opportunity may present itself. Of course, those teachers (and students) that make the adaptation will excel and emerge as new leaders. Unfortunately, students, especially those already marginalized for whatever reason, will absorb the brunt of that weeding out process.

Notes on comparison of Moorland-Spingarn, Amistad, and Schomberg

Comparison Of Moorland Spingarn, Amistad, and Schomberg
One of the discussions we had in our staff meeting last week was that in terms of comparison, Moorland-Spingarn is more appropriately compared to other research centers like Amistad Research Center in New Orleans and the Schomburg in New York, rather than to other university special collections units at DC universities such as Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, and American.
Amistad Research Center
The Amistad Research Center was established in 1966 at Fisk University. Its original purpose was to house the historical records of the American Missionary Society, a Protestant-based abolitionist group founded in 1846, in Albany, New York that came to the assistance of the Amistad Africans group. Amistad became an independent non-profit organization in 1969, and in 1970, relocated to Dillard University in New Orleans. In the early 1980’s it relocated to the United States Mint building in the French Quarter and in 1986 moved to the campus of Tulane University, where it has remained in operation since 1987. 
Holdings include over 800 manuscript and archival collections (15 million documents that date back to the 1790’s and 250,000 photographs dating from 1860 to the present). Amistad has a non-circulating library that includes 30,000 books and pamphlets and over 2000 periodicals.
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
The Schomburg Center is a research unit of the New York Public Library. It has evolved to its present state through a succession of NYPL entities and branches, but the collection has remained devoted to exhibits and collections featuring the African-American and African diasporan communities in the New York and to serving as an anchor for the Harlem community of New York City. Originally established in 1901 as the 135th St. branch under the Carnegie public library program, in 1925 it began operating as the Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints, a division of the NYPL. In 1926, the library acquired Arthur Schomburg’s collection of 5000 books and artifacts, with Schomburg himself serving as its first curator. Upon Schomburg’s death in 1938, he was succeeded by Lawrence Reddick, and in 1940 the the division was renamed the Schomburg Collection of Negro History and Literature. The 135th Street branch became known as the Countee Cullen branch in the 1940’s, continuing to house the Schomburg collection.  The Schomburg Corporation, a non profit organization that provides support to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, came into existence in 1971. The major mission of this Corporation includes but is not limited to assisting the Center’s financial efforts, the acquisition, housing and preservation of primary informational data that document the Black experience.  In 1980, the Schomburg collection was relocated to the new Schomburg Center at 515 Lenox Avenue.
Holdings include collections numbering over ten million items, including 800 manuscript collections, over 185,000 bound volumes, 83,000 microforms, 400,000 photographic images, and 9,000 serials.
Moorland-Spingarn Research Center
Description: see previous email.
Holdings totaling more than 18,000 linear feet, including 650 manuscript collections, 150,000 graphic images, documentation of 400 music composers dating from the 18th century to the present, 700 transcripts and recordings. The Library consists of 175,000 books, periodicals and serials. University Archives include the official records of the University, including the administrative files of schools, colleges and departments, university publications, Howard theses and dissertations, as well as materials illustrating the contributions of Howard alumni to society. The Digital Production Center manages the Digital Howard online repository. The platform currently hosts the digital collections from the MSRC.
“The Museum emphasizes the visual documentation of Black history and culture. It exhibits the myriad resources of the Research Center’s many special collections and acquires artifacts useful for a broad interpretation of the Black experience.”

Moorland Spingarn History

  1. First re-organization: separation of Moorland-Spingarn (MSRC) from Founders’ Library in 1973.
            The post WWII-demand for information on African countries, coupled with the explosion of interest in the African diaspora worldwide resulted in tremendous growth of U.S. African studies programs. Howard had been a national leader in this research, but found itself being overtaken by programs at better resourced institutions like UCLA, Stanford, Northwestern, and Boston U. In the late 60’s, similar increased demand for Black Studies programs fueled new and bigger programs, again, at better resourced universities. Howard was caught flat-footed with an acquisition budget of merely $10,000 and fifteen full-time positions (including seven librarians), inadequate facilities, no program for acquisitions related to research, and no program for future development.
            Howard’s response in the early ’70’s was to re-organize Moorland-Spingarn into a full-fledged research center. Resources were provided for facilities upgrades, hiring additional staff, development of new documentation units, exhibition, research and publication programs, all aimed to recover the university’s leadership in research related to African Americans and the diaspora. By 1975, the research center had expanded to include University Archives, the manuscripts Division, Research and Support Division, the Black Press Archives, and Howard University Museum. Accompanying growth in the research center were new and expanding programs in History, African American Studies, and African Studies. Since 1973, Moorland Spingarn has not been included in University Libraries annual report.
            Between 1960 and 1970 there was a 55% increase in dissertations on Africa nationwide, and from 1970 to 1974 the was an additional increase of 61%. Former director Michael Winston wrote in 1977, “On the basis of the trends of the last two decades it is reasonable to assume that: (1) the importance of Africa in world affairs will increase in the future; (2) research on Africa will increase in such fields as economics, political science, history, demography, urban studies, language and literature, and geography; (3) Howard University should be a leading center for such research; (4) substantial increases in research materials will be required to support such a program; and (5) the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center is the most logical place to develop the research resources for African Studies.”  These trends continue now in 2020, only magnified.  
  2. The library and the research center. What are the distinctions?
          Again, from former director Michael Winston: “The Research Center is conceptually distinct from conventional university library units…. The Research Center has three distinctive goals. 1st, It is a critical resource for Howard University’s instructional and research programs in the humanities and social sciences. 2nd, it is a major center serving scholars and graduate students from other universities, as reflected in the large number of visiting researchers each year. 3rd, it provides the public with materials information, exhibits, and consultant services that are not otherwise available.
          There is a legitimate fear that, having already lost our own budgeting and human resources operations to Founders, any additional losses through re-organization will seriously affect our status as a separate research center, especially when a separate research center is most needed.
  3. The significance of the Moorland-Spingarn Library Division.
          The goals of the library division of Moorland-Spingarn are not the goals of Founders’ Library. Collection development policies are also different. Short range, the library division of MSRC seeks to maintain a research collection exhaustive in specified fields of research, i.e., African countries, the Caribbean, African-American history, literature, education, fine arts, communications and public affairs, social and economic conditions, and adequate for general reference, i.e., Afro-Brazilian history and culture, African archeology, blacks in antiquity, and the development of the natural sciences, law, medicine and architecture. Mid-range goals include dissemination of information about current development in research related to Africans and African-Americans by sponsorship of symposia, colloquia, lectures, and films and to create opportunities for the exchange of library professionals from Africa and the Caribbean. Long-range goals include exerting a major leadership role  in documenting the black experience. We are suspicions that Moorland-Spingarn goals will get “swallowed up” and de-prioritized in any proposed union of joining of the two libraries. We presently have two librarians (MLIS) on the MSRC staff working as archivists. The library division has lacked a degreed librarian on its staff for many years and the collection shows it in ways that a trained librarian would notice. Our deficiencies in library management make their way to our end users and researchers. 
    (My personal note: I would frankly recommend hiring a librarian before hiring a grant-writer. Nobody here can figure out how a grant-writer would be employed full time. Maybe a grant-writing librarian? Again, the library is historically the core of the Moorland-Spingarn collection.)
  4. Final notes. Predictions are that 6 of 41 current and emerging megacities will exist on the African continent by 2030. Issues of demographics, economic development, urbanization, social and political theory, and access to healthcare in Africa and in the African diaspora will be constant subjects of inquiry and research in the decades to come. In short, the demand for the research output that is the special emphasis of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center shows no sign of abating in the near term. In fact, it shows significant indicators of constant and explosive increase. In terms of strategic planning, we don’t want to get caught flat-footed as an institution as we did in the 70’s. 

The obvious difference is the absence of independent non-profit status (Amistad) or an independent non-profit corporation (Schomburg) for financial support at Moorland Spingarn. It is also interesting that both developed external financing options following a period of hardship and cash shortfall. There is also an obvious difference in scope, with Amistad and Schomburg both having a more organizational and local focus and Moorland-Spingarn having a more global and universal focus.

Part One.
History and timeline
1867 – Howard University founded.
1873 – Howard University received the Tappan Anti-Slavery Collection as a gift. 
1914 –  Dr. Moorland announces gift of his extensive collection of holdings to Howard University under the auspices of the Moorland Foundation — A Library of Negro Life.
1930 – Dorothy Porter appointed as Curator of the Moorland Foundation.
1946 – Acquisition of the Arthur Spingarn Collection, the world’s best collection of rare books by Black authors.
1973 – President Cheek recommended to the Board of Trustees to change the status of Moorland Spingarn from a special collection in University Libraries System to a separate Research Center with separate budget and staff.
2020 – Moorland-Spingarn remains a separate research center, even though operational functions have been stripped away. The MSRC executive director is double hatted as director of University Libraries.  
Issues (Culled from a 1977 document, Draft primary Support Plan, and a 1983 document, Master Plan.)

Returning to CUA – the 11th annual Bridging the Spectrum Symposium

Yesterday I returned to Catholic University for the 11th annual Bridging the Spectrum symposium. It’s my fourth time attending in the six years of my association with CUA. Three times I have presented, either on a panel or as a poster presenter.

Going back to the campus is always like a religious pilgrimage for me. I remember the very first time I visited the campus, back in 2012, to attend an information session for the Library and Information Science graduate program. I remember being struck by the cruxifixes on walls, and by the pro-life campus event announcements on bulletin boards. I thought to myself, “Wow, these folks are serious about their religion.” Then there is the huge colorful dome on top of the cathedral, the Basilica, also known as the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. What an amazing sight that thing is, visible from all points on campus.

Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

The campus became a place of refuge for me, a safe harbor from the storm just outside her gates. 2013. But that’s a different story. Maybe even a different blog altogether! Meanwhile, back to the story.

For the morning session, I attended the Information Organization panel discussion. One of the presenters focused on documenting and archiving performance, and though she talked primarily about dance (she is the archivist for a dance company in New York). Of course I applied it to dramatic production and my work with the August Wilson American Century Cycle. A second presenter, from the Library of Congresss, talked about extracting metadata from print-only serials from Africa. The presenter and I had three institutional connections: SOAS, Howard University, and the Library of Congress. Plus my previous experiences in African countries. We had a lot to talk about after the session.

I was a bit late for the afternoon session because I spent too much time talking with poster presenters and old friends after lunch. Many of the posters were quite excellent and I hope they get posted on the CUA website so i can link to them later. The ones that really stood out for me were the following: Rethinking Library Services for First-Generation Students; Creating and Using a Library Diversity Statement; Linking Liszt: Strategies for Improving Acccess to Classical Music in Consumer Platforms; Relieving Library Anxiety: the Application of Relationshhip Marketing to Libraries; Combatting “Fake News” Through Deepening Our Philosophical Roots; and Not Just Bitcoin; Applications of Distributed Databases for the Information Professions.

In the afternoon, I attended the Digital Collections sessions. Interesting presentations, to be sure, but after investing so much psychic energy into the morning sessions and the lunchtime poster session, I was pretty much exhausted. In the closing session, a guy did a parody on Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven, relating it to work in libraries and archives. He covered the WHOLE poem! You know, as much as I LOVE Edgar Allan Poe, it was just too much!

I ran into an old classmate who has joined forces with her mother to provide archiving and library solutions to associations. It is just the thing I am beginning to do with small marginalized black communities, helping them to preserve their community memories in the form of micro- and mini-historical societies. We had a great conversations and I was able to pick up some tips. Of course, she is making money at it and I barely meet expenses. Ha! Maybe that will change in the new dispensation. I look forward to keeping in touch with them both.

It was great seeing classmates, colleagues, former professors. A successful pilgrimage indeed!

Farewell to Garrett Park

Next week will be my last week as town archivist for the Town of Garrett Park, Maryland. This past Monday I put in my two week notice. Resignation notice conversations can be difficult, but this one was quite civilized.

I have a “next assignment” and I am quite excited about it. I won’t divulge it tonight because it’s bad luck to talk about these things too soon. But as soon as I am firmly in the saddle I will share my coordinates with you all. We will remain in the District of Columbia, where we enjoy all the benefits of disenfranchisement and taxation without representation.

Garrett Park has been the “lone arranger” experience that I was looking for, and more. I was at all times aware of the tremendous efforts of generations of town clerks, town secretaries, archivists, and volunteers before me who got the place running and kept it running. My Garrett Park experience also gave me insight into establishing an archives consultancy practice – how to value my effort and why advocacy is so important. I am immensely grateful for both experiences – one really can’t ask for more. Garrett Park is a lily white town with a rich cultural history. Too bad so many of the current residents don’t really appreciate the value of the legacy they have inherited or purchased into. It is so much more than a collection of houses in a tony part of Montgomery County.

I am leaving the campsite cleaner and more orderly than I found it. The old Boy Scout standard. The place is in good shape and the volunteers will keep things on track until the next archivist is hired. Farewell, and as my father would say, “don’t take no wooden nickels.”

A day off to visit the Library of Congress

As a Library of Congress docent, I get advanced notice of special programs at the world’s greatest library. So when I got word of the special program opening the Omar Ibn Said Collection, I quickly adjusted my schedule and came in on one of my off days in order to devote a whole day to the event.

From the site, “The Omar Ibn Said Collection consists of 42 digitized documents in both English and Arabic, including an 1831 manuscript in Arabic on “The Life of Omar Ibn Said,” a West African slave in America, which is the centerpiece of this unique collection of texts. Some of the manuscripts in this collection include texts in Arabic by another West African slave in Panama, and others from individuals located in West Africa.” I was excited about the collection for several reasons, including my interest as an archivist, my interest as a former Africanist, my ever-present interest in African American history, and a personal interest in the history of Islam in the United States that dates back to my impressionable teenage years and a youthful flirtation with Elijah Muhammad’s Nation of Islam.

The morning session was devoted to the academic and scholastic significance of the collection. The chief of AMED, Mary-Jane Deeb introduced the session and Eugene Flanagan, Director of General and International Collections moderated a panel consisting of Professor Sylviane Diouf of Brown University, Professor Adam Rothman of Georgetown, and Professor Ala Alryyes from CUNY Queens College.

a photo of the actual, conserved document

All the pertinent information is at the site above. I’d like to share here some personal observations from the presentation that stood out for me personally.

First of all, Omar Ibn Said was born in 1770 in Futa Toro, an area that overlaps the border between present-day northeastern Senegal and southeastern Mauritania. The area has an ancient history of advanced metalwork and a more recent history (since around the 12th century) of Islamic scholarship and religious learning. See more about Futa Toro here.

Here is where it gets a bit interesting (and this was brought out peripherally in the panel discussion). Ibn Said was a 37 year old religious scholar when he was captured in 1807, hardly a prime candidate for the slave trade. He was an academic, not a farmworker, and certainly not a manual laborer. So why did he get caught up in the slaver’s web?

It goes back to the US Constitution. Compromises, weird compromises were struck between the northern states and the southern slaveholding states in order to get the document approved by all the states. One such compromise, called the “slave trade provision” was included in Article 1 of the Constitution and said, basically, that there could be no Congressional prohibition on the international slave trade for twenty years from ratification. Sure enough, in 1808, twenty years later, the international slave trade was technically outlawed. But in the two years prior, 1806-1808, there was a made dash by slave traders and slave shippers to get as many Africans as possible kidnapped, captured and shipped to the United States. Omar ibn Said got included in that mad dash, where, frankly, in a more “normal” time, he would have been left to his booksand students.

Another significant point in time was the year he published his autobiography, 1831. I scribled something in my notes that the panelists eventually mentioned. 1831 was the year of the Nat Turner rebellion and there had been a series of slave revolts previously, primarily in Virginia and the Carolinas. Omar Ibn Said was enslaved nearby in North Carolina at the time. (I’ve done some creative writing on Nat Turner, a sort of deconstruction of the “Confessions.” A Sonnet Crown. It’s a work in progress.). I have to do some research to find out what may have been the commercial and/or political forces that supported the publication of Ibn Said’s autobiography, the popularity of the genre at the time, and how the published document might be used. I think we are OK with the idea that Ibn Said had his own personal motivation to putting pen and ink to paper, and there was a mention that writing in Arabic afforded him a bit of safety, because who else inside the power structure could read Arabic at the time?

The final significant point for me is the fact that Omar Ibn Said lived for 93 years. He died in 1863, just two years prior to emancipation. One of the panelists showed deep emotion in expressing his regret that Ibn Said didn’t live long enough to experience freedom. I spoke with the panelist afterwards and shared with him my thinking and sentiment based on my own experience and the Stockdale Paradox. In essence, Omar Ibn Said, whether as a result of trauma or of cool rational calculation, made accomodations with his environment in order to survive, to thrive. He learned English. He learned Christianity (though it is a subject of debate whether he actually converted). He worked in the house, so to speak, and even said (some one quoted it on the panel) he wore the master’s clothes and ate the master’s food. And because of those accomodations, he lived a relatively good life, reached his 90’s, continued his writing, and left a legacy that we are still exploring over a hundred and fifty years after his physical death. Not too shabby for a small town Islamic scholar and religious teacher.

I’ll have more to write on this after reading the Ala Alryyes book.

A Garrett Park Archives moment 01.22.2019

A Garrett Park Archives moment

From a letter from Mrs. E. M. Riordan, dated 10/6/1966

“Many commuters went into the city on the morning train returning in the evening – The train was used for all transportation to the social affairs, etc., in the town (City)

“Temple Baily the authoress lived with her Father Captain Bailey in the summers – She borrowed (me) when I was three to spend the day while she was writing – She received a check for a story and My Father had the Post Office in the Station then – She danced around laughing and singing and ran up the path home singing “I sold my story”

Dad often recalled this – I spent many days with Miss Bailey and her father.”

Of course, Temple Bailey would go on to sell many novels. She had short stories published in all the leading magazines of her time. At the time of her death in 1953, it is estimated she had sold three million copies of her novels spanning the period from WW1 to WW2, and the New York Post placed her among the best paid writers in the world.

Moving our collections to the online environment for outreach and for research access

We’ve discussed taking our show on the road, that is, making our archival collections discoverable in the online environment. Up to now, we have a mention on the town’s website, buried several clicks down under town committees, but our cataloguing and even a listing of our holdings have been restricted to an internal collections management software designed for museums, or scatter-shot in documents across several computer desktops within the town office, neither of which is accessible to the exterior town members and the research community.

In previous postings, we have discussed the pros and cons of PastPerfect, the software we have, and ArchivesSpace, the industry standard for the archives community. Meanwhile, I have focused my efforts on identifying and consolidating our holdings and managing for space efficiency. Through our efforts, we are approaching those milestones and beginning to cast our managerial glance both inward, on improvements in collections management, and outward, on outreach and accessibility.

At conferences (and, more specifically, at unconferences) I have seen demonstrations of Omeka, a web hosting and collections management system used by, it turns out, many archival organizations. Over the Thanksgiving break I visited the Omeka website and considered that it may be useful for the applications we are looking for. This week, I began building a prototype on the web-based application, Here is a link to our beginnings on Omeka:

Processing in place: discovering the records overflow in the attic

Some photos from the building attic, where overflow records from the Town Office have been stored/stashed/hidden for the past ten years. Plowing through these boxes, as well as vertical file drawers in the office, have occupied the bulk of my time since my last post here.

The “Autumn Cleaning” began in the Town Office itself, after the decision was made to purchase a new server system and  the requirement arose to clear out old file drawers to make space for the server components. Ultimately, we moved eight vertical file drawers (two sets of four each) of records to the archives, using the recently submitted records retention schedule to separate “good stuff” from garbage. The transformation and reconfiguration of the archives cited in earlier posts freed up significant space and opened the possibility, first in our minds, and later in actual space, for such a  consideration (yes, I’m taking credit for it!). Something happened in town finances and I was directed first to decrease my already part-time hours, then later, to bill the Town directly and apart from the archives salary budget for all my time spent on official town records (which had become about 80% of my time). A bit of a bait-and-switch, perhaps, and one that I would not have accepted so casually in an earlier time in an earlier career. But I watched it unfold and accepted it as part of my dues to my new profession.

I had known since the beginning of my time here about the records storage in the attic, but it was too hot during the summer months to try to tackle the project. In October, with temperatures lower, I took the attic plunge. We moved a folding table up the rickety attic staircase, along with acid free folders, Hollinger boxes, and lots of sharpened pencils. The attic, by the way, served as bedrooms in a boarding house back in the day, when the post-mistress also ran housing for single men who were casually employed in the town and nearby. The maintenance guys tell me the post-mistress had a dog who lived upstairs, and that the ghost of the dog runs through from time to time. So far, i haven’t had the privilege of meeting up with the ghost dog!

So far I have processed eight boxes of Town Council meeting minute files, one box for every year from 2004 to 2011, and four boxes of audio cassette tapes of actual meeting proceedings. 2012 through 2015 are already accessioned to the archives (about the time an actual archivist was here), and the remains are still in vertical files in the Town Office. One thing I have noticed is that the Town Council folders have way too many duplicate copies of everything and I’ll be able to address that in my expanded responsibilities as Town Records manager. If I last.

Most of the banker boxes are filled with town business files, i.e., procurement and contracting files, employment records, and business records for goods and services . Most of them will be retired and disposed of in accordance with the records retention schedule.

Meanwhile, we are doing a pretty major re-arrangement and re-description of many of our sub-collections, reducing overlaps, consolidating subject similarities. The catalog of our holdings is a work in progress, but many of our users are happy to see the whole of our holdings in one place. Finally, in anticipation of new official responsibilities as records manager, I separated all the official “inherently government” files, folders and boxes and gave them all a separate rack in the mobile rack system.

I passed the ACA (Academy of Certified Archivists) exam!

I got the email this week, just as I was pouring through a treasure trove of monthly meeting minutes from the 1920’s to the late 1950’s of the Garrett Park Civic Study Group, the local women’s neighborhood association. I felt fairly confident taking the exam and I had spent hours at the local library and on the rooftop of our building pouring through the readings and notes from Prof. Jane Zhang’s courses at CUA-MSLIS. I passed and as soon as I complete the required work experience I will be a full member of the Academy of Certified Archivists.

But the real story is the treasure trove I discovered. The women’s group was founded in 1914 but it wasn’t until the end of World War 1 that they got really serious about meeting regularly and keeping a very meticulous record of their activities. They met every month from 1917 until 1959, recording local events, holding discussions about national events, recording dues payments and expenses, and, in short, building their civil society. It’s an amazing collection of stories, data, and daily chit-chat over a most momentous time in American history. I’m hoping I can get one of our student volunteers to take it on as a project and I am thinking about doing a presentation for the county historical society annual meeting.

The items altogether were scattered across several different subject sub-collections, but when one of the town archives pioneers (she’s in her nineties now but still sharp as a tack) told me that the archives had been built originally around the collection of records of various women’s associations in town, I realized that that was the true “original order” and pulled it all into one new sub-collection. It’s what I love most about archiving: original order, provenance, and, of course, the archivist’s discretion in arranging and describing.

Different plate.

I missed the Emir Abd-elkader seminar at AU this week. I first heard about Abd-elKader, the mid-19th century Algerian Sufi sheik and international human rights advocate from my Arabic tutor in Cairo, himself a “closet” Sufi sheik (you have to be careful with religious identity in Egypt!). Abd-elkader, aka Abd-el Qadir for you Arabic purists out there, fought valiantly against the French occupation and eventual annexation of Algeria, spent time exiled in Damascus where he saved the lives of thousands of Syrian Christians, and was eventually honored for his humanitarianism in Paris by Napoleon III, in London by Queen Victoria, in Rome by Pope Pius IX, and in Washington by President Lincoln who sent him a matching pair of Colt pistols as a tribute.  A group of his followers emigrated to the U.S. and settled in a small town in Iowa, Elkader, IA, which bears his name until today. He was well known and respected among American intelligentsia and religious scholars, especially the Mormons, Christian Scientists, and evangelical groups of the mid 19th century.

My little secret is that when Emily Dickinson (whose family was part of that intelligentsia) says in one of her poems that she “never saw a Moor,” she was telling one of her slant truths – She knew of Abd-el Qadir! I’m willing to wager that Walt Whitman also knew of the Algerian Moor. Here is more information on Abd-el Qadir. Wikipedia has a well sourced article with great references and external links.

In full disclosure, I have a deeper interest in Algeria. I worked for a couple of years in my former career with the Algerians and Moroccans trying unsuccessfully to resolve the conundrum (what’s a better term for a permanent state of war) known as Western Sahara. I later learned that, unknown to us, or at least to me at the Deputy Assistant Secretary level, both the Algerians and Moroccans were making huge contributions to the Clinton Foundation to curry favor with the Secretary of State, each hoping for top level buy-in on their respective sides of the conflict. The New Diplomacy. Soft Power! Pay to play! Diplomatic efforts were a joke compared to all that high finance.  We thought we were making a difference. We thought we were saving the world. It was just about the Benjamins for the Clinton machine.

Different plate.

In the next phase at work I will shift from archives to records management and complete the records retention schedule. Shouldn’t take more than a week. Then it’s back to arranging and describing and preparing for the migration to ArchivesSpace. ArchivesSpace is an open source, web based archives information system. It is also a community of really cool archivists and IT genuises.

There are several stages to complete, and between archiving, catching up oral histories, training and supervising volunteers, and records management, all while working two days a week, I anticipate completing the whole migration project by Summer 2019, with a bit of luck, insha-llah.

Keep in touch!

Long time since last post

Yes, it has been over a month.

A lot needed to settle after the space reconfiguration. Moving things to the new shelving system revealed weird numbering sequences of accessions, odd-numbered lots, and a few other irregularities. Spent a good two days cleaning, sweeping, and scrubbing (they don’t tell you about that in MSLIS programs!). And we have had a steady stream of summer student volunteers who have been helpful with getting things resettled in a host of project-type ways.

So, the big thing this past month was the combined SAA, COSA, NAGARA conference in Washington, a couple of day-long pre-conference courses, the ACA exam (that I dare not mention in case I end up taking it again next year!), and the sessions. Don’t worry, I’m gonna give you the whole rundown. And in a month I’ll be able to link to the various presentations (and others that I wasn’t able to attend).  Anyway, here is what I did for the week:

Participation in SAA Annual Conference, August 12-18, 2018

Sunday, August 12. Command Line Interface (CLI). 9am to 5pm (day long course). I was just a bit “put off” by the technical sound of it, but it was manageable. Remember back in the pre-Windows day when we had to use DOS commands to get the computer to do stuff? That pretty much sums it up.

Monday, August 13. Completed online exam for CLI. The test, open-book, was a breeze. Mostly concepts and theory.

Tuesday, August 14. Building Advocacy and Support for Digital Archives (BASDA) (day long course). Soft stuff as one of my favorite math teachers used to say.

Tuesday, August 14. Annual Research Forum. Research Forum is always interesting. But I was dancing back and forth between presentations and the all day course I was taking. A bit of a juggling act but we managed.

Wednesday, August 15. Academy of Certified Archivists Certification Exam. 9:30 to 12 noon. Questions were pretty straight forward. Lots of opportunities to draw on project management experience from my past. Interesting questions on preservation and on security, of all things. and I learned a new word, artefactual literacy. But again, straight forward. We’ll know the results in six weeks or so.

Wednesday, August 15. Completed online exam for BASDA. Piece of cake.

Thursday, August 16. Attended Opening Plenary, featuring speeches/presentations by David Ferriero, Archivist of the U.S. (AOTUS), and Zeynep Tufekci, UNC professor. Always impressed with the AOTUS! Cool guy with lots of guts. I really like him. And Professor Zeynep was as dazzling and as informative as always. Lots of good stuff. Had me flashing back to Cairo and Damascus and other hot spots. And Aretha Franklin died.

I attended the following sessions:
101 – Towards Culturally Competent Archival (Re)Description of Marginalized Histories
203 – From Best Practices to “Next Practices”: Documenting Underrepresented Communities through Oral Histories
301 – Archiving “Dirty Laundry”: Issues of access, Transparency, and Respectability Among Archives of Under-documented Communities
410 – Sharing Our Stories: Using Archival Collections to Develop Commemorative Events
501 – The National Archives Aims for Digital Future: Discuss NARA Strategic Plan and Future of Archives with NARA Leaders
604 – No Monuments in the Archives: Historical Records and Contested Public Space
704 – Blockchain: What Is It and Why Should We Care

More on all that when they post the slides, though some are already up at #saa18.

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