historical archives

bemundolack asked:

I work at a historical archive in a southern US state. Ultra conservative legislature. Director is being pressured to erase anything from black history that will "disturb the peace" so to speak. Revisionist white washing. Was wondering if you or followers had any sources on why that's awful? Have to make argument to director. Trying to get director to stop, but we might be de-funded if we do. Need help if you have time/ want to help.

Well, this is depressing and disheartening to read.

Especially since your request is for “sources” to explain to the director of a historical archive why history is important and valuable. How is it possible that the value of art and history, the value of humanity, must be “proven” in order to save it from being obliterated, or taken away from the people who need it the most? This is anti-Black racism in action; this is its function. This is racism at its most insidious, its most destructive, and its most harmful. Also notice that what has been specified for removal is Black history in particular. As if the history of Black people is somehow capable of “disturbing the peace” just by existing, and being accessible to people who are interested in it.

But I suppose it’s part of why I do this, because we’re at that point, and we’ve been at that point in the U.S. for a while now.

When I speak on how history is constantly being reshaped to serve the present, this is one of the uglier sides of that. Although I try to show how histories that have been marginalized or erased can be celebrated, it’s almost impossible to do so without also taking into account the pressure that is constantly happening to shove it back to the margins, or to push it out of the sphere of human knowledge entirely.

When it comes down to it, the visual nature of this blog undermines the constant devaluation our society and culture directs aggressively towards Black Americans. It creates a conflict by showing an art style and origin that we’ve been conditioned and trained to value above other styles, but with subjects we are conditioned to devalue. The way people react to this conflict says a lot about them, and their values. For many it is uplifting, enlightening, and illuminating. Other react as if they’re being attacked. I don’t think I really need to state explicitly what factors associate with which reactions.

But honestly, do I really need to argue, does anyone need to argue that THIS has VALUE?

[Alessandro Longhi; Portrait of a Young Black Man. Italy (c. 1760s)]

What about the fact that Millie and Christine McCoy existed, and spoke five languages, sang and danced, and traveled the world? Does celebrating their existence and their fascinating lives somehow “disturb the peace”?

Is it somehow disruptive to society to celebrate the life and achievements of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo, a learned West African cleric whose memoirs were read across Europe?

What’s being removed? The thesis of Jacobus Ioannes Eliza Capitein?

Or the works of Alexander Pushkin, the father of modern Russian Literature?

The works of of Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo?

Are we somehow causing society to break down because we know Saint Maurice existed?

We’re expected to “prove” this history has value? That it is important?

[Allegory of Music; Italy c. 1670s]

Maybe we should ask: what happens when these histories are erased?

We are left in a world where we could possibly never know the name or the life of this woman, seen in a photograph that was found on Ebay:

I can give countless more individual examples, and in fact I do so every day. The MPoC Tumblr alone has more than 5,000 entries. In the end, I have no idea how to explain to someone (whose job is ostensibly to preserve and celebrate history) that priceless knowledge and objects should NOT be tossed away like trash or shoved under the rug because of racism.

History is important. Water is wet. Human lives have value.

We are enriched by learning from the past, and acknowledging its bearing on our present. Erasing information undermines our humanity. These aren’t just ideas, this affects people living right now. It affects you, me, and anyone reading this.

I refuse to stand by and let this happen. I will continue to write about, share images from, and discuss marginalized histories as long as I have breath.

Haitian President Sudre Dartiguenave surrounded by U.S. Marines, circa 1915. Image Courtesy: Haïti Infos.

On our upcoming posts for the anniversary of the U.S. Occupation of Haiti


As many of you must be aware of, in a couple of days, we will be celebrating the 100 years anniversary of the U.S. occupation of Haiti. On July 28, 1915, using the pretext of instability and anarchy, the U.S. began a military intervention in Haiti which lasted for nineteen years.

Although this occupation was hardly unique in U.S. history – considering that Washington occupied Nicaragua (s.1912), Haiti (s.1915) and the Dominican Republic (s.1916) simultaneously – most historians would agree that it was the most racist in nature.

For our part at this blog, instead of making too many broad historical generalisations or trying to “predict” Haiti’s future based on this occupation alone (as if nothing else happened since 1934), with a series of posts, we will try to explore the occupation inside both Haiti’s and the United States political histories. In this sense, while we are indeed interested in the question: what were the consequences of the U.S. occupation of Haiti?; we also want to ask: why did it happen in the first place? and what does this tell us about the histories of both countries up until that time?

Answering those question, in my opinion, should help us better situate the occupation in a framework which accounts for both countries histories.

Hence, as of today and until September, the majority of (although not all) our posts will focus on this 1915-1934 period. Some posts will be longer than others and aside from the questions raised above, they will also explore the more intellectual and cultural impacts of the occupation (mainly in reference to the emergence of movements like Indigénisme and Noirisme.)

*All our posts about occupation-related themes will be tagged: #100yearslaterathhb. You will find longer versions of all those posts @ La Revue Indigène.

Until then, have a good day!

Community Action Award Winner: Carol West

My name is Miranda West and I am a rising sophomore at Bard College intending to major in Art History with a potential double or joint major in studio arts. I have a vested interest in architecture that includes architectural theory, history and urban planning and development.

Before leaving Bard for the summer, I wanted to take time over the summer to engage in something I felt would contribute to both my local and global understanding of the social space. My advisor suggested that I apply for many different kinds of internships, not only focused in architecture but also on issues that would place me in a new setting with a broader history. South Africa interested me because it possesses a sociopolitical architecture that is so strongly defined by race that it has carried on even after the apartheid. Even after the apartheid ended in the early 1990’s, the divisions in race and class are still very strong and continue to permeate the social, political, and economical atmosphere today. I was granted the opportunity to work with an NGO focused on the ongoing transitional politics happening in South Africa.

SAHA is situated on the top of the hill, built into the historic women’s prison on the left side of the hill. The organization is dedicated to collecting and archiving information and media concerning social justice and human rights issues from the apartheid. The organization is a non-profit NGO that is working on various projects in addition to the archives. Current programs such as the Freedom of Information Programme, Struggle for Justice, and the Right to Truth focus on public access to human rights documents archived at SAHA as well as working to extend their collection of information and media under Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) and making these items available to other organizations and individuals. During my first week here, I have assisted the archives with cataloging political posters here at SAHA as well as working with the RTT team on contacting members of the past Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

On the first day of my internship, my cab driver dropped me off at 5 Kotze Street in front of Constitution Hill. I told him I was interning with the South African History Archives here for six weeks. “How nice!” he said, “just enough time to change the constitution.” I tried to take it lightly and laugh about it with him as I exited.

My time in Johannesburg is short, so I know that the work I do will not be an entire change to the constitution. But on a small scale, I know I will take away knowledge both inside and outside of the office and hope to engage more with the history of the space at SAHA.  I am looking forward to learning about Constitution Hill as a both a historical monument and a workplace and the dynamic of an NGO that is so politically engaged, as well as experiencing South Africa as a social landscape away from the workplace.  


Relics of the World’s Fair: Chicago

From exploring what remains of the World’s Fair in Paris, we continue in our World’s Fair series by looking at what survives from the fairs in Chicago. The Windy City sports relics from just two World’s Fairs — compared to the six in Paris — but they’re two of the most famous fairs in history, with many relics.

CHICAGO: Host to two World’s Fairs — 1893 and 1933

For the full photo gallery of the Relics of Chicago’s World’s Fairs, keep going to Atlas Obscura…

‘US Marines marching in Haiti in 1934. Bettmann / CORBIS’ Image Courtesy: Jacobin.

Read this very interesting article from the Jacobin about the U.S. Occupation of Haiti entitled ‘Killing Haitian Democracy: The US’s repeated imperialist interventions in Haiti have left a legacy of despotism’. As the title suggests, this article sees Haitian despotism as a direct result of the U.S. Occupation of Haiti. While the Occupation was indeed a central moment in Haitian history (and Haitian historians such as Suzy Castor [1973] have even made the case that it ‘stopped’ Haiti’s ‘natural’ development), I feel such reading of the situation would tend to present a very determinist outlook on history. Furthermore, it would undermine many important moments in Haiti’s history (like the revolution of January 1946) when Haiti did give a few signs that it might embrace a ‘popular’ (at least urban-based) democracy.

I will only make these few remarks and say that minus a few historical generalisations, this is a great article to start an insightful discussion on twentieth-century Haitian history. 

a mile of music - for the people!

hola rockeros ~

coolbits about a mass of awsm sounds gonna be free for your ears, in upcoming years:

Library of Congress Gets a Mile of Music

The Library of Congress has begun taking possession of a huge donation of recordings, some 200,000 metal, glass and lacquer master discs from the period 1926 to 1948 that have been languishing in the subterranean vaults of Universal Music Group…

…music representing every major genre of American popular song of that era — jazz, blues, country and the smooth pop of the pre-rock-’n’-roll period…

Many of the lacquer discs appear to be backup recordings of studio sessions, including the chatter of performers and producers between takes.

“This is a treasure trove, a mile-plus of material on the shelves, much of it music that has been out of circulation for many years"…

read the full article by Larry Rohter at NYTimes.com

UPDATE: looks like NYTimes are bein’ a hassle and making ya register to read the full article. so here’s a better one at LA Times!

VIDEO: From Dusty Diary to Digital Copy

VIDEO: From Dusty Diary to Digital Copy

The Smithsonian’s Transcription Center turns dusty historical ledgers into digital files. WSJ’s Kelly Crow and the Smithsonian’s Meghan Ferriter discuss with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Stephen Voss for The Wall Street Journal


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VIDEO: From Dusty Diary to Digital Copy

VIDEO: From Dusty Diary to Digital Copy

The Smithsonian’s Transcription Center turns dusty historical ledgers into digital files. WSJ’s Kelly Crow and the Smithsonian’s Meghan Ferriter discuss with Tanya Rivero. Photo: Stephen Voss for The Wall Street Journal


View On WordPress

A Toronto photography studio has stumbled across a stereoscopic camera, and its photographic slides, that captured scenes of World War I in 3D. The resulting images are chilling—but incredibly striking, too.

The images, acquired using a handheld stereoscopic camera called the Verascope, were captured by French soldiers. They show scenes from the trenches, streets, and battlefields of World War I and, while the pictures are striking in 2D, the 3D GIFs add an unnerving , chilling feel to the scenes.

(via Check Out These Amazing, Chilling Stereoscopic Images of World War I)

Encoding Financial Records for Historical Research (NEH Start Up Grant award)

A meeting of historians of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century America, archivists, and technical experts to discuss the development of a module for financial records for the Text Encoding Initiative to allow for additional mark-up and analysis of those records found in manuscript collections.

The standard guidelines for scholarly markup of digitized sources, those of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), do not provide adequate models for representing the semantic value of financial records. Nevertheless, various digitization projects have used TEI-compliant XML to encode manuscript collections that include financial documentation. And now a handful of projects have begun to use TEI as they turn attention to financial records per se, revealing a need for extended markup guidelines to increase the accessibility of these resources. We will organize a meeting of historians, archivists, and technologists as a first step toward developing standards for markup of transcribed text and the application of metadata that will allow for searching across collections of manuscript financial records. Ultimately, the process begun with this meeting will lead to an extension of current TEI guidelines to include a module on financial records.

(Encoding Financial Records for Historical Research)


In celebration of the 100th-anniversary of Technicolor, we present this rare City Beneath the Sea trailer from 1953, courtesy of the Packard Humanities Institute Collection at the Academy Film Archive. This historically notable acquisition is the largest known collection of motion picture trailers on film and contains over 60,000 items.

On July 29th, join us for a unique opportunity to experience vintage 35mm gems at the Museum of Modern Art as archivist Cassie Blake presents a one-of-a-kind trailer show curated from the Academy Film Archive’s vast Technicolor holdings. Focusing on American films from the 1930s through 1950s –and featuring musicals, westerns, sci-fi, and every genre in between– the Technicolor Trailer Show will showcase a mix of well-loved classics and little known rarities, many of which have not been seen on the big screen in decades: https://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/film_screenings/24308

Theatrical trailers have not always been regarded as an essential part of the cinematic experience, though their history extends nearly the length of cinema itself. Still, it is difficult to imagine a time when previews did not act as a vital liaison between audiences and features. Blurring the line between marketing tool and work of art, coming attractions are multifaceted in their function: at worst, blatant misrepresentations or ruinous messengers of key plot twists; at best, harbingers of excitement leaving wide-eyed anticipation in their wake. Some are so well-crafted that they are themselves films-in-miniature, to be appreciated in their own right.