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Welcome to the Course Blog!


There are very few rules:

  • Be thoughtful, be productive, be collegial: don’t be scared!
  • When posting an image or a video, say why you have chosen it. A few sentences about why you shared it is great; a couple paragraphs about what you think it means is even better.
  • Share announcements of events that are relevant to our project.
  • When giving us links, embed them, using the tools above.  Comments with more than two links will be flagged by the spam filter.
  • When replying, if you find you are going on for more than a few paragraphs, make it into a post!
  • Creativity, playfulness and taking risks are a plus: feel free to post work that you have done outside of class and outside of school.


  1. Lynn del Sol says:

    In addition to the https://pindropapp.com you mentioned today in class.
    I imagine you know of http://www.historypin.com as a mapping software.
    I love it and used it for a class project mapping war memorials for the Smithsonian Memory & History class.
    Also there is https://everplaces.com which is super well designed and intuitive to use.
    Just thought I would add them to the pile.

  2. Lynn del Sol says:

    Hi again. I would also add http://www.placematters.net website to the list. Place Matters is an organization that asks the public to nominate places that matter to them as a “bottom up” means to create or suggest heritage sites.

    What could be useful in our class is two-fold;
    one, at the end of the class this website could be another source where the class posts its findings.
    two, there is a toolkit section where they give a simple “how to” conduct research. could be useful to look over

  3. Lynn del Sol says:

    Seeking a “creative response”:

    A story of how a child of immigrants came to see his world in direct contrast to that of than President Regan’s “Morning in America.” An “I” before “we” version of America. In his words, the author “couldn’t relate” and this feeling of outsider, of other, inspired him to seek and embrace “the creative response.” I’m not sure yet, that this author’s “creative response” is the creative response we are discussing or looking for in this class but nonetheless there were moments in his writing that I felt were inspiring.

    (…) We’re all agents of history, curators of our evolving humanity.

    (…) For me, creative response is the antidote to the individualism, consumerism and cynicism that now define our culture.

    (…) “Your own acts and behavior tell the world who you are and at the same time what kind of society you think it should be…. Liberty is about our rights to question everything.”

    (…) Ultimately, creative response insists that each of us maintain the courage of our convictions to meet the extraordinary challenges that confront our world. It’s this spirit that answers the question “Who owns the future?” The new, emerging “we” own the future: because our rejection of cynicism and apathy free us from the trap of history’s bad ideologies; because embracing compassion as a cornerstone of democracy allows us to imagine ourselves in the position of another; because transforming the narrow thinking of the past and problems of the present opens up possibilities for the future; and because the moment we see ourselves as citizens of the world, the future is ours.

    read: “How the Creative Response of Artists and Activists Can Transform the World”

    watch: “Let Fury Have the Hour” http://youtu.be/BWleS2KfRY0

  4. Lynn del Sol says:

    Now take this post with a grain of salt, as my reference is a paper that was written in 1947, but I think it provides a very simple outline of what a “creative response” was/is/could be as I am trying to define the meaning of a “creative response”.

    I thought the second of the three characteristics was particularly useful, as I interpreted it to mean; rebel.
    Rebel against all that was told to you. Rebel because nothing is pre-determined. Rebel because anything is possible. It is that possibility that the world is changed. Funny to find such a statement in a economic paper written by a Harvard man. The rest of the paper goes on to speak of this “creative response” within the framework of capitalists, inventors, and entrepreneurs (for obvious reasons). But economic success- or economic empowerment, for me does seem to be a vital component to the success of any activist movement if that movement is to move into the realm of permeant change and rival the darwinian model of capitalism America so loves.

    Whenever an economy or a sector of an economy adapts itself to a change in its data in the way that traditional theory describes, whenever, that is, an economy reacts to an increase in population by simply adding the new brains and hands to the working force in the existing employments, or an industry reacts to a protective duty by expansion within its existing practice, we may speak of the development as adaptive response

    And whenever the economy or an industry or some firms in an industry do something else, something that is outside of the range of existing practice, we may speak of creative response.

    Creative response has at least three essential characteristics.
    First, from the standpoint of the observer who is in full possession of all relevant facts, it can always be understood ex post; but it can practically never be understood ex ante; that is to say, it cannot be predicted by applying the ordinary rules of inference from the pre-existing facts. This is why the “how” in what has been called above the “mechanisms” must be investigated in each case.

    Secondly, creative response shapes the whole course of subsequent events and their “long-run” outcome. It is not true that both types of responses dominate only what the economist loves to call “transitions,” leaving the ultimate outcome to be determined by the initial data. Creative response changes social and economic situations for good, or, to put it differently, it creates situations from which there is no bridge to those situations that might have emerged in its absence. This is why creative response is an essential element in the historical process; no deterministic credo avails against this.

    Thirdly, creative response- the frequency of its occurrence in a group, its intensity and success or failure-has obviously something, be that much or little, to do (a) with quality of the personnel available in a society, (b) with relative quality of personnel, that is, with quality available to a particular field of activity relative to quality available, at the same time, to others, and (c) with individual decisions, actions, and patterns of behavior.

    read: Schumpeter, Joseph A. The Creative Response in Economic History. (1947)

  5. Lynn del Sol says:

    Oh postmodern angst, how to tempt my contemporary soul.
    Reading Tom Nesmith’s “Seeing Archives: Postmodernism and the Changing Intellectual Place of Archives,” was really inspiring on a few levels. One, it reenforces the themes we’ve been discussing in class; how as a researchers of recent history the individual may have to define, if not create, their own archive.

    But two, that within the archive history there is an acknowledgment (of sorts) of the limitations to these documents. Before reaching the researcher, they have in some ways been interpreted, contextualized, categorized, highlighted, labeled; judged. They have been deemed more or less worthy by a whole host of people, for a whole host of reasons over a long period of time. Not to by cynical but to be well..to be archived. If one is not aware of this one may be limited in their search.

    I wanted to share a few bits of insight (that is if I understood the text correctly) that could help others when thinking about an archive, as apparently I have spent too much time fretting over our upcoming visit.

    1. Where the essay describes Canadian archivist Brymner’s “noble dream” in admassing the national archive it speaks of his “complex choices, interventions, compromises, negotiations, and judgments” that one would make in creating a collection of sources. The sections ends with “Archivists, who do much to shape this context, therefore share in authoring the record.”

    This made me think of early art historian Aby Warburgs’s “Atlas Project” or ‘Mnemosyne Atlas’. For those of us who think more visually perhaps his story could provide an interesting resource in thinking about how an archive functions and how they were/are built/maintained.

    Warburg was looking for connections – meanings- how associations connected more broadly to each other- and what those connections could reveal about a society. Today it would be called “iconology” but for him it was a means “to cure the world of their ignorance of heritage.” His methods for organizing his finding were fascinating. The terminology and hierarchies he created were completely original and utterly impossible to maintain for any future archivist. But his story has a lineage with archive building so I thought I would bring it up.

    2. There was another part of the essay where the author spoke about how a “record is designated archival, it is assigned a special status. It is circled, framed, or privileged for a particular type of viewing, and often becomes a symbol of community aspirations or cherished values”

    The Greeks had a word for this; “synecdoche”. In summary synecdoche means “parts stand in for the whole.” The document becomes representation to the whole. I thought this was an interesting line of thought within this context.

    3. And finally, I suggest looking at artist Fred Wilson’s “Mining the Museum” project both in response to the following passage but maybe as a methodical inspiration for those researching recent history.

    A passage I read said that struck me was; “In description and reference work, archivists, in effect, help decide what of this extensive and complex body of information about how the records came to be counts as meaningful context for launching readings of the records by archival researchers, or what contextual information counts as meaningful to an understanding of the evidence. That is a considerable power, and one that can influence readings by others at the archives, now and across time.”

    This is exactly what Fred Wilson’s work counters. He enters museums (archives of objects) and amongst the same objects everyone had access to for years he finds new suppressed (or hidden meanings) within them. For example, in a colonial painting that has hung in the museums’ galleries for years- cherished amount the community. Fred comes in and redirects a spotlight. Suddenly the slave is the focus and the slaver holder fades to the back. The provenance of the slave owner are well known, but Fred’s spot light ask who is the slave? None of the staff know. But Fred knows where to look. Tucked away in a journal of accounts kept by the slave owner are the slaves names, ages, and bits of biographical histories written alongside household possessions like chairs and sliver.

    if you like I have a board of his work up: http://pinterest.com/lynndelsol/research-synecdoche/
    or if you have time you can view the following video on the project http://vimeo.com/11838838.

  6. phoenixsmithey says:

    I feel most of the rules are pretty standard and expected. I firmly believe in the no food or drink rule. I could just imagine something terrible happening with a spill. I understand and agree with the rule against large bags and possibly sneaky clothes. On the other hand I don’t like the fact that an officer can search your person anytime as they see fit. The basic rules on the care and what you can and cannot take in with you seem pretty fair to me. I have no problem with being asked to pack up five minutes early. Like I said before these rules seem pretty standard.

    I found the rules about pornography and personal hygiene to be pretty amusing. I suppose something at some point created a need for them but I would never have thought to put them on the list. It also surprised me how much documentation is needed to get a reading ticket. I suppose it’s just like getting a library card though. I also found the whole appeal process to get your reading ticket back to be a little silly.

    To prepare to go to an archive I would throughly check myself. I never realized until reading these rules just how damaging people can be. These are very important documents and are completely irreplaceable. I mean they won’t even let anyone under sixteen in without an adult. I also need to be really careful about copyright laws. That section was eye opening and reminded me to be extra careful. I realize most of the documents are under Crown copyright but I would still be on my toes. Mostly I would just prepare myself to be trusted with someone’s life and things that have been very important in the recent history of New York.

    p.s. I’m sorry if this was the wrong place to post but it was the only place I could figure out to do it.

    • potterc2012 says:


      I was not quite tracking that I had neglected to put up a post at all. I have moved your terrific comment into the main post, both as a good model of what a blog comment can be, and to give students some ideas to riff off of.

      Thank you for a terrific contribution.



  7. ellenriver1 says:

    You can check out NYPL rules at http://www.nypl.org/locations/tid/64/node/65926, Manuscripts and Archives, Accessing the Collection, i.e. no photography without permission, index cards allowed but not pads of paper, etc.


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