Course Blog


National Archives Rules: A Discussion

In preparation for tomorrow’s work at the New York Public Library, I ask you comment on the rules of using the National Archives in Washington, D.C. that are posted on the February syllabus page (you can also access them here.) Which ones seem right to you? Which seem obscure? Do any seem stupid or pointless? How would you prepare to visit an archive? Feel free to comment on other people’s posts as well.

Since I got this post up late, I am going to start with Phoenix Smithey’s remarks, left in the comments section of another post. In your remarks, you might want to riff off of Phoenix’s observations — or take another tack entirely.

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.


Our New Course Assistant

I would like to introduce you to our new course assistant, Julian de Mayo Rodriguez. Julian is from Vancouver, and received his BA in Geography and Latin American Studies, with a Certificate in Spanish, at Simon Fraser University. Currently he is a Master’s Candidate in Media Studies at The New School for Public Engagement.

Julian has experience in civic engagement, community activism and social media.  I first met him when he came to consult on a project about ACT-UP – New York’s Latino Caucus, which has taken him to the New York Public Library Special Collections.

I’m hoping that Julian can help each of us frame our projects with the appropriate social media. Here is a short 2-part YouTube video he made on the recent history of a gay bath house in New Westminster, outside Vancouver:

February 12: History as a Living Thing

My questions for this week begin with: What is “community history” and why does it matter to historians, activists and members of an identifiable community? What ethical principles does it embody? Finally, what are the ethical responsibilities of universities toward their communities  — and the public more generally? How do we make what we do accessible to others?

Use the comments section to begin your discussion of these issues, connecting them if you can to last week’s discussion.  How might Ariel Poland’s emphasis on the dangers of “bias” enter into these debates? Are his concerns answered by the readings you have for this week’s class — or do the readings raise new questions?  How does recent history help activists do their work — or does the work of historians present potential threats?

Comments? Bring it on!

Canadian Civil Liberties

Here is an article contributed by our colleague Kerri Lanoue about a decision by municipal government to restore an activist’s right to protest in Windsor, Ontario.

Take a look.  One of the things it made me think about are the ways in which the state can legally restrict speech in the United States (anybody know what they are?) But I also considered what criteria were being employed in relation to this activist, and one was whether he was well-behaved or not.

Since one fundamental principle of ACT-UP, and of radical feminism, was to be disruptive and ill-behaved, I wondered what all of you thought about the place of bad behavior is in activism? When does it suit an activist agenda to be well-behaved? I have written about that in an article called Paths to Political Citizenship (2012), in which I compare GLBT activism and feminist activism in the 1970s.

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