June 2013 Archives

Electronic Records and Digital Archives

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What do you do with electronic records? This is a question that staff members in Archives and Special Collections have been receiving at an increasing rate - from donors and researchers alike. It is also a question that we have been asking ourselves and our professional colleagues.  This past year has seen a great deal of activity in ASC and the Libraries as a whole to meet the challenges of born-digital archives.


digital material sources.jpgOur profession has long been good at receiving and preserving physical evidence that documents the lives and activities of individuals and groups - materials that you can hold in your hands. Before books get published, buildings get constructed, and plays get staged, people have traditionally put pen or pencil to paper to conceive, sketch, and outline their ideas. They add and edit and develop concepts through iterative drafts, personal notes, and the minutes of group discussions. They photograph activities and record rehearsals and presentations. Facts and figures, needs, resources, and costs are tabulated. Errors are found and corrected. Ideas are explored and examined in newspaper and magazine articles clipped out, book chapters photocopied - sources then collected or shared with others as attachments in letters.  All of the activity leading up to the realization of an idea can be retraced by poring through the physical evidence left on paper, film, and tape. As professionals we have gotten very good at bringing these things in to the library, preserving and sharing them. Today, much of that activity takes place entirely online with word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, and design software. Communication takes place via email, text and instant messages, on blogs and social media. Sometimes it is printed out, but it can exist entirely online - and in any event, that is where the materials originated.


Letters to John Bennett Shaw

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Letter from Nathan Bengis.jpgDuring the last six months, I had the privilege of working with Tim Johnson, Curator of the Sherlock Holmes Collections, transcribing letters written to John Bennett Shaw, a major donor to the archive.  These letters began as business transactions between two people sharing the same passion of trading, purchasing or selling Sherlockiana.  Their interests include all sorts of ephemera, for example, menus or programs from various Scion Societies around the country (and world), as well as early editions of manuscripts, and Collier's magazine stories (where Sherlock Holmes stories were first introduced to American readers). They collected signed photographs of actors of Sherlock Holmes stories such as Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce and Orson Welles.


As I was transcribing the letters I began to appreciate the development of deep friendship between John Bennett Shaw and the collectors he regularly corresponded with throughout the years.   Over time, many of these letters became more personal: a son going off to Viet Nam, descriptions of holidays enjoyed, their personal illnesses as well as the illnesses and deaths of their spouses, and re-marriages.   


Upper Midwest Jewish Archives launches new website

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UMJA website.bmpThe Upper Midwest Jewish Archives has launched their new website. The site now provides information on the history of the collection, a link to the database to search their holdings and logistical information to help you plan your visit.

For information about this collection or any others in Archives and Special Collections (ASC), the ASC website is a good place to start. This provides links to the websites for the Sherlock Holmes Collection, Children's Literature Research Collections, the University of Minnesota Archives and a dozen other collections filled with treasures to tempt you.





History In The Marriage License

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I spend a lot of time looking at old things. Some of my colleagues work with items hundreds of years old. In the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender archive that I curate, "old" usually means the 1950's - 70's. That may not seem old, but the decades since have seen enormous social change and the items capture moments in time that might otherwise vanish.  

Marriage License Application form groom and bride.jpgOne of those moments in time will happen tomorrow. Last month the Legislature voted to make Minnesota the 12th state in the country to legalize same-sex marriage. By law, August 1, 2013 will be the first day same-sex marriages are performed and legal in the state. Tomorrow the large counties in Minnesota will begin taking early applications for same-sex marriage licenses.

What will vanish is a link back to 1970. On May 18 of that year, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell applied in Hennepin County, Minnesota, for the first same-sex marriage license in the United States. At the time, neither the laws nor the application form imagined such a thing and did not preclude it. In the publicity and furor that resulted, Minnesota and many other states passed legislation that explicitly outlawed same-sex marriage.

The Minnesota application for a marriage license enforced gender in several ways. One section is labeled "Groom." It includes a box for the applicant's sex. There is only one circle, "M," and the form comes completed. The next section for the "Bride" also has only option, again already marked "F."

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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