History

Events in the past, not exactly oral history, but pretty close to it.

Collective Intelligence

Nelle B. Stulle Library of Congress uploads 3000 photos from its archives to Flickr for all the world to tag.

I whiled away a bit of time last night adding tags to photos. At first, I thought, Oh, there’s nothing to add. But then I discovered that there were tags I could add. (in the process, I discovered that there are two ways to spell bandolier/bandoleer, the criss-cross belt worn on the torso that holds ammunition. Who knew?)

Pilot, LOC image I’d love to see more tags added by those who know fashions and can name the style of jacket, or hat. I mean sombrero and bowler I know, but what about the type of caps worn by boys in 1910, or the style of jacket lapels or decorations on a woman’s dress? And tho I found much to admire in outfits worn by people, I certainly didn’t want to add stylin’ as a tag.

Dorothy Knight at Wyoming launch Edw. Gardner shoots pool ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 17, 2008 in • HistoryPhotographs
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The Last WW1 Veteran

Over there and Gone forever is a story about Frank Buckles, born 1901, the last surviving veteran of World War 1, found by writer Richard Rubin.

A few years ago, I set out to see if I could find any living American World War I veterans. No one — not the Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion — knew how many there were or where they might be. As far as I could tell, no one much seemed to care, either.

Eventually, I did find some, including Frank Buckles, who was 102 when we first met. Eighty-six years earlier, he’d lied about his age to enlist. The Army sent him to England but, itching to be near the action, he managed to get himself sent on to France, though never to the trenches.

After the armistice, he was assigned to guard German prisoners waiting to be repatriated. Seeing ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 12, 2007 in • HistoryVeterans History Project
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Watching ‘The War’ Open Thread

The War Open ThreadAre you watching The War? What do you think? Consider this an open thread to discuss anything about The War.

The weekend before it began, I wanted to do a Ken Burns roundup post. That was when the number of stories about the show was still reasonable. The Carnival took precedence, though. Since then, every news outlet imaginable has produced a story about Ken Burns and WW2 and The War. Stories of the making of. About the companion Book. Reviews.

I wanted to “live-blog” the documentary, you know, saying, “He’s just dissolved to a new black and white photograph. He zooms in, slowly, slowly, and There! he pauses on the face! Fade to another photograph; this one is a horizontal pan.” That kind of snark—Ken Burns is parodying his own style!—was better before-the-fact. We’re watching it in ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 25, 2007 in • History
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Carnival of Genealogy: Family Wartime Stories

Welcome to the 32nd Carnival of Genealogy. The theme: Family Stories of Wartime. The entries span the Revolutionary War to the Korean Conflict.

On the same day I was reading through the submitted entries, I asked my SO to set the TiVo to record all seven episodes of Ken Burns’s The War (begins Sunday, 23 September on PBS), a 14+ hour documentary that tells the story of World War 2 through the eyes of ordinary people from four American communities. “In extraordinary times, there are no ordinary lives.” We also watched a documentary that the TiVo recorded earlier this year: The Perilous Fight: WW2 in color. Color motion picture was accompanied by excerpts from diaries and letters written by those who lived it. It was a (mostly) sober couple of hours of non-Glenn Miller getting In The Mood (er, not that mood) for the Carnival, and for the upcoming Ken Burns documentary.

Ken Burns and PBS are promoting the The Veteran’s History Project (VHP), a nationwide oral history project to record and preserve the stories of Americans in wartime at the Library of Congress.

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Pearl Harbor

The common theme of the documentaries, the VHP, and this carnival: Great historical events do not belong to the Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, War Secretaries and Generals, decision makers and strategists. When one nation fights another, the war is experienced from family to family, household to household. Whether victim, refugee, prisoner, laborer, soldier, the events of that war seep into every corner of a nation.

So here are some stories of war from the households of family (and neighbors) of the carnival partipants.

Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War-era maps and charts

Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings tells us the story of Patriot Soldier, Isaac Buck, one of his favorite ancestors and his service and war pension. Good for Isaac Buck that he received a pension, and good for Randy that the records are there to tell him of his ancestor.

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Randy’s story mentions Ticonderoga; Here’s a map of Ticonderoga with authentick informations, 1777, from Library of Congress Memory Project. (My grandfather’s 100th birthday party was in the Village of Ticonderoga, or “Ti” as we call it)

The Revolutionary War is also known as “the First Civil War,” according to Tim Abbot of Walking the Berkshires. His account ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 18, 2007 in • GenealogyHistoryOral History ProjectsVeterans History Project
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NY Times to open up old archives

(upated) The news story as others see it: The paywall’s coming down. But this little tidbit about old, old archives caught my eye:

In addition to opening the entire site to all readers, The Times will also make available its archives from 1987 to the present without charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain.

Score!!! I’m reading letters from around this time. Stories about my grandmother appeared in the NYTimes. There’s gotta be other stuff that’s just plain interesting that’ll appear.

UPDATE: Here’s a press release that discusses the fate of stories between 1923 and 1986: “Archives for the years 1923 - 1986 are available to be purchased in single or 10-article packages.”

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 17, 2007 in • HistoryMemorabilia
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Papa’s Diary Project

New blog discovery! Blogging grandpa’s 1924 diary. Matt Unger (grandson) transcribes Harry Scheurman (his grandfather)’s diary. An entry a day, a post a day. Plus commentary. [via Digitization 101] Another example of A small daily task that I mentioned in my Letters in the Attic post.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 31, 2007 in • Cool WebsiteHistoryMemorabilia
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Katrina, 2 years later

An ongoing entry of Katrina and Oral history.

All day recording of oral histories: “The Historic New Orleans Collection and the New Orleans Fire Department celebrate Oral History Day, collecting stories from those who were assisted by the Fire Department during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the Collection, 533 Royal St.”

Do you know what it means: “After Katrina, the School of Visual Arts in New York created the Web site www.DoYouKnowWhatItMeans.org. This collaborative, educational effort strives to collect the untold stories of New Orleans residents by chronicling and preserving photographs, videos, family histories, interviews and other artifacts in an accessible and public digital archive.”

Voices After The Storm: A Memoir of Katrina: Joshua Clark was in the French Quarter during the storm, afterwards, he recorded his own thoughts and conversations with others, which is collected in this memoir called Heart Like Water: Surviving Katrina and Life in Its Disaster Zone.

Dave Eggers does Oral ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on August 28, 2007 in • HistoryOral History Projects
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Nixon Library undergoing changes

The LA Times covers changes to the Nixon Library, in (nearby) Yorba Linda, CA. I’ve never been. (Nor have I visited the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, either). Apparently when it was first built, the National Archive wouldn’t trust the Library to house the papers from Nixon White House years, fearing that they’d be destroyed. In a few days, the National Archives will hand over materials to the library.

The article provides a contemporary snapshot of the process whereby (controversial) current events become history. I’m old enough that the early 1970s aren’t “the old days, back when.” What began as a one-sided biased perspective in Nixon’s favor has, with the passage of time, begun to be balanced by other poitns of view. First person accounts of others involved in the Watergate events are to be part of the exhibit. The article glances on use of oral history accounts to get at what happened and why it happened (I’ll highlight ‘em below).

One of the featured activities of this last spring’s Southwest Oral History Association event in Fullerton was a visit to the Nixon Library. Now ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on July 09, 2007 in • History
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Oldest college graduate to become oral history source

You’re never too old to learn. 95-year old Nola Ochs will graduate from college next month. Her history prof wants to interview for oral history after she graduates. She’s provided a personal perspective to events in his history classes.

Todd Leahy, history department chairman, wondered at first if Ochs could keep up with the other students. After her second week, all doubts were gone, as he discovered she could provide tidbits of history.

Leahy, who had Ochs in four classes, wants to record oral histories with her after she graduates.

“I can tell them about it, but to have Nola in class adds a dynamic that can’t be topped,” Leahy said. “It’s a firsthand perspective you seldom get.”

For instance, Ochs offered recollections of the 1930s Midwest dust bowl, when skies were so dark that lamps were lit during the day and wet sheets were placed over windows to keep out dust that sounded like pelting sleet hitting the ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 28, 2007 in • HistoryPersonal History
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History and Journalism, Oral History and Fiction

Frances Dinkelspiel describes a conference she attended, Reconstructing the Past: Where History and Journalism Meet, which took place at Berkeley this past weekend. In some ways, it’s a parallel to the Southwest Oral History Association Annual Meeting Conference I attended in Orange County last weekend (Listening to the Past and Keeping it Alive). Not that attendees at each conference would look at the other like long-lost siblings of common interest. But I do. They both belong on a continuum in my mind.

Dinkelspiel is writing a biography of her great-grandfather, Isaias Hellman, “the Pacific Coast’s leading financier in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and his role in transforming the frontier into a modern state.” It’s a cross where family and personal history meets state history meets journalism (Dinkelspiel is a journalist),

The concluding session at the SOHA event I went to was a presentation by Cynthia Kadohata, a fiction author, who draws upon history to write her books. One book, Weedflower, tells the story of the Japanese American internment camp from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl. Kadohata’s own father went to Poston, AZ, the internment camp that she ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 25, 2007 in • AfterwardsBooksHistory
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History Digitized (and Abridged) Follow-up

A follow-up post (read my previous) with various responses to the Katie Hafner article on History Digitized.

But before I do, I’ll offer my own, small what-if thought about how to get a bigger budget to digitize historical artifacts: I know of efforts and companies moving into this space. What they do: Digitizing Your Memories. Your Personal History. (Heck, this site is also an effort in this direction). Suppose that the players in this space were to create a fund from a small portion of proceeds of each company? The fund would underwrite digitization efforts. It’d never get as big as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but it’d be focused on This One Thing.

Speaking of Bill Gates, David Rothman compares libraries to the steel industry (once a giant, now a weak shadow of its former self), concentrating on library budgets in a “follow the money.” What’s the library budget per person? He’s got the goods. Incidentally, Andrew Carnegie, who founded (funded?) so many libraries, got his money from steel. Rothman looks at the benefactor Bill Gates, and what his fund is buying (computing equipment) and what it is not (digitizing the data, the content, the stuff). Rothman’s Steel-and-Libraries inspiration comes from a post by Peter Brantly, digital librarian: There was a moment in the history of the steel industry where it could have adapted ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 12, 2007 in • DigitalityHistoryLongevity
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History: If it isn’t digital, it doesn’t exist

History: Digitized and Abridged. Not everything will get digitized. And the non-digital will be overlooked. This NYTimes article by Katie Haffner provides a fascinating (and sobering) twist on the trend toward digitality. [via Dave Winer, Scripting News] It’s very expensive to transfer all those archives of artifacts into digital form. Who will support the digitizing of historical artifacts? And how much stuff – and history– will get “lost” as an increasingly-digital-aware public overlooks the items that aren’t in digital form?

While the Internet boom has made information more accessible and widespread than ever, that very ubiquity also threatens records and artifacts that do not easily lend themselves to digitization — because of cost, but also because Web surfers and more devoted data hounds simply find it easier to go online than to travel far and wide to see tangible artifacts.

The article touches on matters of copyright. Copyright laws—which have extended the term of copyright from the original 7 years to over 90 years—does not touch on matters of digital preservation. An example of how things get mucked up as a result: A collection from Leonard Bernstein was donated to the Library of Congress. In ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 11, 2007 in • DigitalityHistoryLongevity
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When family stories are top secret

Chris Dolley finds out what his dad did during the war. Dolley’s Dad took his secret to his grave, but a BBC interview with another seaman revealed the essential clue. [via The Genealogue] This is one of those cases where presonal history intersects with History (cap H) history. And demands of History (or State secrets) required a big blank in the personal history record.

So I clicked the link. And found an interview with an able seaman from the Bulldog talking about the North Atlantic convoys and the day they captured the German submarine U-110. My father was listed as one of the eight men mentioned in despatches for their part in capturing the submarine.

I was amazed. I’d known that my father had been ‘mentioned in despatches’ but had never been able to track down what for. His service record didn’t say - which the MOD admitted was strange - and he’d never spoken of it. My mother had told me that once, after a large amount of drink, he’d started to tell her about something he did that had saved a lot of ships but he’d denied it all the next day and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 12, 2007 in • HistoryPersonal History
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Digital History year in Review

An abcedary list: Digital History Year in Review.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 29, 2006 in • DigitalityHistory
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Genealogy as Graffiti

Thought provoking: Genealogical Graffiti and the Personalization of History, on the blog Drawing Parallels, written by a student of public history named Kris. It’s a surprising meditation on the nature of graffiti (art done outside the “mainstream” and outside “established channels”) and genealogy, which is, I guess, looked at askance by public historians.

When I asked a few friends where they saw history in their everyday lives, most responded with the same answers: Museums, monuments, old buildings, television. When I asked these same questions to family, I received another answer that has come up several times in Donald Spanner’s Archives class – Genealogy.

To me, genealogy seems like a natural corollary of social history. At its outset, social history sought to tell the historical narrative of those who had not previously been included. Genealogy seems much the same, as family members seek to understand their own history. In less than one hundred years, we have gone from a bottom-down approach of history, to a bottom-up one, and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • GenealogyHistoryPersonal History
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