Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fishy Records

The authors of “Coding Early Naturalists' Accounts into Long-Term Fish Community Changes in the Adriatic Sea (1800–2000)” (PLoS ONE) highlight the value of historical qualitative sources for fishery science.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All This, and Libraries Too

From “On Gratitude in Academe” (The Chronicle):
Libraries and librarians: Our colleagues who are information professionals provide us with the scholarly resources we need for our research and teaching, and they do so with minimal recognition and considerable pressure to adapt to rapidly changing technologies. While the Internet has been a boon to scholarly research, the physical library is—more than stadiums, more than student centers—the heart of the academic enterprise: It's a place for solitary reflection as well as serendipitous encounters in the context of intellectual seriousness. Nothing can replace libraries as places, even if they are no longer primarily based on the circulation of printed materials.
On the historical dimension of our national day of gratitude, see “Peace, Love and Puritanism” (The New York Times):
Are our present-day values and practices aligned with the historical record, or have they been remade by our consumer culture? Is anything authentic in our own celebrations of Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 19, 2010

For Friday

Good hats, jolly fellows, and speechifiers—some great book reviews over at Common-place (11:1.5).

Now I’m off, leaving my computer to itself …

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Data: The Next Big Idea in the Humanities

An interesting exemplar of a digital humanities project is “Reading: Harvard Views of Readers, Readership, and Reading History,” an exploration of the history of reading through historical materials in Harvard’s libraries.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Diary Riddle

Last week I picked up for our collection the diary of Northwest historian W. D. Lyman. The first volume opens with this: “The year 1884 dawns chill and dark upon the world.” In the last two entries, from 1920, Lyman records that has become professor emeritus, that his pension is in place, and that he feels rotten. Lastly, he writes: “This period of my history marks another stage of my life. It may have some fine opportunities.” He died two days later.

The future of his history is now in our archives, waiting for a new kind of life (although not of the sort He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named got through his fifty-year-old diary). 

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Real Purpose of a Library

From “Problematizing Patron-Driven Acquisitions” (Library Journal):
a library is more than a shopping site built to satisfy immediate patron needs. A well-chosen collection is a cartography of knowledge that helps guide the novice researcher toward books that they would never think to ask for. … Umberto Eco, who argued for library coffee shops decades before they became trendy, said at the opening of a new library in Milan that "the whole idea of a library is based on a misunderstanding: that the reader goes into the library to find a book whose title he knows." Its real purpose, he said, "is to discover books of whose existence the reader has no idea."
There is also the importance of developing collections for patrons yet unborn. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Archival Epistemology

From a Chronicle report on the latest Project Information Literacy Progress Report:
Ms. Head said the findings show that college students approach research as a hunt for the right answer instead of a process of evaluating different arguments and coming up with their own interpretation. “Not being aware of the diverse resources that exist or the different ways knowledge is created and shared is dangerous,” she said.
The emphasis above is mine. Next semester I’m teaching a seminar on primary sources that will include a focus on the epistemological question of how we know what we know. In The Pilgrim and the Bee: Reading Rituals and Book Culture in Early New England (University of Pennsylvania, 2007), Matthew Brown uses the helpful phrase “epistemology of the archive,” by which he means “a study of not only what we know from the evidential record … but also how we know what we know” (203).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Volunteers Are Waiting for Your Call

Cornell is making some progress toward funding arXiv, an open-access repository, through an NPR-style support model.