Liberty and Union Festival at Old Colony History Museum

by Ashley Perry

On October 21, 1775 the Taunton chapter of the Sons of Liberty created what came to be known as the Liberty and Union flag — a banner of red cloth with “Liberty and Union” stitched boldly upon it with the Union Jack on the upper left corner — and flew it high on the Taunton Green in protest of British rule. This flag is considered to be one of the first flown of the American Revolution, and it’s inception is celebrated annually at the Liberty and Union Festival, sponsored by the Old Colony History Museum and the Downtown Taunton Foundation.

Founded in 1853, the Old Colony History Museum is one of the oldest historical societies in New England and is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the history of Southeastern Massachusetts. OCHM’s secondary mission is “to interpret the area’s history in ways that are accessible, inclusive and meaningful to local residents and visitors” through outreach and events. Their vast collections contain over 13,000 objects including textiles, silver, and militaria as well as 500 linear feet of archival materials. The Museum also houses a sizable research library containing genealogical materials related to Plymouth County. Rotating exhibits highlight important moments of the “Old Colony’s” history. Visitors can now see the latest special exhibit, A View of Plymouth Colony: Then & Now, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower.

The Downtown Taunton Foundation is a relatively new nonprofit organization established in 2011 to “promote the arts, strengthen small business, eliminate blight, create affordable housing, and improve overall quality of life in the Downtown neighborhood.” The Downtown Taunton Foundation collaborates often with the Old Colony History Museum, and has sponsored the Liberty and Union Festival since the organization’s creation.

The weekend-long patriotic bash now known as the Liberty and Union Festival has taken place every October since its inception in the 1990s. Originally beginning as a small parade, the event has expanded over the years to encompass a full weekend of historical and local fun. Activities vary year to year, but the festival always includes the raising of the Liberty and Union flag complete with historical reenactment and rousing speeches. Over the years, the festival has even drawn groups of reenactors from across New England to partake in the celebration. OCHM also brings in a variety of local historians and scholars to give lectures and talks, and the festival typically includes free tours of the Museum and the First Parish Church as well as walking tours through downtown Taunton.

While the festival was created to highlight an important historical moment for Taunton, it also serves as a celebration of local art, culture, and business. The 2013 festival included a stall with 18th century cuisine prepared by Taunton High School culinary students as well as a “Liberty Libations” pub crawl in the evening. 2015 showed one of the largest turnouts to date at about 300-400 people, and further incorporated food trucks, arts and crafts vendors, as well as musicians and dancers. Other favorites included 18th century dance lessons, colonial games, and pottery demonstrations. While the 2020 Liberty and Union Festival couldn’t take place in-person due to COVID-19, OCHM was determined to continue the tradition. Through online games and activities as well as a live stream of the flag raising ceremony, the Museum was able to bring the patriotic celebration right to families’ homes.

The Festival has a little bit of everything, which may be why it’s been so successful in connecting with the community. It embraces Taunton’s historical significance while simultaneously celebrating the local artists and businesses of the present. While locals appear to make up most of the festival-goers, Liberty and Union also attracts visitors from other parts of Plymouth County as well as regional politicians and officials. While the program is designed as a community outreach event, it has also been an effective way for the Old Colony History Museum to advocate for their program. Not only was the Museum able to get more visitors through their doors (including those who didn’t realize the Museum even existed!!), their patrons kept coming back for more after the event’s conclusion. For that, the Liberty and Union Festival deserves a grand “Huzzah!”


For Further Reading:


The State of Utah vs Joe Hill

by Jack Oldham

The project I chose to profile is the “The State of Utah vs Joe Hill,” which was created by the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service.  This is an active project that looks to tell the story of Joe Hill who was a Sedish-American labor leader and activist.  In 1915, Hill was convicted of the murders of two men in Salt Lake City.  The night of the murders, Hill appeared at the office of a doctor with his own gunshot wound, causing suspicion that he was involved.  Hill’s trial and subsequent execution spurred international headlines and discussion about his innocence and whether or not he was being targeted for his work as a prominent labor organizer.

“The State of Utah vs. Joe Hill” serves as a digital exhibit on Utah’s state archive’s web page.  The goal of this project is to fully digitize and transcribe records related to Joe Hill, his trial, and the international conversation that it created.  In order to make these records publicly available and accessible, the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service is asking the public to help with the transcription process.  There are currently three collections available for the public to transcribe, “Governor Spry Joseph Hillstrom Case Records,” “Governor Spry Joseph Hillstrom Petitions,” and “Governor Spry Joseph Hillstrom Correspondence.”  This project appears to have reached an enthusiastic and participatory audience as more than half of the materials have been accurately transcribed in just over a month.

Looking at this project from an advocacy and outreach perspective, I was struck by the use of crowdsourcing transcription and how that works to the benefit of the institution in more than one way.  As we have discussed in class, government archives oftentimes find it difficult to access an adequate amount of funding.  Crowdsourcing serves as an interesting strategy to keep costs low while also increasing institutional productivity.  Furthermore, crowdsourcing looks to be an effective method of outreach for institutions as they can thoroughly engage with a wide audience.  In this case, the Utah State Archives are certainly looking to serve their people in an effort to help create a community, specifically for Utahns and individuals interested in labor history in the United States.  This is a particularly effective way to create a larger and more involved community during the Covid-19 pandemic.  Given our inability to gather and come together in person, crowdsourcing through the internet is a great solution that helps further the institution’s goal of community building.  This goal of the project aligns with the institution’s mission and values to provide its citizens with a more complete understanding of Utah and its people.

Another important aspect of this project is related to Joe Hill’s innocence.  There is much evidence that indicates that Joe Hill was innocent and received unjust treatment from the Utah Justice System.  By digitizing and transcribing this collection, the Utah State archives are providing documentary evidence of past wrongdoing against citizens.  In doing so, the institution is providing greater transparency and accountability to the Utah state government.  There also seems to be an element of attempted inreach in the Joe Hill project.  By detailing the past transgressions of the state government, the Utah archives can inform and remind the government of its commitment to serving its citizens with transparency and justice.  Greater engagement with the public and those within the Utah state government are laid out as key goals in the Archives’ “Outreach and Advocacy Guide.”

Further Reading

“The State of Utah vs. Joe Hill” special project:

Utah Division of Archives and Records Service “Outreach and Advocacy Guide”:



Eye on Houston: High School Documentary Photography project

by Kelly Strickland

The Eye on Houston: High School Documentary Photography project calls for students from Houston public high schools to submit photographs for display at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH). The project prompts students to photograph the world around them and show their unique perspective for a chance to have their work displayed at the museum.

The project is a collaboration between the museum and the Houston Independent School District and has been running for 26 years.

The goal of the project is to document and celebrate “Houston’s diverse neighborhoods.”1 The project emphasizes diversity by partnering with schools from across the city. As Houston is a large, sprawling city, museum visitors are going to see parts of it that they have never seen before in these photographs.

Students are asked to document their daily lives, a prompt that allows a lot of freedom to interpret in their own way and show off aspects of their local area that speak most to the student. This year there were pictures of friends, family, nature, buildings and businesses. The student names the photograph and can choose to include a description. All of the photos are printed on an inkjet printed and framed in a uniform way.

The project itself is fairly easy and accessible for an average student to complete. Most high school students are going to at least have access to a cell phone with a camera, while others might have access to more traditional cameras. The project doesn’t require the students to be in a photography class or a have a background in photography. However, it is a way to give students who are interested in photography and taking those classes an avenue to compete and showcase their work.

The project is a great opportunity for students to be the artist and see their work hung alongside major works of art. The exhibit runs for almost a year which gives students and their families plenty of time to visit. It is then quickly replaced by the chosen photographs for the next year. By partnering with the public schools across the city, the museum reaches a population that might not be familiar with the museum. Given the large size of the city, it’s not always easy to travel to the museum, but the project gives students and their families more of a reason to do so.

The 2021 exhibit is displayed in two locations – the newly built Kinder Foundation Education Center Gallery and the MFAH Visitor Center. The Kinder Building is a recently completed eight-year project to expand the museum. Putting the exhibit inside this new building as well as its usual placement will give it more visibility. The original location in the Visitor Center is near the museum’s café, but is getting less foot traffic as the café is closed due to Covid-19.

The success of the project is shown in the number of submissions that the exhibit receives. In 2019 the museum received over 700 submissions with 93 chosen for showing.


Geechee Kunda

by Emily Moran

Geechee Kunda before an event

In the Spring of each year, members of the Geechee Kunda community come together for The Gathering, a celebration of Gullah Geechee heritage and culture. The Gathering, like many of their other annual events, is a day-long festival that involves presentations, events, vendors, music, foodways, and agricultural traditions. Historians, conjurors, artists, singers, musicians, dancers showcase their talents and share their knowledge with their audience, which include people who have traveled locally and internationally to attend.

Geechee Kunda is a living museum and cultural center along the Gullah Geechee Heritage Corridor in Riceboro, Georgia. Kunda is a Sarakolé word that means “compound” and “home of hope”, which is very much what Geechee Kunda is to many people. The founder and co-director, Jim Bacote, along with many community volunteers, built the center from the ground up on roughly 3 acres of land in 2001. The location of the cultural center is significant because it is the ancestral land of Jim Bacote– it is not only the land where his ancestors were enslaved on the brutal Retreat Plantation, but it is also where his grandparents had lived.

It has since become an invaluable resource for people locally and globally, and it continues to grow. According to historian, Gregory Grant, Geechee Kunda is like old *praise houses where people come to be rejuvenated. People come to learn and to spend time together. For some, travelling to visit Geechee Kunda can be like a homecoming.

There are quite a few things about the cultural center that are unique. In addition to it being the only Gullah Geechee owned and operated center in the world, it has been entirely funded by the Bacotes through their personal funds and fundraising. The Bacote home is a central part of a living history museum, which also includes a research center, arts gallery. The space is also used to host private events and meetings in addition to educational events. Although Geechee Kunda has been grappling with the loss of Jim Bacote since 2018, members of the community continue to organize and continue the vision for the center. They offer tours and host visitors and it is also used as a filming location and place to host office excursions, weddings, educational exchanges, rites of passage programs, and family reunions.

The Gathering event features the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, the “African Spirit” performance, among other performances, edutainment, displays, demonstrations, vendors, arts and crafts. Since the cultural center has been funded personally by Jim and Pat Bacote, they must continue to do outreach programs to sustain the center. Not only is this celebration a successful way to bring attention to Geechee Kunda as an intentionally cultivated space, but it is also an opportunity to bring community together to learn more about and celebrate heritage. The Gathering is one of the largest annual events that they host, along with the annual Sugarcane Harvesting Festival and Kwanzaa celebrations, and it is an important opportunity to highlight the center and it’s value to all who attend.

Outreach events are hugely important to the survival of the space, which means that in addition to hosting events, they must be well-attended. While Geechee Kunda does have an internet presence, many people find out about events through word of mouth. Other ways that they advertise are with banners, in newspaper ads, and on local news stations. Annual events are not just outreach, they are also a fundamental part of how and why the cultural center exists. The events are not by an institution for patrons, it is by and for the community. While outreach is needed for the long-term viability of the center, it is also what keeps community together and what keeps legacies alive.

*a praise house is a small meeting place where African American people go to meet and worship. They originated on St. Helena Island in South Carolina during the period of enslavement.




The Stonewall National Museum and Archives

by Julianna Head

The Stonewall National Museum and Archives (SNMA) is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Founded by Mark Silber in 1972, the SNMA is dedicated to LGBT+ history, civil rights, arts, and culture. The museum features three gallery spaces with exhibits that change on a monthly and bi-monthly basis and includes a permanent timeline of American LGBT+ history. At nearly fifty years old, the SNMA focuses on promoting, understanding, and sharing the culture of the LGBT+ community and their role in American society. It is one of the largest gay archives and libraries in the United States, and public programs include a variety of events, such as film showings, author presentations, and panel discussions.

Though the museum and archives have no direct link to the New York Stonewall Riots of 1969, Mark Silber chose the name as a way to recognize the fight for LGBT+ rights that began there. Programs within SNMA carry the name as well, such as the Stonewall National Education Project, which is composed of more than 200,000 educators and delegates representing millions of high-school-aged youths. Its annual symposium includes topics such as sex, sexuality, support systems, social justice and curriculum, and accommodations for transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Upon entering the website, the visitor is greeted by little immediate information. The background is dominated by a picture of the front of the museum and archives, cut through with an eye-catching, transparent yellow box with a variety of links, including ‘Current Virtual Exhibitions’ and ‘Public Programming.’ The navigation bar at the top of the page includes a few tabs linking to an ‘About Us’ page, a ‘Programs’ page, and others. Scrolling down, the location and hours of the SNMA are in small print, and immediately following is a list of supporters.

Clicking on the ‘Public Programming’ tab leads to a page of online events covering a variety of LGBT+ issues. Even before the pandemic, the SNMA hosted a variety of online events. Free and open to the public, there are at least two virtual events held every month, often more. The events are conversations and discussions with LGBT+ artists, writers, photographers, illustrators, activists, and others. The events delve into national queer history by highlighting recently published queer authors. The SNMA makes it a point to mention their enewsletter at the top of every page, which will allow visitors to stay informed about these virtual events and other ongoings of the museum and archives.

The SNMA website is eye-catching and easy to navigate. Many of their pages are constantly being updated, which is a great inference to the energy and passion the workers and volunteers bring to their duties. Not only are they active, but the virtual events keep up to date with current sociopolitical issues, dealing with subjects from racism and discrimination to queer history. Their travelling exhibitions are available at all CenterLink LGBT+ Centers and can be accessed throughout the United States. The SNMA also has a webpage dedicated to additional LGBT+ archives around the country, allowing visitors to find archives and resources they may not have been previously aware of.

The ongoing pandemic has turned their attention from physical outreach to virtual, and they have adapted exceptionally well. They are planning on having their yearly Stonewall National Education Project symposium virtually and have a variety of online exhibits that a visitor can click through. The virtual exhibitions highlight the breadth of LGBT+ history in the United States, and the includes materials such as lesbian feminist periodicals, posters from New York’s disco scene, and magazines from the National Black Lesbian and Gay News Magazine. Though there are not many virtual exhibitions yet, with the way the website is run, visitors can expect a new exhibition once every few months.

The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project

by Kai Uchida

Project Website:

Digital Materials Repository:


Organized in 2012 by Gordon H. Chang and Shelly Fisher Fishkin, The Chinese Railroad Workers in North America Project is a project organized by scholars at Stanford University and several other schools across the United States, Canada, and China. It is a collective effort by the Asian American Studies community to render visible the stories, histories, and working conditions of Chinese immigrant workers who are primarily responsible for the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad. Spanning more than 2,000 miles, the Transcontinental Railroad (constructed between 1863-1869) connected the rapidly growing American West to the rest of the developing United States and radically transformed the American industrial economy. The project is broad in scope and includes a scholarly initiative to enrich the historiography of the Chinese Railroad Worker history and Chinese-American histories. There are two prominently featured initiatives that speak to the restorative advocacy work that the project sought to do. The first is the oral history virtual exhibit, and the second is the reconstructed interactive and virtual tour of notable construction sites along the Transcontinental Railroad.

Containing recorded interviews from 32 participants who are direct descendants of Chinese laborers who worked on the railroad, the oral interview series (and the accompanying essay from historian Connie Yu) conducted by the Chinese Railroad Workers Project work functions as a work of outreach in two ways. First, it is an active initiative by Stanford University to invite scholars and independent researchers to use these materials for their own historical research and writing – particularly those residing in China and scholars in the United States working in Asian American Studies and labor history. Because very little was written about or by Chinese migrant workers on the railroad at this time outside of timesheets, disciplinary records, and labor contracts, interviews with descendants provide valuable context and testimony that would otherwise be lost to time. Second, this work of outreach also functions as a gesture from Stanford University to the Chinese-American community in California and North America to discover and share a collective sense of history and ancestry. While this can be interpreted as an ancillary and symbolic overture relative to the mission of the project to spur further research into its repositories, it is notable because Leland Stanford himself was a vocal critic of the Chinese immigrants in the United States, often making racist and disparaging remarks even as he employed them, paying them far less than his already underpaid white laborers. Stanford University would be well aware of its image as an inclusive institution of higher education and how the current views of the university do not reflect those of its founder.

Another way that this project speaks to the renewed scholarly and public interest in social and labor histories manifests in its virtual tour of notable construction sites along the Transcontinental Railroad. Written by Hilton Obenzinger and designed in conjunction with Stephanie Yu and Gabriel Wolfenstein at the Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA), it is the most public-facing digital exhibit produced by the Chinese Railroad Workers Project. As an exhibition geared more towards public outreach, its interactivity and visuals are immediately striking in their prominence. Featured most visibly through this online exhibit is the interactive overview map, which forges a path through California and the American West and updates in tandem with scrolling through the exhibit page, highlighting salient excavation sites key dates, and difficult construction sites in the development of the railroad that were instrumental to its creation. However, some of the HTML and CSS elements of its web design are rather sloppy and not optimized for easy visibility or navigation. Some of the text of the various photographic captions are hidden behind images, and the overview map – while able to be turned on and off — often takes up too much of the screen to be used in conjunction with the historical commentary and accompanying images. Nonetheless, it is a very impressive piece of visualization and interactive public history. The ways that it reconstructs various sites and provides juxtaposed photographs of past and present-day railroad sites does a wonderful job in illuminating not only the incredible logistics of railroad construction but also the incredibly dangerous and demanding work conditions under which these Chinese laborers operated.

Overall, this project is an extremely effective example of advocacy and outreach work by Stanford. The Chinese Railroad Workers Project of North America reaches its multiple audiences and seeks to engage them in ways that enrich Asian American history, connects with Chinese-American communities, and encourages researchers to use Stanford’s digital repositories. Its oral history exhibit is rich in testimony, and its visual reconstruction of the Transcontinental Railroad – while somewhat flawed in its execution – is an excellent companion to understanding the incredible work, exploitation, and human sacrifice that went into building this feat of infrastructural innovation. Combined with its robust lecture series and a steady stream of publications, it can be considered a successful advocacy project that lasted nearly 8 years.


Salem Witch Trial Exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum

by Jenna Gillies

Salem Massachusetts is famous for its witch trials, so it should not be a surprise that one of Peabody Essex Museum’s (PEM) exhibitions focuses on this time period. The exhibition cannot be missed; it is the first one you walk by when you enter the building. You are greeted with a life-size poster that describes the exhibition’s focus, themes (idealism, justice, and frailties of human nature), and why the trials still fascinate us.

The exhibition starts with witch trial history before diving into the Salem trials. A wide variety of materials were used: disposition letters, census of arrests, warrants, and examinations. A map is used to illustrate Salem’s size and where the accused and accusers lived. Stories of the accused and accusers were told throughout, helping me learn how easily one could be accused of witchcraft. There was also a section on the recent memorials, built to remember the victims. There was an “In Memory” portion, listing the victims’ names, hometown, birth, and death. It helps remind the viewer that these victims are just like us and deserved more. However, a quote at the end, moved me:

“’Deafness to the voices of others is the root of injustice. Silence in the presence of injustice is complicity. Persecution for invented crimes is a symptom of injustice. Memory of those taken by past injustice should remain with us to guide us in the future’ _From the Salem Memorial Design Proposal by Maggie Smith and James Cutler 1991” (Salem Witch Trials 1692, 2020).

I thought this was very applicable to our world with its hostility towards those deemed different.  We are still dealing with injustice and if we do not act, history can be repeated. These trials should serve as a reminder for us to be kind, accepting and speak out for those who might not have a voice. Doing this will help stop injustice from spreading.

PEM did a great job trying to reach their audience, both locally and out of state.  Judging from the promotions’ various locations it seemed that PEM was trying to reach a specific audience: locals, tourists, and history buffs. There were several promotions near the organization: flags along the organization’s building and a floor to ceiling sign next to the entrance. The signs are in your face, making it hard to miss. A lot of tourists wander down Essex street to shop and eat, so it would be an easy way to draw people in. The promotions use the same painting from the exhibition, making it recognizable. However, the most strategically placed advertisement was the one near the Salem Witch Museum. It was located on a building opposite the Museum, deliberately placed so when a tourist walks out of the Museum, they will see it from the steps. It is also noticeable by car, for that is how it caught my eye. Once I went inside the institution, I walked by several promotions, covertly placed near gallery entrances. It was a constant reminder that the PEM was offering this exhibition right now. If these promotions were not there, other visitors might miss it altogether.

The museum also caters to those who cannot visit. On the exhibit’s webpage, you can click on a 360 degree tour video, which not only gives you the exhibition’s layout, but also clickable red dots that show what objects are being displayed and their significance to the exhibition. There is also a video by co-curator, Dan Lipcan, who describes the exhibition in great detail. He stops at specific spots to explain the history and the objects one would see. It felt like a personal tour, in terms of the amount of information he presented. Seeing this webpage made me feel that PEM succeeded in reaching their non-local audience. A viewer of this page would not only learn about the exhibition, but the materials and why they were picked. It helps a person feel as if they are there. However, if you are not familiar to the website, it might be tricky to navigate. The exhibition is not on the homepage; it is devoted to other events.

This exhibition was a powerful and moving one. While it shows the horrors that the accused went through, it also shows how the city of Salem and Massachusetts are trying to right the wrongs of the past through memorials and public pardons. This exhibition also reminds the viewer how quickly people can turn on each other and that anger and mistrust can lead to pain and suffering.

Works Cited:

Salem Witch Trials 1692 (2020) [Exhibition]. The Peabody Essex Museum. September 26, 2020 – April 4, 2021. 26

by Lisa Jenkins

In this “time of COVID,” libraries and archives have reached out to their communities to both provide support and help chronicle the lives of everyday people, collecting oral histories, videos, poetry, art, and more. The Maine Contemporary Archives project serves as an especially good example of cultural heritage professionals working to document the lives of their community members over the past year.

The Maine Contemporary Archives website, run by the Maine Contemporary Archives Collaborative and hosted on Omeka, links out to the projects run by over a dozen Maine institutions. These are mostly Omeka sites run by public libraries, like Heart of Maine Community Stories and How’s Your Week Going? COVID-19 Story Archive, but also consist of projects from academic institutions and cultural organizations. The website is a treasure trove of information for all Maine residents looking to learn more about how their neighbors are documenting COVID. It is also an especially helpful resource for teachers and parents.

Education and Archival Advocacy

The Maine Contemporary Archives Collaborative has created lesson plans that encourage students to reflect on and document their pandemic experiences, interpret and engage with primary source materials, and learn terminology like “archive,” “metadata,” and “primary source.” More complex terms can be found on a Glossary page. What is special about this project is that students can apply their learning to resources that their own communities generate at this point in time.

The lesson plans are also a great example of advocacy for cultural heritage professionals because they demonstrate to young people what archivists and librarians do every day, and especially during this pandemic. Children from elementary to high school can learn about careers they hadn’t previously considered or fully understood.

For many people, archives feel like a place that stores old things. With this project, cultural heritage professionals demonstrate to young learners (and older learners!) that archives are dynamic environments that document history as it happens, and that community submission and engagement are key parts of that process. The website’s About Archives page makes it clear that materials collected will comprise the public record and benefit future communities, pushing the narrative that archives are active places of history creation.

Benefiting From Collaboration While Retaining Local Autonomy

The Maine Contemporary Archives Collaborative invites “Libraries, historical societies, museums, schools, and community organizations” to participate by creating their own Omeka sites or working with a pre-established project. They also invite participants to join weekly meetings to share skills and experiences.

The Maine Contemporary Archives notes that anyone from across the state can share stories on My Maine Stories, but that visitors should first check out the websites of their local institutions, which may have their own focuses and projects. For example, both the Bangor Area Community Archives Project and the Belfast Free Library COVID-19 Community Archives ask for residents to contribute items, but they allow for different types of submissions, with Belfast including audio uploads as an option while Bangor does not.

And all websites have different styles and designs to best reflect the materials they collect and display. But these institutions don’t just rely on contributions; they create their own materials. For example, Belfast’s two digital item collections are called Belfast Free Library, which highlights the programming that the library has hosted during the pandemic, and Contributions, to which residents can submit materials. Their Library collection contains images from and descriptions of programs like Halloween events and summer reading prizes, publicizing their own hard work as professionals and demonstrating their role as a member of and leader in the community during this time.

However, not all projects are equally good at attracting contributors. Some websites have little to no community contributions while others showcase dozens of items submitted by the public. This discrepancy can be due to any number of factors, but the Collaborative does try to help its member sites by way of a Facebook page and ways to share ideas about getting the word out.

An Example for Professionals in Other Regions

The creators of this site are advocates for their profession and their institutions and are invested in how they can involve their patrons and include their communities in the historical record. Their project serves as a testament to the power of collaboration through the sharing of skills and resources, and provides a solid example for professionals in other states and regions.

The Leo Baeck Institute’s 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past

by Meredith Combs

Everyone knows some version of the quote that says those who do not learn history are destined to repeat it. The Leo Baeck Institute’s 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past was created with that idea in mind: a project that tells the stories of Jews in Europe before World War II and reaches a young audience so they will learn, remember, and share those stories in the future. The Leo Baeck Institute (LBI) is a research library and archive with locations in both New York City and Berlin. Their extensive collections are focused on the history of German-speaking Jews, particularly those living in Central Europe before the Holocaust.

The 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past was presented by LBI as a digital exhibition that chronicled the personal stories of Jews in Europe in 1938. The project used archival documents dated from each day in 1938 to create 365 entries that create a window into the Jewish experience as tensions rose before the start of World War II. This multifaceted project focused on reaching a young audience who use social media and it was launched in 2018, eighty years after the events of 1938. There is a website with chronological posts as well as pages about partners, contributors, and related education materials. The education materials include eleven ready-to-use lesson plans. Additionally, there are Facebook and Instagram pages that feature the year of posts. There are two videos related to the project: a mini-documentary and a video called “Voices from the 1938Projekt.” Lastly, a selection of the documents created a physical exhibition at the Center for Jewish History in New York for the majority of 2018. An accompanying traveling exhibition went to five cities in Germany.

One example of a post is the one from February 11th titled, “Sell the Jewelry: Brothers in exile worry about their parents.” The caption translates a highlighted section which says, “By the way, do you happen to have mom’s jewelry with you? Because mom had sked me if you told me, because I advised them to sell it, so that they would have means to live.” This correspondence between two brothers, one in France and the other in New York, highlights their concern for their parents’ welfare. They were concerned with their parents’ emigration plans, but also how they would support themselves in the meantime. At that time Nazis had restricted which professions Jews could participate in which changed the financial situation for many families. Students often learn about the atrocities of World War II, but this letter between brothers reveals that the hard times started with smaller aggressions.

The aim of this year long project was to reach a young audience, such as high school students, by using a social media style of communication with the accompanying Facebook and Instagram pages. The Instagram only has 184 followers, but the Facebook page is liked by 4,022 people. This means that the social media presence of this project was able to reach over 4,100 people. A young audience is a version of a “non-traditional” user of the archives – meaning someone who is not a historian, academic, genealogist, or administrative user. While the primary purpose was for the stories of Jews in 1938 to resonate with today’s youth, there is also a secondary objective of showing these non-traditional users what types of information and documents can be found in an archives. This introduction to archival material through social media style posts is successful outreach because the young users could become long-term users of libraries and archives. Another advantage of this mode is that people from all around the globe can access these materials online. The accompanying lesson plans are designed for teachers, but once again it reinforces the goal of sharing these stories with a young audience eighty years after the original events.

Along with successfully reaching a new audience, this exhibition succeeds as a work of advocacy because of the content LBI and their partnering institutions shared. The materials explain the changes Jews faced throughout 1938 and how the Jewish community felt in those moments. Capturing their feelings and their humanity through these posts is an invitation for the viewer to emphasize. This project not only advocates for people from the past but also for those lessons to be shared with generations to come. This expansive project was a year-long effort that successfully raised compassion, awareness, and understanding about Jewish life in Europe eighty years prior.

Creating “Collection Connections” at Tulane University Libraries

by Martha Ball

As you watch the “Collection Connection” video for the Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography archival photos flash while you hear the opening notes of “Main Stem” by U.S. Army Blues. Curator Melissa Weber shares that through these images Ralston Crawford captured “joy, grief, rituals, cheating, dancing, selling, boredom, drunkenness, religion, lust, sickness, hard work, friendship, and so many other things.” Tulane University Special Collections (TUSC) and Digital Scholarship and Initiatives (DSI) hope that their collaboration on these videos inspires viewers to discover even more emotions and topics by accessing the collections online.

Tulane University Libraries. (2020, May 29). Ralston Crawford Collection of Jazz Photography – COLLECTION CONNECTION Ep. 1 [Video].

The “Collection Connection” video series consists of “visual introductions” to collections within TUSC. Each video is under three minutes and includes narration by a curator or another TUSC staff member, images and music from the collection, and a call to action for the viewer in the form of a link to the digital collection and an invitation to donate any related records. TUSC and DSI began making these videos in May 2020 as promotion for digital engagement during the pandemic that kept both experienced and new archival users at home. The eight videos are representative of the scope of TUSC’s holdings, spanning from the Gutenberg Bible Leaf to the Louisiana Political Ephemera Collection, from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map to a Carnival costume design from 1892.

In an article for ArchivesAware! Alan Velasquez, Unit Coordinator for DSI at Tulane University Libraries, shared that the team hopes the videos will serve as outreach to both researchers and donors, offering an initial spark of interest that will ideally lead to further discovery. This intention is clear in the videos, as each video introduces its respective collection through a survey of many images and themes, or a focus on one particularly representative image, such as the Carnival costume design. The format lends the series both variety and versatility, as Velasquez shared that the videos are utilized as timely content for the library’s social media accounts, relating the collections to the present Carnival or election season.

Tulane University Libraries. (2020, June 11). Carnival Collection – COLLECTION CONNECTION Ep. 2 [Video].
The “Collection Connection” series is therefore content that can be used to reach users and donors at a variety of points in their discovery process, from happening upon the video while scrolling through Instagram to selecting a video that matches their interest from the library YouTube page. These videos exemplify TUSC’s vision to “create pathways to evolve understandings of the past and present” by serving as an access point for further engagement. This approach follows the idea of an archivist as a “facilitator” through outreach, encouraging open use rather than serving as a formal gatekeeper to access, dictating how the user might utilize the collection.

Video outreach projects require staff time, technology skills, and a commitment to social media as outreach, which all necessitate institutional support. It is clear that this project matches the stated mission and values of TUSC, serving as a specific product of these larger goals. TUSC states that its mission is to “facilitate the broadest possible access,” specifically investing in technology in order to encourage use. The 8 episodes have received a cumulative 2,000 views, which does not include an average of 120 views per video shared across social media. This demonstrates reach, especially when it is considered that the Howard Tilton Memorial Library Instagram account has 529 followers as of writing. This metric conveys the importance of making the videos under three minutes, as they are able to function effectively within social media platforms.

The success of this project demonstrates both the effects of institutional investment in a “series” project, where there are now multiple videos offering multiple access points rather than a one-off production. It is also clear that cross-departmental collaboration has proved beneficial, generating content that can be shared across the library and TUSC social media accounts. Hopefully more exciting projects will come out of this work, inviting new user groups to explore the collections.


Further Reading

Tulane University Libraries (2020, December 7). Collection Connection Series [YouTube Channel]. YouTube. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

Velasquez, A. (2021, February 17). Using Short Videos for Archival Outreach. ArchivesAware!.

Vision, Mission, & Values. Tulane University Libraries.