Levine Museum of the New South’s “LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality”

by Maggie Hoffman

Although North Carolina has as much queer history as anywhere else in the country, the state’s conservative Southern roots have effectively muted that legacy. In 2014, museum professionals at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte made an effort to correct that transgression in the form of an exhibit: LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality. The first LGBTQ+ history exhibit ever installed in Charlotte, LGBTQ Perspectives was a dynamic, substantial display of queer history both in and out of the Tarheel state.

Since its founding in 1991, the Levine Museum of the New South has become an established attraction in Charlotte. It bills itself as “an interactive history museum that provides the nation with the most comprehensive interpretation of post-Civil War southern society.” Past exhibits have included “Focus on Justice: Carolina Photographers and the Civil Rights Movement,” “Down Home: Jewish Life in North Carolina,” and “From Cambodia to Carolina: Tracing the Journeys of New Southerners.”

In a North Carolina Public Radio (WUNC) interview, Janeen Bryant, former Vice President of Education and Programs for the Levine Museum, noted that LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality was two years in the making. Opened to the public on July 25th, 2014, the exhibit suite included four sub-exhibits:


  1. Publicly Identified: Coming Out Activist in the Queen City
  2. Out of the Shadows: Gay America from Kinsey to Stonewall
  3. Pauli Murray: Imp, Crusader, Priest, Dude
  4. Minding the Ts and Qs: Gender Identity

Publicly Identified took the form of a timeline that presented noteworthy accomplishments and milestones in Charlotte’s LGBTQ+ community from the 1940s through present day. Out of the Shadows—an exhibit loaned to the Levine Museum by the Stonewall National Museum & Archives—took a step back, highlighting important aspects of LGBTQ+ history on a national level. Pauli Murray explored the life and accomplishments of Durham-raised Pauli Murray, a Black feminist, activist, author, priest, and lawyer. These exhibits were designed fairly traditionally, using didactic panels and images to relay history. As a contrast to that design, Minding the Ts and Qs made space for visual artists to explore the complex dynamics of gender identity.

With this calculated combination of exhibits, the Levine Museum tackled an issue of national importance and placed it in a local community context. It considered the past and present of the LGBTQ+ community, using both traditional and non-traditional practices. Regarding the Publicly Identified timeline, Josh Burford, Archivist and Assistant Director for Sexual & Gender Diversity at UNC-Charlotte, explained that he’d consciously created a network of community members, involving business owners and local activists in assembling the history.

According to Janeen Bryant, the project received an overwhelmingly positive response from patrons. Reception within the field was similarly affirming, with the Levine getting calls from community organizations looking to collaborate. Archivists and museum professionals throughout the country praised the Levine’s efforts.

While positive public reception and praise by fellow museum professionals are certainly commendable, they aren’t the only markers of success. It is worth adding that this exhibit suite was immensely personal for many of the patrons and professionals who engaged with it, including Archivist Josh Burford:

I think as Southerners, especially Queer Southerners, there’s a sense that we don’t really exist—that we’re always escaping and going to other places. And what I’ve discovered working on this project is that’s just not true. That we stayed, and we worked, and we’ve done work, because it’s the South, and not in spite of the fact that we live in the South.

As a Queer Southerner, I recognize the immense value in this type of representation, especially at an institution as respected as the Levine Museum of the New South. I applaud the efforts of the Levine Museum not only as a professional familiar with the inner-workings of museums, but as a North Carolinian who wishes this exhibit could’ve been put on ten years earlier.

. . .

To read more about LGBTQ Perspectives on Equality, check out qnotes, a North Carolina LGBTQ community newspaper. You can also visit the Levine Museum’s recaps on Publicly Identified, Out of the Shadows, and Pauli Murray.

Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center

by Ayoola White

It is a common stereotype that librarians are loath to allow patrons to bring even the smallest morsels of sustenance into library spaces. What does it mean, then, when a public library begins offering cooking classes? This is a question that is relevant to the case of the Free Library of Philadelphia (FLP), which opened its Culinary Literacy Center (CLC) in the summer of 2014. The mission of the CLC is to encourage social and intellectual enrichment through the preparing of meals. In fact, the creators of the CLC pride themselves on being able to “teach math via measuring, reading via recipes, and science via seeing what pops out at the end of the cooking process.” A hybrid kitchen-classroom, the CLC is the first public library project of its kind in the United States.

The inspiration for this project came directly from the top. FLP director Siobhan A. Reardon conceptualized the CLC as a way of engaging tactile learning, social learning, and overall literacy. It is evident that her philosophy for the overall management of the library promotes flexibility and fun. Consequently, it is no wonder that she came up with such a captivating idea that has resonated with multiple sectors of the local population.

Who is the audience for this ambitious project? The specific people targeted as participants stem from the primary stakeholders identified in the FLP’s strategic plan: “job seekers, ­entrepreneurs, new Americans, children under five, and people with disabilities.” The FLP began prioritizing these specific subsets as a result of a new intention “to stop trying to be all things to all people.” This prioritization is reflected in the types of cooking classes offered: “Cooking with Confidence,”a class meant to instill basic cooking and independent living skills in individuals with developmental disabilities; “Edible Alphabet,”an opportunity for foreign-born patrons to practice their English; and “Nourishing Literacy,” an outlet for K-12 students to practice their school curricula through the culinary arts, are just a few examples. Aside from these recurring classes, the CLC offers more than 350 cooking courses per year. A particularly impressive offering is the yearly conference for recipients of SNAP benefits, which provides resources and guidance to low-income Philadelphia residents.

In addition to educating the public, the folks at the CLC also teach other public libraries how to create food-related programs. Their publication “Culinary Literacy: A Toolkit for Public Libraries” is a step-by-step guide for incorporating food-related programming in a library setting. It outlines the foundational ideas behind the CLC, as well as strategies for convincing higher-ups to support similar projects. An especially helpful portion of this publication is the section that describes the bare minimum materials that are needed for a food literacy program. After all, not all public libraries have the resources to construct a state-of-the-art kitchen on their premises. Nevertheless, they can still benefit from a bare bones setup.

All in all, the CLC is just one example of the innovation necessary to keep libraries relevant. In a world where people assume that Google supplants libraries and that libraries are simply warehouses of books, creativity is key. As father of library science S.R. Ranganathan stated in his Five Laws of Library Science, “the library is a growing organism.” As the needs of the public change, the library itself must change to meet them.


Yeats: The Life and Work of William Butler Yeats

by Julia Greider

Screenshot of the exhibition at https://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html
Screenshot of the exhibition at https://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html

In 2006, the National Library of Ireland, in Dublin, opened its award-winning exhibition entitled Yeats: The Life and Work of William Butler Yeats, which continues in 2018 to educate visitors about one of Ireland’s most acclaimed poets. As a city, Dublin is particularly proud of its literary heritage and displays it prominently, so this exhibition fits into the city’s broader mission when it comes to cultural heritage, particularly because Yeats wrote specifically about Irish culture and independence. The library now hosts an online version of the exhibition along with maintaining the physical exhibition and strives to make these exhibitions accessible to a wide range of people: the physical exhibit in Dublin is free to enter and likely to attract both Yeats enthusiasts and casual tourists, and the existence of the online exhibit ensures that people who can’t make it to Dublin are also able to experience the materials.

I had the opportunity to visit this exhibition in person in 2015. It’s located in a windowless room and dimly lit to create a mystical, intimate atmosphere that’s intensified by the numerous alcoves, decorated in a period-appropriate style, in which one finds more exhibit materials. The whole experience is overlaid with the recorded voice of Yeats himself reading a selection of poems. Part of the exhibit focuses on Yeats’s interest in magic and spiritualism, and the atmosphere of the exhibit space invites the visitor to imagine the ghosts of Yeats and his contemporaries around them. Having visited Dublin three years ago, the feeling of being in this exhibit space is still one of my most vivid memories of the city, even if I’ve forgotten many of the details of the materials themselves.

The online version of the exhibition is particularly unique in its use of a virtual space that is a direct photographic reproduction of the physical space at the National Library. Visitors navigate the rooms online using a map of the space along with a Google-Street-View-like interface. They can click on glass exhibit cases in order to see images and descriptions of the objects inside. In a way, this display allows viewers to get more up close and personal with the materials than the physical exhibit does, because they can zoom in on photographs and other archival materials. The online exhibit also provides a timeline of Yeats’s life that users can access at the bottom of the screen while viewing any of the glass cases. This feature helps the viewer put together the various scraps of Yeats’s life into a coherent and chronological narrative.

Although this is a very creative and effective format by which to translate a physical exhibit into an online one, there is of course still something lost in this translation. For example, the online version doesn’t allow visitors to zoom in on or even identify every object that they can see, which can be frustrating. However, this frustration could be fruitful—hopefully it motivates online visitors to make a pilgrimage to the physical exhibit in order to get the full experience. Additionally, the “Voice and Vision” area was one of the most powerful experiences of the physical exhibit for me, combining Yeats’s rhythmic and almost eerie reading voice with pastoral images passing across screens that enclose the area. This effect created the feeling that I was physically surrounded by and immersed in the poetry, which is impossible to reproduce in the online exhibit because the physicality of the situation is absent and Yeats’s voice is simply coming out of headphones or a computer speaker. Additionally, the online exhibit only plays one recorded poem, whereas the physical exhibit cycles through a number of poems, allowing for a more sustained experience.

The physical version of this exhibition is an impressive example of an effective use of atmosphere and decoration to enthrall visitors and keep their interest in the materials being exhibited. The online version extends the exhibition’s reach and communicates most of the historically significant features of the original exhibition while remaining grounded in the physical version, which likely encourages virtual visitors to visit in person as well. Thus, it accomplishes two goals of cultural heritage institutions at once: reach the broadest possible audience and attract new visitors seeking a deeper experience of history.

View the online exhibition at https://www.nli.ie/yeats/main.html

Teens Take Action!

by Kaitlin Kendrick

The de Young museum, located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, was founded in 1895 and has become an integral part of the arts scene in San Francisco.  As one part of the Fine Arts Museums in San Francisco, the de Young is part of one of the largest art museums in the United States and the largest in San Francisco.  In October of 2005, the de Young museum reopened in a building designed to make a statement, complementing the collections housed inside.

The de Young museum runs a Teen Advisory Board to reach out to teens and encourage them to get involved in the museum and their communities and the board hosted the first Teens Take Action! event in 2017, a free event for teens that allows them to explore different social issues and themes found in art.  The Teen Advisory Board is an internship opportunity for high school students in San Francisco to plan, develop, and promote an event that allows teens to come together and discuss important social issues inspired by the museum’s collections or exhibits.

In 2017, San Francisco celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Summer of Love.  Inspired by the youth movement of the ‘60s and the exhibition of the art, fashion, and Rock & Roll of the ‘60s at the de Young, the Teens Take Action! event highlighted the idea of unity and support of one another as they tackled important social issues.  One of the goals of the event was to provide resources to teens in order to help them learn and understand how and where difficult discussions can take place in the current social climate.  The Teen Advisory Board used the de Young museum to create a place where teens could learn to interact with issues in their community, as well as interacting with the museum itself in a way that went beyond just looking at the art.

The 2018 Teens Take Action! event was held on March 2nd, and focused on a call for future liberation.  It was inspired by the Revelations: Art from the African American South exhibition at the de Young and the way that the art addressed race, class, gender, and spirituality.  The event included music, dance, collective art making, as well as discussions with local youth organizations.

The Teens Take Action! events, as well as the Teen Advisory Board that plans them, allows the de Young museum to inspire a generation of teens to be involved in their communities and introduces them to the ways in which art can be used in order to develop connections and discussions between groups of people.  Teens Take Action! makes the museum and its art accessible to visitors in a way that it usually is not, and helps to illustrate the impact that the art had, and is still having, on society.

While the Teens Take Action! event provides teens with an interesting way in which to explore social issues and how to discuss or address them, it also allows teens to interact with art in a different way than just seeing it on the wall.  The art is discussed and incorporated into the different themes of the event and helps to illustrate the different social issues that are being discussed.  Through this program, the de Young museum is introducing teens to the importance of art in society and the ways in which it can be used in order to make a point, while hopefully inspiring them to continue visiting and to take the art that inspires them out into their communities in order to inspire change.

To learn more about the Teens Take Action! events, visit the de Young museum website or listen to past members of the Teen Advisory Board discuss their efforts in creating the Teens Take Action! events and the impact they hope the event can make:

2017 Teens Take Action! Recap

Teens Taking Action





Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections

by Katy Purington


The Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania was the first federally-funded Indian boarding school in the United States. Founded in 1879 by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, it became the model for 26 other federal boarding schools and hundreds of privately sponsored schools across the country. Between 1879 and 1918, more than 10,000 children from at least 140 tribes were brought to the school, most by force. Students learned English, trade skills, and Western customs. After the school closed in 1918, records related to the school became scattered across the country. The majority of the school’s official records are located in the US National Archives in Washington, DC, while other resources, including administrative ledgers, student photographs, and school newspapers, are held in private collections as well as the Cumberland County Historical Society and the Dickinson College Archives & Special Collections.

The Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center, started in 2013, was created to make it easier for families, communities, researchers, and educators to access records related to the Carlisle Indian School. It is led by College Archivist Jim Gerencser, Sociology Professor Susan Rose, and Special Collections Librarian Malinda Triller-Doran, and sustained by the efforts of many undergraduate interns and volunteers. According to the website’s mission page, the project “aims to develop a comprehensive searchable database of Carlisle Indian School resources.” The project’s stated goals include creating a searchable database using the information found in the digitized resources, developing a platform for the families and communities of former students to contribute records and images related to the school, and developing curriculum for teachers of all levels based on materials in the database. It is a massive project that is still a long way from being finished.

The largest collection of records available through the Resource Center are student files from the Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, housed at the National Archives in Washington DC. So far, over 6000 student files have been digitized, by student interns who travel to DC during school breaks. Other content includes images from a number of sources, publications produced by the Carlisle Indian School, and lists and ledgers containing information about school activities. Visitors to the website can also find information regarding the people buried in the cemetery of the Carlisle Indian School.

This past summer, Gerencser and Rose organized a one-week Teachers’ Institute on the Carlisle Indian School. The discussions among the teachers and Institute organizers resulted in the creation of a number of lesson plans and other resources for teaching the material, now available on the Resource Center website.

A team of project leaders has partnered with a number of Native communities that experienced the removal of large populations of children to the school. At events hosted in community centers, they demonstrate how to use the resources hosted on the website, as well as encouraging members of these communities to share their own stories about their family and friends who attended the school. In August 2017 , the Resource Center provided key resources in the Northern Arapaho nation’s successful bid to reclaim the remains of three boys who died while attending the School, and were buried in the cemetery. The students, whose identities were confirmed using school cemetery records and class rosters uploaded to the site, were disinterred and transported to Wyoming, where they were reburied by their families.

As more records are made accessible through the site, it will become easier for Native communities to track down students and find evidence of the lives they led during and after their years at the Carlisle Indian School. It will be important for the project leaders to continue their efforts in teaching members of the public, especially in communities impacted by the school, how to search for and use the available resources. The project has the potential to become a more powerful resource once it is better known.






Letters of 1916: A Year in the Life

by Kathleen Mackenzie

Walking the streets of Dublin today, reminders of the 1916 Easter Rising are scattered throughout the city. The armed rebellion against British rule launched a turbulent period that ultimately led to the establishment of the Republic of Ireland, and the Irish people have taken care to ensure that the rebellion’s leaders are never forgotten. Indeed, their names grace countless street signs, monuments, and buildings throughout the city. Their words are memorialized on the walls of train stations, restaurants, and theaters. But what about the voices of ordinary people who lived through the turmoil of 1916 in Ireland, but whose names were lost to history? For the most part, these voices have remained absent from the popular narrative of the revolution—until now.

“The Letters of 1916: A Year in the Life” is Ireland’s first crowd-sourced public history project. It began in 2013 with a nationwide call for letters written between November 1, 1915 and October 31, 1916 that pertained to life in Ireland.[1] Topics ranging from politics, to romance, to the mundane would all be accepted.[2] Donors were allowed to keep the physical letters and send in a scans, and project staff scanned letters if the donors were unable to.[3] The results were astonishing: 2,400 letters were donated by members of the public and historical institutions, and 1,500 volunteers transcribed them.[4] By the Easter Rising’s centenary in 2016, a fully-fledged digital archive website was launched, making these letters available to the public for the first time. Among the collection is Eamonn O’Modhráin’s letter sent from a Welsh prison camp to his mother, assuring her that he is attending mass while being held prisoner for his participation in the Rising.[5] Also included is a love letter from James Finn to his fiancé May Fay, in which he asks her to pray that there wouldn’t be a second rebellion so that their wedding plans wouldn’t be ruined.[6] Other letters discuss school, family affairs, the Great War, religion, and much more.

The project was led by Susan Schreibman, Professor of Digital Humanities at the National University of Ireland Maynooth, and was funded by the institution along with support from the Digital Repository of Ireland, the National University of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.[7] The goal of the project was to preserve and bring to life the stories of average people living in Ireland in 1916. As Schreibman has noted, “All too often our emphasis is on the grand narrative focusing on key political figures…we want to try to get a sense of how ordinary people coped with one of the most disruptive periods in contemporary Irish history.”[8] By devoting an entire digital archive to the letters of ordinary people, the project not only paints a fuller picture of history, but it also underscores the value of stories outside of the traditional historical narrative. This certainly presents a marked contrast to the statues and plaques dedicated to the Rising’s leaders that line the streets of Dublin.

It is also important to note that the process of collecting and transcribing the letters was in many ways just as significant as the final product of the digital archive. By allowing the public to contribute to the collection, the project gave them the opportunity to take ownership of their own history in a way that was uniquely suited to the needs of the country. Ireland’s history has long been shaped by colonial rule and political and religious conflict, which has given way to drastically different perspectives on national identity and history throughout the country. While other public history projects have encouraged the public to shape their own historical narrative, “Letters of 1916” purposefully resists a singular narrative. As Shreibman notes, “[the letters] create a mosaic of life lived, messy and complex, eschewing our notions of a collective past that tends to be flattened by a method of narrative that historians employ in writing for the page.”[9] By placing a nationwide call for any and all letters written in 1916, the project quietly and effectively legitimized the myriad of perspectives and experiences surrounding a painful and divisive moment in Ireland’s history.

Thanks to the success of the project, “The Letters of 1916” recently received a grant from the Irish Research Council to extend its collection period to include letters through 1923.[10] If you would like to submit a letter to the project, to volunteer to transcribe previously submitted letters, or to simply search and browse this rich and extensive collection, please visit letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie.



Finn, James. “Letter from James Finn to May Fay, 27th May 1916”. Letters of 1916. Schreibman, Susan, Ed. Maynooth University: 2016. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/explore/letters/348.

Letters of 1916. Letters 1916-1923: Ordinary Lives – Extraordinary Times. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/

O’Modhráin, Eamonn. “Letter from Eamonn O’Modhrain to Mary Moran, 3 July 1916”. Letters of 1916. Schreibman, Susan, Ed. Maynooth University: 2016. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/explore/letters/333.

Schreibman, Susan. “Public Invited to co-create 1916 Letters Project.” The Irish Times. August 4, 2014. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/public-invited-to-co-create-1916-letters-project-1.1887075

Trinity News and Events. “Letters of 1916 Research Project Calling on Public to Contribute Family Letters.” September 24, 2013. https://www.tcd.ie/news_events/articles/letters-of-1916-research-project-calling-on-public-to-contribute-family-letters/4405


[1] Trinity News and Events. “Letters of 1916 Research Project Calling on Public to Contribute Family Letters.” September 24, 2013. https://www.tcd.ie/news_events/articles/letters-of-1916-research-project-calling-on-public-to-contribute-family-letters/4405

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schreibman, Susan. “Public Invited to co-create 1916 Letters Project.” The Irish Times. August 4, 2014. https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/public-invited-to-co-create-1916-letters-project-1.1887075.

[4] Schreibman.

[5] O’Modhráin, Eamonn. “Letter from Eamonn O’Modhrain to Mary Moran, 3 July 1916”. Letters of 1916. Schreibman, Susan, Ed. Maynooth University: 2016. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/explore/letters/333.

[6] Finn, James. “Letter from James Finn to May Fay, 27th May 1916”. Letters of 1916. Schreibman, Susan, Ed. Maynooth University. 2016. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/explore/letters/348.

[7] Schreibman.

[8] Trinity News and Events.

[9] Schreibman.

[10] Letters of 1916. Letters 1916-1923: Ordinary Lives – Extraordinary Times. http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/

“Yiddish Quizzes” at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

by Sacha Mankins

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is a Manhattan-based archive on Eastern European Jewish life before the Holocaust. YIVO (the name stands for Yiddisher Visnshaflikher Institut, Yiddish for “Jewish Scientific Institute”) was originally founded in the 1920s in Lithuania, with the purpose of documenting Jewish culture and folklore in Eastern Europe. The Institute formed a New York City branch early on in its life, which became the only branch after the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry in the Holocaust.

YIVO today is a thriving center for Yiddish culture, not only preserving and exhibiting objects from an invaluable archival collection, but also hosting an intensive six-week Yiddish language program every year. The audience is chiefly, but broadly, Jewish. YIVO’s outreach programs both emphasize the importance of remembering what was lost in the Holocaust, and capitalize on widespread American Jewish affection for the culture of Eastern Europe, the culture of most of our parents and grandparents.

YIVO does outreach through traditional and electronic mailings, social media, exhibiting and hosting lectures: all of the methods one would expect from a cultural heritage center. The “Yiddish Quizzes” hosted on the Institute’s website offer a less expected form of outreach. Multiple-choice quizzes of the type made popular on sites like Buzzfeed, the Yiddish Quizzes teach lessons from the YIVO archives through humorous tests of cultural knowledge. Humor is an important and well-recognized element of Yiddish culture, which makes it a fitting tool for YIVO. The audience for a quiz goes beyond the serious scholar of Eastern European Jewish language and culture to anyone who enjoys tongue-in-cheek Jewish humor, from Andy Samberg to the Marx Brothers.

In the last year, five quizzes have appeared on the website and been shared via Facebook and Twitter. They cover the following topics: Yiddish curses, Yiddish idiots, Ashkenazi folklore (a tie-in to an online course on the subject), Yiddish romance (can you identify a Yiddish pickup line when you hear one? It’s harder than you think, but if you get enough right, you can win a pickup line mug!), and most recently Yiddish theater. Each quiz consists of five to ten multiple-choice questions, such as “What custom did the Jews observe on Christmas and why?” or “which of these Yiddish words means a fool made of clay?” Though the questions are often in transliterated Yiddish, the multiple-choice format allows for guessing, and the options are humorous: some possible answers on the romance quiz include “It must be illegal to look as good as you” and “You’re as beautiful as a cat in sour cream.”

To score the quiz, the visitor enters an email address, and at the same time can check a box agreeing to receive regular mailings from YIVO. Typical of Buzzfeed-style personality and trivia quizzes, the YIVO page then offers buttons to share one’s results on Facebook or Twitter. Quizzes like these are a natural fit for a social media site like Facebook, where sharing trivia, game scores and quiz results and comparing with friends is already a habit.

In this way a quiz both engages the first user it’s sent to, and encourages them to pass that engagement on to others, as part of a fun and lightly competitive social interaction. As a form of cultural heritage outreach, YIVO’s quiz project capitalizes gracefully on the urge we all have to show off our talent for remembering movie lines or Disney princess gowns, or even different words for “idiot.”

Can you pass a Yiddish Quiz? Try one for yourself!


El MAC en el Barrio

by Teresa M. Meléndez


The Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico (MAC), located in Santurce, one of the neighborhoods that make up San Juan, the island’s capital, organizes many events and projects that engage the Santurce community. One of them is El MAC en el Barrio, which, according to the MAC website, is an artistic program for action and social integration. The project was first brought to life in 2014, and has been done yearly since. Activities such as this offer communities the opportunity to engage with art, culture and each other in a creative environment. According to their website, their community outreach programs give the space and the tools for citizens to help them  become more aware of their environment, strengthen their formative capacity and enrich their cultural and spiritual base. They’ve managed to power their outreach projects thanks to alliances with community and environmental protection organizations, and educational and artistic institutions.

El MAC en el Barrio is held during the summer, and is open to the public. After hurricanes Irma and María ravaged the island in September 2017, the MAC implemented an Emergency Creative and Educational Program (Programa Educativo y Cultural de Emergencia) directed at people affected by the storms. Part of this program was a special edition of El MAC en el Barrio, That edition had three main components: a School Program (Programa Escolar), which is geared towards 70 students between the ages of 4 and 16; a Creative Psychosocial Support Program (Programa Creativo de Apoyo Psicosocial) for families and the elderly; and lastly, artistic and cultural activities for the enjoyment of the general public.

The educational program ran from October 4 to October 21 2017, and was held at the museum. It was directed towards kids from poor nearby neighborhoods. It integrated the arts into the more traditional curriculum to keep the learning going while the schools were still closed. The Creative Psychosocial Support Program is being offered directly in various elderly people homes in communities in Santurce and Río Piedras, as well as Guaynabo and Cataño. Various known artists and educators participate as facilitators of these programs. The main goal of these efforts is to give community members concrete and direct help, as well as give them artistic outlets to help cope with the difficult situations that so many people faced (and are still facing) post-María. The final component of the initiative is offering cultural activities open to all. So far they’ve held two events, ¡Luz Verde a la Cultura! (Green Light for the Culture!), and a stage play titled Hij@s de la Bernarda (Children of Bernarda), which was penned and directed by playwright and educator Rosa Luisa Márquez, and had choreography by Jeanne d’Arc Casas and the dancers, as well as live music.

Previous editions of El MAC en el Barrio usually includes the presentation of projects commissioned by the museum. Previous projects include a “community sound ethnography” by artist Migdalia Luz Barens, who went to different Santurce communities and gathered stories from residents, and then mixed those recordings with recordings of local singers, and with passersby who agreed to be part of the sound experiment. Another project was commissioned from artist  José Luis Vargas, who collaborated with participants and the directors of La Fondita de Jesús (an organization dedicated to serving the homeless community by giving them jobs as well as shelter). El MAC en el Barrio also has educational activities for schools, as well as walking or bike tours of different communities, and they offer various talks and forums about the communities that participated in the commissioned projects, and the artistic process.

The museum’s focus on community outreach has turned it into a cultural hub for both the people you would expect to be fans of contemporary art, as well as members of the tight knit Santurce community, who’ve been around since the creation of the neighborhood. Their commitment to artists, and their efforts to help them keep working and getting compensated for their work, even during the hard times the whole island faced after the hurricane is very commendable. This year’s edition of El MAC en el Barrio is currently in the works, and from the call for artists, it seems to be focused towards more community engagement and aid, not just in Santurce, but also in other towns. They’re looking to go to the barrios that still need help.

There is currently a fundraiser going for the El MAC en el Barrio program, which you can help here.

Twitter Outreach at the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute

by Natalie Kelsey

Some of my earliest cultural heritage-related memories are of the Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY. My father, an artist himself, brought me there as often as I wanted. The first piece I remember is also the first piece you can see upon entering the museum, Jackson Pollock’s Number 2, 1949. I remember first running up to the painting, looking closely at the expressive lines, then standing back to notice the abstract figures that, to me, appeared to be dancing across the canvas. Upstairs, I was further taken by another of MWPAI’s permanent installations – The Voyage of Life, a series of paintings by Thomas Cole. The paintings’ detailed landscapes left me in awe. Although I have chosen to pursue a career in the historical portion of cultural heritage, this particular museum remains close to my heart. For this reason, I decided to catch up with the museum in this profile of the museum’s social media presence on Twitter. MWPAI’s Twitter page appears to reach a relatively small number of people, with just over 2,000 followers. But the account is very active – posting at least two or three times a day.

Upon visiting MWPAI’s Twitter page, I noticed that the museum and its related art education program have grown a lot since I left the area in 2010. Founded in 1919, the museum is named for its founding families, who built the foundation of the museum’s collections. The museum building itself is a work of art, designed by world famous architect Philip Johnson. MWPAI has three main divisions. The Museum of Art is the main portion of MWPAI, boasting several permanent exhibitions as well as gallery space for new artists. The Performing Arts Division presents musical performances, plays, cinema, family programs, and concerts. Finally, the School of Art offers an accredited college program as well as community arts programs for adults, teens, and kids.

In 1999, MWPAI partnered with the Pratt Institute of Art and Design to offer this higher education program. This partnership is ongoing, but in 2013, MWPAI began its first Artist in Residence program. This program features heavily on the Twitter page, which showcases residency openings, resident artists’ works, and residents’ exhibitions. Also featured on the page are practical information, like changes to the museum’s normal hours, and advertising for the museum’s many community education classes. These classes include lessons in figure drawing, sculpting, jewelry-making, and animation. The page links out to the registration for these classes. Also linked are job postings and news stories, like this one, where the museum’s newest curator discusses the importance of placing art in historical context. Although there are many of these posts, they garner few responses from users.

MWPAI’s Twitter page also includes information about events at the museum, of which there are many! There’s a First Friday Happy Hour, musical performances, a film series, and many seasonal and holiday-related programs. These are where users interact most with the page. In a post where patrons were encouraged to place heart-shaped sticky-notes next to their favorite works of art for Valentine’s Day, several users commented, excited to see their notes on the Twitter page. Another very popular program is “Museum Match,” where a selected portrait is posted on social media and patrons are encouraged to come to the museum wearing matching clothing and pose for pictures with the portrait. The museum posts some of these, and others who can’t make it to the museum post their own “Museum Match” pictures from wherever they are.

The Twitter page also serves as a place where the different departments of MWPAI can interact with each other publicly. These interactions are mainly used to promote the museum’s events, but also to show museum patrons the intricate workings of the museum. Because MWPAI has grown so much and undertakes so many projects, it’s helpful and interesting to see the way the different departments interact with each other on social media.

Although it has been many years since I’ve visited Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute in person, I feel that the Twitter page gave me a good understanding of its many current projects. The museum has grown and changed, but I can see that its goals and values remain the same as when I first ran up to Pollock’s Number 2, 1949.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Condolence Mail Project

by Jennifer Skarbek

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library houses over 400 collections surrounding the Kennedy administration from 1961-1963.  While there are a large number of collections of governmental records, there are several lesser known collections of correspondence from the general public that were sent to the White House.  These letters ranged anywhere from criticisms of President Kennedy’s policy to wishing the Kennedy family members happy birthday, but one particularly large and prominent collection of correspondence is the John F. Kennedy Condolence Mail collection.

The Papers of John F. Kennedy, Condolence Mail collection, typically shortened to simply Condolence Mail, consists of the letters and gifts that were sent to Mrs. Kennedy after the assassination of her husband in November 1963.  As noted in the vast majority of the letters in this collection, President Kennedy left a great impact on the United States, moving thousands of people to write in with their condolences.  With so many people compelled to write to the White House regarding an event that only took place 50 years ago, the Kennedy Library naturally gravitated to this collection as a way to engage the current public in the archives, especially in a way that allows the public to see themselves in the archives.

Unfortunately, there were a few roadblocks to present this collection as it was.  First, the collection itself was not in any condition to be easily searched by the general public.  Not only were there massive amounts of materials in no real order, there also wasn’t a finding aid to help sort through the massive amounts of letters.  This leaves archivists at a loss when a researcher is interested in seeing their letter, or the letter from a loved one, that theoretically should be found in this collection.  Frustrated with the lack of organization which made any particular letter nearly impossible to find, the archives and reference team at the Kennedy Library recognized that the collection would need to be properly processed and organized if they’re going to utilize the collection as a way to make connections with the general public.

In addition to the constraints on the arrangement and description of the collection, the collection itself was “sampled” in the 1970s, meaning that the archivists chose to only keep approximately 10% of the originally over 1,500 linear foot collection.  Since the collection was so large, and presumably a bit overwhelming, the proposed solution was to save only a few letters that were found to be representative of the many. Unfortunately, the Kennedy Library is now dealing with the ramifications of the decisions of the previous archivists, and aren’t necessarily able to help everyone find their condolence letters they mailed to the Kennedy’s in 1963.

While the Kennedy Library can’t rectify the decisions of the past, they are able to address the organizational concerns from an archival perspective.  Every semester, the Kennedy Library hosts an archives wide “Preservation Week” to alphabetize the letters in the collection with the help of both internal and external volunteers.  Next, these volunteers proceeded with processing the collection by foldering and boxing the letters, ensuring the letters will be preserved and are more accessible. This project has been ongoing for several years, but Spring 2018 Preservation Week finally concluded the long awaited alphabetizing and processing project!

The processing archivists are now hard at work updating the finding aid with the newly processing information, with the hopes of making it available for researchers to utilize in finding their own letters.  While there are a large number of letters that were unfortunately not preserved, there are still almost 200 cubic feet of condolence mail that is now usable by any interested researchers, and are much easier to locate than they have been in close to 50 years.

The next steps for the Kennedy Library are accessibility and publicity of this collection.  The finding aid is key to being able to present the collection to the public. Once a finding aid is available, the Library will be able to make connections between the public and a collection that may contain their original correspondence with the White House from an event that stood out to many in their personal history.  This creates a unique outreach opportunity to show that the a government archives does include the people, even if those collections aren’t traditionally in the spotlight, all while breaking down any lingering “gatekeeping” attitudes surrounding archival repositories.