Meet Douglas Perkins, Associate Director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art

by Lindsay Olsen

When you’ve already been a cyclist, a bartender, and a graphic designer, where do you find your next challenge? For Douglas Perkins, it was at his alma mater, Middlebury College, an historic liberals arts school nestled in the scenic hills of west-central Vermont. “As tends to happen in small-town communities,” he says, the opportunity to serve as coordinator for the campus art museum came unexpectedly, when a friend asked him to fill in during her maternity leave. Perkins stuck around, and eventually the role expanded until he was involved in most aspects of the museum’s day-to-day functions as Associate Director of Operations and Finance.

Having graduated in 1994 with a B.A. in Economics, overseeing the contracts, salaries, budgets, endowments, and acquisitions of an institution didn’t seem like much of a stretch. However, it was Perkins’s personal passion for brand management and advertising that led to his taking responsibility for the museum’s outreach efforts. Over the years, he noticed that the museum had fallen slightly on the list of the college’s priorities – somewhat understandably, he concedes, as running an active collecting museum is expensive when factoring in the costs of acquisitions, insurance, security, climate control…not to mention staff. As a result, Perkins would have to work extra hard to justify their continuing fight for resources.

To do this, he would need to bolster the museum’s connection with its core audience: the students. Despite the promise of the booming social media landscape circa 2010, Perkins found that his attempt to single-handedly build a digital presence wasn’t working as well as he had hoped without the time and staff resources necessary to carefully plan an online marketing strategy. So he hired three student workers to oversee peer outreach and event coordination, which included the development of a Thursday evening activities series called “Nights at the Museum,” designed to extend their hours and get more people into the building. With the elimination of the $15 student membership fee, all 2,600 Middlebury students became automatic members of the museum who receive museum outreach communications.

For the 250-300 art-lovers who pay dues to be involved in museum events (known as Friends of the Museum), Perkins felt it was important to uphold a unique and rather special tradition. Each November, Friends are invited to a purchase party, where they get the chance to view the art and vote on which pieces their annual contributions will buy. “But,” as Perkins reminds me, “the museum is a teaching collection, first and foremost. We never buy anything or accept any gifts unless we can say ‘this is something with which we’ll teach.’” As if to reinforce this, students in the arts disciplines have begun making presentations on the potential purchases. Some go on to serve as paid Museum Ambassadors, or docents, who work closely with local schoolteachers to provide material that is relevant to their curriculum. The immediacy of the process has forged a definite bond between the school and community, which Perkins hopes will continue. The area is rural, but the college “plays a significant part in the cultural goings-on of the region.” With the programs that have been developed over Perkins’s eighteen-year tenure, it seems unlikely that residents or college administrators will forget they are there.

For a listing of upcoming Nights at the Museum and an archive of past events, click here.

And The Winner Is…: The Junto’s March Madness Bracket

by Kara Adams

Who doesn’t enjoy a little friendly competition? That’s the principle behind the annual March Madness bracket hosted by early American history blog The Junto. Run by graduate students and junior faculty, The Junto was started in 2012 and focuses on all aspects of early American history. In addition to posting articles, both by Junto staff and guest contributors, The Junto maintains a bibliography of books published since 2006 relating to early America, publishes its own monthly podcast, the JuntoCast, and provides a list of links to organizations, journals, societies, libraries, and seminars related to the study of early American history. In March, however, the blog’s attention turns to the annual March Madness bracket, which pits early American history resources against each other in a month-long tournament.

Described as “early American history nerdyness [mixed] with basketball geekyness,” the first year of the Junto’s March Madness bracket ran in March 2013, accepting nominations for books focused on the topic of early American history. Since then, each year has had a theme for nominations: books published since 2000 in 2014’s round, primary sources in 2015, journal articles in 2016, and books published since 2014’s competition in 2017. This year’s theme? Digital projects, a theme the announcement post acknowledged is “defined broadly” by the Junto’s staff.

And broad the nominations turned out to be. The final tournament list is composed of eight brackets: Teaching Resources & Podcasts; Empire and Founding Documents; Data Visualization And Geospatial Projects; Blogs and Online Publications; Digital Archives; Newspapers and Ephemera; Transcription and Web Projects; and Digital Editions. The variety of the nominated projects is impressive, ranging from databases of advertisements for runaway slaves, to papers from the Salem Witch Trials, to podcasts with over 200 episodes.

The March Madness competition has exploded in the years since its inception: while the first final boasted “almost 250 unique IP addresses” throughout the competition the total number of votes cast in the 2017 competition was a whopping 8,175 votes. Even more impressive, the current competition is likely to easily surpass those numbers—as of the 2019 bracket’s midpoint at round 3, over 6,000 votes had been cast. (The Junto undertook a full website revamp in 2018, and didn’t run a March Madness bracket that year.) Posts listing the polls have also received around 100 shares each on Facebook, and the Junto generates a hashtag each year for participants to use on Twitter. Voting is fast-paced and anonymous; the polls are posted for two days, with a day in between for the blog’s staff to create the next day’s bracket. The blog’s staff have been sure to note that it’s all for fun, cautioning that resources are vying for the title of “readers’ favorite,” not necessarily “best.” An atmosphere of friendly competition suffuses the comments, and the wide field of nominations is an opportunity for the Junto’s readers to get familiar with resources they may not have known about before.

While all the previous rounds have served the function of an outreach campaign for the Junto itself—and seen some measure of success, if the steadily-increasing number of votes per year is any indication—2019’s tournament is somewhat unique in that it also has the potential to serve as outreach for the projects nominated. Many of the projects are ongoing, and many have creators or staff members interested in spreading the resources they’ve created to the wider public. The March Madness bracket affords the people working on the nominated projects the opportunity to promote their work, and to help spread the resources being created to a wider audience, not just from the Junto’s reader base, but on social media as well. Participants each year are encouraged to use the associated hashtags, and the #JMM19 hashtag has seen regular use on Twitter throughout the duration of the tournament, both from individuals involved in running the nominated projects and from Junto readers promoting their favorite projects.

The 2019 March Madness bracket has concluded, and with a razor thin margin of 52% to 48%, Colonial North America at Harvard Library is walking away with the championship title. While Colonial North America at Harvard Library and its final-round opponent, The Adverts 250 Project, will undoubtedly benefit from the publicity around the championship battle, it’s likely that all 64 projects have reaped some of the outreach benefits from the competition itself—increased social media visibility and exposure to the Junto’s readers has surely had an impact on the projects in the running, and on the Junto’s readership. After six years of sustained growth and increased participation, the yearly competition is certainly a tradition worth repeating.

The Library Innovation Lab at Harvard University

by Jade Mejia

Overview

According to their website, the Library Innovation Lab is “a dynamic group of thinkers and doers working to make libraries better by exploring the countless, dimly lit pathways that connect libraries to the larger world.” The Library Innovation Lab is located in the Harvard Law School Library, and their main focus each year is on large multi-year projects and a handful of smaller projects that they call sketches.

The Library Innovation Lab’s mission of “libraries being universal” is shown in their want and need for the projects to be seen and worked under multiple lenses, which is reinforced by the location of the lab, as the website states, “[the projects] benefit greatly from the deep legal thinking and scholarship that surrounds us. We often approach library challenges using our law school library lens, but we work hard to make sure our local efforts have broad application.” Under this mission and scope it gives people of multiple backgrounds the chance to add to the ongoing projects.

Outreach Aspect

The Library Innovation Lab (LIL) works at “the intersection of libraries, technology, and law”, and have four different ways a person is able to collaborate with the lab. These different ways are by: 1.) contacting them via email and stating your interest in one of their ongoing projects or sketches in order to be a general collaborator, 2.) applying to be a Summer Fellow, 3.) applying to be summer intern, and finally 4.) applying to be a Research Fellow. The LIL team is also heavily active on Twitter, and tout that it is the place to look for the most up-to-date information. Given the multiple outreach access points to those who are interested in projects that intersect library, law, and technology, this innovative group shows how easy collaboration can be.

Projects

      I.            Active Projects

Image source: https://lil.law.harvard.edu/projects

On their website, LIL has listed their ongoing projects as well as their past completed projects, so that possible collaborators can get an idea about what the institution is in the process of working on.  When you click into the project thumbnails you are led to a project summary, that outlines three main ideas: 1.) what does the project do/where you can find it, 2.) why does it exist, and 3.) how you can learn more in case you want to use the resource, or help work on it.

Pictured above are a few examples of their ongoing projects, such as H2O that is a platform made for sharing, creating, and remixing open access course materials, specifically legal textbooks and course work that are known for being expensive and too heavy for everyday carrying around.

 

      II.            Sketches

Sketches are the ideas and brainstorms about a topic before a project is actualized, or as LIL states: “Before it’s a project it’s a sketch. Sketches are a way to get a handle on an idea and see where it goes. It’s what’s on our mind.” On LIL’s website they showcase the sketches with thumbnail images, a quick description of the sketch, and the date it was started.

This method provides interested collaborators a way to figure what stage in a project’s timeline they want to participate, as well as giving collaborators an idea of what is to come from the innovation lab.  When you click into the sketch it outlines three main ideas, 1.) what does the sketch do/where you can find it, 2.) why does it exist, and 3.) how you can learn more in case you want to use the resource, or help work on it. Pictured above are a few of the sketches they currently have open.

Repair// Heal: Mending the Self: Our Healing at the RISD Museum

by Rivi Feinsilber

Museum spaces are no longer a place of just observing objects; they are now a place for creating and interacting with them. This is particularly true at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum (RISD Museum). The institution believes that art makes a better society from the collections, visiting artists, and events and always in an inclusive and accessible space. Some spaces are designed for collaboration with museum staff, artists, and/or visitors for events. The museum carries out events each month that include lectures, performances, and workshops that range in price from walk-in free to registering with a fee. One event that combines interaction and collaboration between student, museum, visitor, and art is the Repair// Heal: Mending the Self: Our Healing. This public curation event not only allows the visitor to participate in art, but also better understand the space around it and become part of the museum.

Led by a student artist from Brown for four consecutive Sundays in March, the end product was part of her dissertation, Mind, Body, and Community. The project not only fulfills the artist’s need for a “community” object, but also engages the patron in the exhibit, participating in the art of mending objects and being part of something bigger including the gallery and the RISD Museum community as a whole. She chose this space, as healing and mending is the point of the exhibit, but also the curator designed the space with collaboration in mind with seating, tables, and an open atmosphere. Unlike more traditional museums and events that only allow observation, this event made participates including myself feel like an artist and repairer of not only fractured fabric, but also a fractured self and community.

Repair// Heal: Mending the Self: Our Healing was a free open to the public of all ages interactive live object making event that focused on the cathartic act of healing oneself through mending fabric and understanding the concept of gendered activities. Patrons (child through adult) take strips of fabric and decorate them by embroidering and/or using fabric markers. Participates are encouraged to write a meaningful statement on the fabric as well, which ties into the healing portion of the project as the artist stated: “sometimes healing means setting personal goals. Sometimes it means stating one’s values aloud for others.” Here in this event and space, healing is a communal event; that broken becomes whole in new ways. For one moment in time in this particular space, strangers who would not acknowledge each other in a museum are now temporarily part of the RISD Museum’s artistic community. The event made participants feel part of the art but it did not effectively connect to the larger theme of gendered tasks.

The project was effective in making the patron an artist and a curator, but not as effective in connecting to the space and larger concepts. The gender identity theme was not apparent in the activity; my educated guess is that it was assumed that a patron knew that mending clothes/fabric is seen as a gendered activity. Additionally, there was no obvious rebuttal of this inherent assumption. Finally, it took me some time to realize that the space and the project were parallel to each other as the event absorbed my attention. Observing the space, it was clear that was the case for many patrons. People engaged with the project more so than the space. The artist did emphasize the purpose and relation to the space if you asked. A verbal introduction to the event’s purpose including themes and relation to the gallery would help patrons understand the whole objective and make a bigger impact. Nevertheless, it was clear from observing other patrons and analyzing my feelings that the event was successful in weaving diverse strangers together to each other, the space, and the museum as a whole, similar to weaving the fabric into the artist’s rug. Therefore, this event was successful in implementing a public curation type event that aims to make museums and its community more approachable and malleable to patrons’ experiences, knowledge, and skills.

Meet Suanna Selby Crowley, “Dr. Dirt”, President of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society

by Robert Sanford

“I really want to change the ‘clubhouse.’”

Suanna Crowley and I met at the Diesel Cafe in Somerville for what would be a two-hour interview. The week prior, I had sent an email with five questions about Suanna’s upbringing, education, and asking for information about her role at the Massachusetts Archaeological Society (MAS). Suanna texted me that she was getting a coffee and I knew when she walked over wearing sparkling grey Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers that the interview was going to be fantastic.

Forty-five minutes into our conversation Suanna caught me off guard when she stated that she is affectionately known as “Dr. Dirt.” I laughed aloud and she said, “I have it as my license plate if you want to see it.” It became clear later that someone who has known since fifteen years old that archaeology would be their life’s passion would be known amongst friends and professionally as “Dr. Dirt.”

I asked Suanna about her education and upbringing and if was it always her intention to work with a cultural heritage institution, “I grew up in Washington, D.C., first in the neighborhoods around American University and later in Northern Virginia. I loved being in the houses of friends whose families spoke different languages, ate different foods, and celebrated different holidays.” Suanna understood early that she wanted to be a part of these global communities and learn as much as she could about culture, history, and countries.

At fifteen, Suanna completed a summer school program sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She recalls fondly traveling to the American southwest for a month of intensive archaeological with members of the Hopi Tribe and professors from Northern Arizona University. That was all she needed to experience and when it came time for college she attended the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Her studies and research at William and Mary focused on the geosciences, specifically sedimentology, geomorphology, mineralogy. Suanna would continue on to New York University in Manhattan to obtain a Ph.D in geoarchaeology and along the way receive an M.A and a M.Phil. In Suanna’s words, “Geoarchaeology combines anthropological perspectives and geoscientific methodologies.”

Throughout its 80-year history, the core values of MAS are the dual goals of preservation and education. Opening in 1988, the Robbins Museum at MAS is an important repository for statewide materials related to the Indigenous Peoples of New England. The museum’s collection tops 150,000 objects and its ethnographic materials include a group of rare figurines and dolls from Native American Tribes across the US.

Crowley herself wears many hats at MAS. Organizational efforts include setting the vision and agendas for annual meetings, management of the board and museum volunteer teams, and coordination with outside partners. Suanna leads the Development Committee which includes doing research on prospects and grant writing. While her tenure as President is limited to two two-year terms she is conscious of posterity. A topic we talked about in our interview was “changing the clubhouse.” Not a coup d’état, but a change in values and strategy. In the current economy, patrons are not paying for membership and outreach is as crucial now as it ever has been in years prior. Patrons are more concerned about what the institution can do for them and not what they can do for the institution. A significant change that Suanna is making at the upper echelon is repairing relationships with tribal communities, something that, in the past, has not been a priority of MAS. The relationship that the tribal communities have with these artifacts is a top concern for Suanna and repatriation is a priority for MAS. According to Suanna, the MAS is in a period of transition. They are actively reviewing their mission and organization. Crowley states “We are growing in the direction of a more open, accessible, useful resource for researchers, tribal affiliates, and the general public.”

My closing question to Suanna was, “What do you tell people you do?”, her response was simple,  “I am an archaeologist. Even though my career path has taken me in several different directions, the underlying professional identity is the same. What I’ve done with it is much more than I expected.”

 

Further information about the Massachusetts Archaeological Society can be found on their website https://massarchaeology.org

Modernism at Harvard Law: Celebrating 100 Years of Bauhaus

by Lindsay Olsen

All across the Cambridge campus from February to July, Harvard University is commemorating the birth of Bauhaus, the modernist school of art founded by German designer Walter Gropius in 1919. Events are on the calendar showcasing some of the school’s most creative affiliates, whose material is housed at the Harvard Art Museums, Harvard Film Archives, and Houghton Library. But it may come as a surprise that Bauhaus’s deepest connections are to Harvard Law School, which became home to the campus’s first example of modern architecture.

In 1948, HLS Dean Erwin Griswold commissioned Gropius, then a professor at the School of Art and Design, to build a $1.5 million student residence hall and common area in his signature utilitarian style, featuring heavy concrete and exposed support beams. The structure was christened Harkness Commons, and provided communal facilities that HLS was sorely lacking. Since the building is still in use today as the Caspersen Student Center, HLS wanted to take advantage of the centennial to share a little history about the spaces in which their students live and work every day.

On February 4, the Harvard Law Library Historical & Special Collections opened “Creating Community: Harvard Law School and the Bauhaus” in the Caspersen Room, the library building’s grand reception suite. Exhibit promotion kicked off on March 15 with a special edition of “Fridays @ Four,” a regular social event series hosted by the Human Resources department. Although Caspersen’s ornate décor gives off a strong “do not touch” vibe (the rare book collection lining the walls lives behind a thick sheet of glass), guests were invited to mingle freely with cocktails among a full spread of hors d’oeuvres. It wasn’t long before students and staff poured in, happily chatting and munching on chicken skewers while perusing four traditional display cases containing the photographic history of the modern art movement and the origins of Bauhaus at Harvard.

Of particular interest to attendees was the “Student Voices” display, featuring images from the archives of students, faculty, and Gropius’s team interacting during the planning process, as well as documentation of the overwhelming student input Harvard received about the project. Archival issues of the HLS publication, the Bulletin, pointed to the delay in allowing women to integrate into the space. Other exhibit cards blended historical reactions to the style of the building with present-day quotes from some of the former students who occupied the 364 starkly-decorated dormitories – most were humorously negative.

Statements from alums Elizabeth Papp Kamali and Arthur Greenbaum draw attention to the Joan Miró mural commissioned by Gropius to occupy a large space within the student center dining facility, unbeknownst to many who visit. Other artistic details remain hidden in plain sight, including brick reliefs by Josef Albers, glasswork by Herbert Bayer, and a wood sculpture by Hans Arp. Based on the minimal student reactions to the art over the last few decades, curators have guessed that many of the pieces have “faded into the background.” The “Creating Community” webpage states that, among other things, the exhibit will “[help] students get reacquainted with the art around them.”

Curated by HSC Manager Karen Beck and Public Services & Visual Collections Administrator Lesley Schoenfeld, “Creating Community: Harvard Law School and the Bauhaus” remains on view every day from 9:00am-5:00pm in the Caspersen Room through July 31, 2019. For those outside the Boston-Cambridge area, a truncated version of the exhibit has been made available online.

 

 

Meet Maggie Hoffman, Archivist at the Cambridge Historical Society

by Jasmine Bonanca

How can I talk about what’s in our collections and make sure that I’m bringing that forward into today and really getting people to ask serious questions about it?”

The Cambridge Historical Society (CHS) is an organization eager to connect the Cambridge community’s past to its present, and Maggie Hoffman is the organization’s enthusiastic archivist.  She’s part of a cozy staff of three that includes herself, the CHS’s Executive Director Marieke Van Damme, and the Program Manager Perri Meldon, all of whom report to the organization’s governing council.  Together, they all work to further the CHS’s mission of collecting the history of Cambridge and using it to provide insight on the community’s present, and hopefully its future.

Hoffman works part-time as both the CHS’s archivist and, as of 2019, their social media manager.  Much of her work involves working processing the organization’s backlog, carrying out preservation management, and answering reference questions.  She carries out about 20 reference interactions a month, which she receives from both researchers and the governing council.

Actively contributing to the Cambridge community’s dialogue about its history and trajectory is a sincere passion of both Hoffman and the CHS.  To that end, the CHS takes part in a number of outreach programs.  One that Hoffman highlighted was the CHS’s “History Cafés,” wherein speakers are invited to local restaurants, bars, etc., to discuss timely topics through a historical perspective.  These meetings are often built around the CHS’s yearly themes, which they pose to themselves in the form of a question.

2019’s theme is one that Hoffman is particularly excited about: “How does Cambridge Engage?”  Cambridge has a long history of being a socially and politically active community, and she’s excited to use the CHS collections to demonstrate the ways Cambridge community members have historically engaged with the goings-on of the wider world.  Specifically, she’s excited about the new exhibit she is currently working on, which focuses on a collection of papers from the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society, who during the Vietnam War era, protested both the presence of the ROTC on Harvard’s campus and what she referred to as “Harvard’s land-grabbing habits.”  Though she was aware of the anti-war protests, which were national in scope, the fact that Harvard students had also been protesting the school’s land purchases surprised her, especially as that is an on-going concern in the community.  It also adds a unique Cambridge nuance to what at the time was a national conversation.

Hoffman is especially grateful to work at an organization that allows her to create exhibits around such important and sensitive topics. “It’s a project that could be seen as a little bit controversial, but the fact that I’m able to do that makes me really happy and reminds me of why I love doing this work,” Hoffman said.  She believes that bringing making collections like these available to the community, and developing conversations around them, is both important outreach and part of what makes archival work so wonderful.

Other outreach activities the CHS undertakes include working with the Cambridge Historical Commission to participate in Cambridge Open Archives, Archives Hashtag Party, and a host of other events that both physically and digitally get the CHS “out of the house” and into the greater Cambridge area.

In all of her efforts, Hoffman tries to keep social responsibility in mind.  For example, when the CHS decided that 2018’s theme would be “Where is Cambridge From?” she realized that answering that question solely from the CHS’s collections would present an incomplete, cis-, white, male version of Cambridge history, and reached out to other archives with more diverse holding to help fill in the gaps as the organization told Cambridge’s history.  The CHS has also taken on a finding aid verification project that involves bringing finding aids up-to-date and when necessary rewriting them to make them more reflective of the collection’s content, especially content concerning historically marginalized content creators or significant subjects who in previous versions were not given their due space in the finding aids.

Maggie Hoffman strives to follow the CHS’s mission of using Cambridge’s past to understand and imagine its future.

For more information on the CHS, please visit their website: https://cambridgehistory.org/

For more information on the CHS History Cafe’s, see here: https://cambridgehistory.org/events/2018-history-cafes-and-walking-tours/

Meet Kate Boylan, Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives at Wheaton College

Kate Boylan, the Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives at Wheaton College, describes her job as having “all the irons in all of the fires.”  Among her many duties she oversees digital preservation, manages the Wheaton College Digital Repository, teaches instructional sessions, helps students and faculty incorporate digital initiatives into their scholarship, handles reference requests, hires and oversees staff and student workers, and engages in outreach and advocacy work.  She works and collaborates with Mark Armstrong, her tireless and fearless colleague and College Archivist/Records Manager, as well as Thomas San Filippo, intrepid Systems and Educational Librarian.  Boylan recently spoke with me about her path towards archives and digital initiatives and the different forms of outreach and advocacy she is involved with at Wheaton College.

Boylan attended Wheaton College as an undergraduate, majoring in English and film with a minor in music.  As a senior, like many college seniors, she did not know what she wanted to do following graduation.  However, thanks to childhood visits to the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, she did know that she was interested in film preservation projects.  Following internships at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library as an audiovisual reference intern and an audiovisual digitization intern, she decided to attend Simmons College to earn her Masters in Library Science.  Subsequent positions at the Massachusetts Department of Recreation and Conservation Archives, the Simmons College Archives, a private school in Boston, and the non-profit organization Facing History and Ourselves gave her plenty of experience working at the intersection of libraries, archives, education, and digital resources.

In 2016, Boylan returned to her alma mater as a Digital Initiatives Librarian, working with faculty members to support their digital scholarship projects.  Digital initiatives and the Wheaton College Archives soon merged, and Boylan became the Director of Archives and Digital Initiatives.  As director, she is responsible for leading the important work of outreach and advocacy for the Archives.  Boylan focuses this work around forming relationships with the three main stakeholders of the Archives: the faculty, the students, and the administration.

Thanks to Wheaton College’s small size, Boylan is able to have one-on-one conversations with many of the faculty members to learn about their teaching and their research.  These conversations are instrumental in developing relationships with the faculty.  They help Boylan determine the needs and interests of faculty members, think creatively about how her department’s resources can help them succeed, and increase campus awareness of the physical and digital resources of the Archives.  She says that once a faculty member visits the Archives or starts to use a digital initiative, they begin to incorporate it into their work and to recommend it to their colleagues.

Her work building relationships with faculty members also helps Boylan connect with students.  When there is faculty buy-in to the archives, they tend to bring students into the archives.  In the last year, Boylan has worked with approximately thirty different classes, including instructional sessions about cultural heritage and primary sources, a First Year Seminar about Wheaton’s history, humanities classes, and STEM classes.  Boylan also points to student workers as an opportunity for outreach.  When they are interested in their work, they tend to tell their friends about it, and, in Boylan’s words, “moss grows fast on a rolling stone when it comes to students” and word of mouth.  Thanks to this kind of outreach, Boylan estimates that 26% of the student body engaged with the Archives last year.

Of course, Boylan’s outreach is about more than the number of people who come through the door.  It is about truly engaging those people with interesting, meaningful, and relevant projects and resources.  The digital initiatives element of Boylan’s work is a huge asset in this.  For example, a computer science class recently used the collections to develop a program that can help determine the authorship of literary works.  Currently, Boylan is working with the administration and the faculty to use technology to actively steward and document the College record as Wheaton redevelops its curriculum and works to build more inclusive STEM classrooms.  Additionally, the Archives recently received a grant to work with faculty and students to develop a workflow for creating, sharing, managing, and preserving their digital work.  These and other collaborations stand out as examples of how digital initiatives can help cultural heritage professionals connect with users in innovative new ways.

All of this outreach work means that Boylan has a strong foundation of support to lean on when advocating for the Archives.  However, no matter how strong a foundation someone has, advocacy work never rests.  Boylan is currently preparing to give a presentation about the Archives to the President’s commission in April.  Boylan is looking forward to this “huge opportunity” to show how integrated the Archives is in the college community and how “incredibly energized” everyone is to keep taking the Archives and digital initiatives to the next level.

“Can We Talk?”: The Jewish Women’s Archives Monthly Podcast

by Ashley Williams

“Can We Talk” is a podcast put on by the Jewish Women’s Archive. The JWA is an organization based in Brookline, Massachusetts that is dedicated to the celebration and documentation of Jewish women and Jewish feminism. Their various outreach programs include things like “We Celebrate,” a platform that allows patrons to pay permanent tribute to significant Jewish women in their lives, the Rising Voices Fellowship, designed to support young Jewish women interested in writing and social justice, story collecting such as the #MeToo Archive, a documentation of harassment and assault from both within and outside of the Jewish community, as well as a book club that focuses on promoting books about and authored by Jewish women.

 Hosted and produced by Nahanni Rous, the podcast, “Can We Talk” delves into both the historic and contemporary stories of Jewish women. Different episodes focus on women from various walks of life, from mothers, to political activists, to pop culture content creators, to young Jews coming of age. Formats vary from episode to episode, but most consist of a brief interview and the recording of sort of activity. The stories are both heartwarming and informative, and I feel that the best part about them is that you don’t have to be Jewish to feel connected to the stories you’re hearing (though arguably you may feel more connected if you are). While I myself am not Jewish, I cannot tell you how many times in the past several months I’ve caught myself crying or laughing out loud on public transportation while immersed in the intimate sharing that occurs during many of these talks. The podcast demonstrates beautifully the fullness and diversity of the human experience while making apparent the fact that there are struggles that all women share. I found it natural to rejoice in the stories of success and share a heavy heart with the stories of misfortune.

The pilot episode for the podcast was released January 25th, 2016, and ironically enough, was about Jewish female pilots. One pilot, Elynor Rudnick, obtained her pilot’s license in the hopes of joining the Women Airforce Service Pilots, an organization of civilian female pilots that assisted the U.S. during World War II, and the other, Zohara Levitov, flew during Israel’s War of Independence. I recall my favorite line from the episode pointing out that, “Women in the United States of America could fly airplanes before they could vote.” This quote didn’t necessarily refer to women in service, but it served as a reminder for me that women were asked to serve their country long before the country was ready to serve them. One reviewer commented about this episode specifically saying, “Your pilot [podcast] is awesome—super professional—it sounds like NPR.”

“Can We Talk” is currently on its 29th episode, and I would be entirely incapable of choosing a favorite, but I can assure you they have something for everyone. During the final episode of the first season, Rous shared information from a survey revealing that the audience of “Can We Talk” actually transcends several age, gender, and religious groups even though the episodes are designed with Jewish women in mind. There are episodes about a girl who reads the Torah in Braille, Thanksgiving Seders, The #MeToo movement, Infertility, great Jewish literature, great Jewish cuisine, and even topics as concentrated as Jewish hair.

The podcast can be found on almost every platform that offers podcasts and has a five star rating out of sixty reviews on Apple Podcasts. But wait, there’s more! The podcast isn’t the JWA’s only social media presence. They also host a blog called Jewish Women, Amplified, and can be found on Facebook and Twitter. If that still isn’t enough, you can subscribe to their weekly e-newsletters !

Apple Podcasts. (2019). Can We Talk? by Jewish Women’s Archive on Apple Podcasts. [online] Available at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/can-we-talk/id1078665131?mt=2.

Jewish Women’s Archive. “Episode 1: The Pilot’s Pilot (Transcript).”<https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk/episode-1-pilot-s-pilot/transcript>.

Jewish Women’s Archive. “Impact.” <https://jwa.org/aboutjwa/impact>.

* Image is the cover art for the podcast taken from the JWA Website

Francophonie 2019 Launch at The French Cultural Center

by Clara Snyder

Tucked away in the heart of Boston’s historic neighborhood of Back Bay is the French Cultural Center, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide French language instruction and cultural programs for the Greater Boston Area and holds the second largest private collection of French books, periodicals, DVDs, and CDs available in the United States. Programmed events take place year-round, especially in March to celebrate Le mois de la Francophonie, a global celebration of the diversity of those who speak French. The Center’s month-long celebration includes screenings of films, author talks, language discussion, and an art exhibition; but it is all kicked off with an annual Launch Party focused on gathering Boston’s French-speaking communities and organizations to network and engage with each other.

According to the French Cultural Center, “La Francophonie is a vibrant and dynamic language community shared by some 274 million speakers. From Africa to America, French is spoken on five continents [… and] With more than 60,000 words, it is an international language of communication used by 80 states and governments. In the United States, the number of Francophones is estimated at 11 million and nearly 13 million Americans report having a French, French-Canadian, or Acadian ethnic origin.” These diverse statistics were mirrored in the Launch Party’s food, audience, and organization representatives.

The event was held in the French Cultural Center’s location on the corner of Marlborough St. and Berkeley St. It’s a stunning building with a large white foyer, a grand staircase against the back wall leading to the library, and two sets of French doors on either side leading to adjacent rooms. The rooms to the left held the majority of the event, including the refreshment buffet, and the doors to the right led to the photography exhibition. The food and drink present at the party took you on a tour of the French-speaking world with cuisine ranging from Caribbean and African dishes to French wines and cheeses. Everything looked, smelt, and tasted delicious.

The organizations there were just as varied as the food with the likes of businesses, governments, and nonprofits; including but not limited to: The Quebec Delegation Boston; International School of Boston; French American Chamber of Commerce; Campus France, an international studies organizer; the Boston University French Club: Association Francophone de Boston University; and Everett Haitian Community Center. Each organization used the occasion to network with each other and the general public attending the party by promoting their community offerings, calendar of events, travels, studies, work, etc. The sense of community between everyone, despite their various backgrounds, was palpable and probably largely due to the existence of the French Cultural Center.

Adrien Argentero, the French Cultural Center’s Cultural Programs and Business Outreach Manager, organized the Launch Party and subsequent events in March to celebrate Francophone culture. He expressed his excitement and hopes for the party to foster deeper connections between the French-speaking groups and persons by being the focal point of Francophone events and educational resources. Though unsaid, it also seems that the Center is aiming to encourage non French-speaking communities to learn about and engage in Francophone culture. The event seemed to be a great success with high attendance, wonderful food, and engaging organizations eager to share their experiences and passion for Francophone culture.