Archives + Audiences: Anna Shternshis on “Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II”

This post is part of our new Archives + Audiences series, which features the perspectives of archival audiences – scholars, journalists, filmmakers, artists, activists, and more – for whom archives have been an important part of their life and work.

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Anna Shternshis. Photograph by Roman Boldyrev.

In this Archives + Audiences entry, we bring you an interview with Anna Shternshis, Associate Professor of Yiddish and Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto, on her experience researching a collection of song lyrics by amateur Jewish authors in the Soviet Union during World War II.  Originally collected by Soviet ethnomusicologists toward the end of the war, the song lyrics collection is now housed at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine.  Shternshis’s work with the collection helped produce the recently released album Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II (Six Degrees Records), in which select songs have been reconstructed and performed by professional musicians.

Shternshis is the author of Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923 – 1939 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006) and When Sonia Met Boris: An Oral History of Jewish Life under Stalin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). She is the author of over 20 articles on the Soviet Jews during World War II, Russian Jewish culture and post-Soviet Jewish diaspora. Together with David Shneer, Shternshis co-edits East European Jewish Affairs, the leading journal in the field of East European Jewish Studies.

ArchivesAWARE: What was it like to work with the collection of Jewish song lyrics at the Vernadsky National Library?  Did anything in the collection surprise you, or were there any “a-ha” moments?

Shternshis: The work of a historian consists of many hours of monotonous research, and this project is not an exception. But when I really began analyzing the lyrics of these Yiddish songs, and understood that these were grassroots accounts of Nazi atrocities that had been set to music, and that none of these songs had been known before, emotions took over. I felt excited about reading these materials, and strongly moved by the lyrics. Above all, I felt enormous gratitude to Moisei Beregovsky and his colleagues, Soviet ethnomusicologists of the 1940s, who spent years collecting these unique materials.  They were arrested by Stalin’s government for doing so, and died thinking their work was lost to history without any recognition for what they had done. I felt professional solidarity with these people, who, of course, I have never met.

I was struck both by the magnitude of this finding, and by the fact that all these songs told stories of people who we rarely get to hear from. In the context of writing history, we often hear people’s voices as “interpreted” as opposed to given a platform, and I was determined to do something about it. In many ways, these songs represented the range of experiences of Jews in the Soviet Union during the war:  the stories of the 440,000 who served in the Red Army and the 1.4 million who managed to survive through a harrowing evacuation to the Soviet Rear, and they also were actual testimonies of those who were killed in the Holocaust.  Of the 6 million who were killed, more than 2.5 million Jews were murdered in Nazi-occupied parts of the Soviet Union, and we learned that, some of the last things people did, was to write songs to document the horrors they witnessed.

ArchivesAWARE: Was there something you were hoping to find in the collection but didn’t?

Shternshis: While the discovery of this collection has often been described as an incredible “needle in a haystack”, and the songs indeed change our understanding of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, especially Jewish resistance to fascism, I didn’t begin the project by hoping to find, prove or disprove a certain idea, and in the end, the songs led to many new findings about Jewish life in the Soviet Union during World War II.

One definite thing that we have learned from these materials is that Jews sang in Yiddish in the Soviet Union during the war, and that they forgot all about doing so decades later. When I started looking at these documents, I was in the middle of a related project, on Jewish oral histories of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and interviewed almost 500 people from the generation of Soviet Jews born in the early 1920s, and not a single one of them could remember of a Yiddish song depicting the war. This material means that history and memory tell different stories of the war. Without these materials we would not have known that.

The second finding is that Soviet soldiers, some of them amateur authors, continued to create in Yiddish during combat. We knew that Yiddish culture survived in the Soviet Rear, but we did not know about the soldiers. This is an important insight of how Jews made sense of these events during the war.

Third, these songs give us a chance to learn about how children and women, who authored a majority of these songs, used music to make sense of their experiences.  There are songs written by orphans, one by a 10-year old whose mother was murdered in the Holocaust.  There are songs written by women serving in the army, women working in factories to support the war effort. The songs give us an opportunity to hear their direct voices, something that rarely happens in the context of historical research.

Finally, some songs are rare, or sometimes the only, eyewitness testimonies of the destruction of Jews in Ukraine. Some were written as early as 1941, and these represent the first documents of the Holocaust in Ukraine. Given that we have very few Jewish testimonies of this destruction, these are especially valuable.

ArchivesAWARE: Did you encounter many barriers to accessing or using the collection?

Shternshis: No, the collection is in the open access in the Vernadsky Ukrainian National Library in Kiev.

The biggest barrier was the condition of the documents (through no fault of the library).  Many were hand written on scraps of paper during the war, and after more than seven decades, the handwriting wasn’t always clear.  Some of the songs had been typed up just after the war by the ethnomusicologists who collected them as they were preparing to publish a book about Yiddish folk songs describing the horrors of the war, and resistance to fascism, but they had used a very poor typewriter, and many of the Yiddish letters were quite difficult to decipher.

ArchivesAWARE: How did the Yiddish Glory album come about?

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Cover of Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II (Six Degrees Records)

Shternshis: To be honest, choosing to do an album was not my first instinct. I wanted to publish a book, an academic monograph, maybe a website, and only then do some sort of multi-media. But I was planning a conference at the University of Toronto about Yiddish culture during World War II, and I asked Dr. Pavel Lion (better known by his artistic name, Psoy Korolenko), to help me with the presentation. We selected a few songs for Psoy to reconstruct. After that, Dan Rosenberg, a music producer who was at the event, encouraged us to record the songs with a larger group of musicians. He invited Sergei Erdenko, an amazing Russian violinist, who created arrangements for the songs based on the melodies that Psoy selected. Erdenko and his band “Loyko”, which also includes another violinist, Artur Gorbenko and guitarist Mikhail Savichev, flew to Toronto from Russia to record the CD.  They were joined by Psoy, Sophie Milman, a Juno-award winning Canadian Jazz singer and four acclaimed local musicians who all participated in this project because they believed in the historical significance of these materials, and were generous to use their talents to make this music shine.

Eventually, after three years of work, this project resulted in Yiddish Glory.  I am still working on an academic monograph that will incorporate these songs as well as a website.

ArchivesAWARE: How did you go about selecting the songs to be included on the album, and how were the melodies for these songs written?

Shternshis: Singer Psoy Korolenko and I selected songs that would give voice to the amateur authors of various backgrounds – women, children, soldiers, refugees – who composed music and poetry under the most difficult circumstances, and therefore provided some of the first testimonies of what it was like to live in the Soviet Union during World War II. Each individual composition has its own story, and together, these songs reveal a collective history of an entire generation, they provide an artistic comment on the Jewish experience in the Soviet Union during World War II.  Each song was chosen because its lyrics conveyed a unique, often under-discussed historical experience, such as life and survival in the Tulchin ghetto or in the Pechora camp, serving in the Red Army, working on the Soviet home front or fighting as a partisan.

Many songs came as texts only, sometimes unfinished or even without beginnings.  A few actually had their melodies as well, including “My Mother’s Grave,” a song written by a 10-year old orphan after his mother was killed during the Holocaust, and “Chuvasher Tekhter,” a piece that describes how women served in the Red Army to fight against fascism.

For the vast majority, Psoy Korolenko had to reconstruct the melodies for many of the rest of the songs.  After closely examining the lyrics, he realized that most were actually based on popular songs at the time.  He also carefully considered the context of when the songs were created, and also about how today’s audiences would react to this music. We did not want to resurrect these songs and treat them as archival rarities. We wanted people to listen to them, think about history and also enjoy the music.

ArchivesAWARE: Is there anything else you would like to share about the process of creating the Yiddish Glory album?

Shternshis: Another motivation for all of us involved in the project was because the fight against fascism, racism, bigotry and antisemitism is timely. Unfortunately, violence and wars did not disappear in the 21st century either. Women and children are often the first, and the least noticeable victims of it. The songs alert us to the dangers of wars and who suffers from it most.

Enjoy clips of the songs from Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of World War II with this Spotify playlist: https://open.spotify.com/embed?uri=spotify%3Aalbum%3A0V79cdGu4uahpLh48vEoGr

THERE’S AN ARCHIVIST FOR THAT! INTERVIEW WITH STEVEN G. HAUSFELD, MANAGER, NATIONWIDE LIBRARY AND HISTORY & ARCHIVES CENTER

This is the fifth post in our new There’s an Archivist for That! series, which features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect.  To continue this new series, COPA member Rachel Seale, Outreach Archivist at Iowa State University, brings you an interview with Steve Hausfeld, manager of the Nationwide Library and History & Archives Center.

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Photograph of Steve Hausfeld (courtesy Nationwide History & Archives Center).

Steve Hausfeld is Manager of the Nationwide Insurance History & Archives Center and Library, which is part of the Marketing, Customer Insights & Analytics team. Steve came to Nationwide in 2006 as corporate archivist to reestablish the heritage management initiative for Nationwide. Steve holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowling Green State University (1995), Master of English with Public History Certificate from Wright State University (1998), and a Master of Science in Library and Information Studies from Florida State University (2010). Steve lives in Lewis Center, OH with  his wife Lisa and two children, Carter and Sydney.

RS: How did you get your gig?

SH: Prior to joining Nationwide, I held positions that focused on managing corporate/organizational archives. I started my career in 1998 with a consultancy, The History Factory, managing the archives of corporate and association clients. This was great experience for a young archivist; I learned that organizations have significant archival collections, which opened my eyes to the potential for a career outside of a more traditional archives institution. I learned how to manage large archival collections, work with clients, and communicate the value archives and heritage can create for an organization. Following that, I started the archives for a government-owned corporation, The Export-Import Bank of the United States. This not only gave me insight into working for the federal government, but also introduced me to special libraries, which I hadn’t experienced before. These were the skills needed to come to Nationwide Insurance and restart the archives and heritage program.

RS: Tell us about your organization.

SH: Nationwide Insurance is a Fortune® 68 company headquartered in Columbus, OH with major offices in Des Moines, IA; Harleysville, PA; Scottsdale, AZ; Brea, CA; San Antonio, TX; and Gainesville, FL. Nationwide is a mutual insurance and financial services company, meaning we report to our policyholders, not shareholders. Nationwide was founded in 1926 by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation to help Ohio farmers save money insuring their vehicles. Our original name was Farm Bureau Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. We have over 34,000 employees nationally with about 11,000 in the Columbus area.

RS: Describe your collections.

SH: The Nationwide History & Archives Center holds historical records, photographs, artifacts and memorabilia for the entire Nationwide enterprise. Our records range in date from the mid-18th century through to present. Nationwide has acquired dozens of companies over the years; our collections reflect the breadth of these companies. For example, we have the original charter of the first life insurance company in America (the Presbyterian Ministers’ Fund) established in 1759. We also collect modern digital records such as the newly redesigned Nationwide website preserved through Archive-IT. The collection is managed by myself along with two other full-time archivists, Mandy Jennings and Sadie Chen.

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RS: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

SH: My team and I often joke about the challenge of making insurance and financial services history interesting. Fortunately, our associates are very engaged with Nationwide and our history. Most recently, our biggest challenge has been to make the case for expanding the Nationwide History & Archives Center. Two years ago, I began having conversations with key stakeholders to build support for the expansion idea after space became available. Our storage space was maxed-out and we were acquiring collections from a couple large subsidiaries. Additionally, we had over 1,500 associates through on tours per year; and our art collection (which we oversee) needed improved storage.

These conversations resulted in approval for the expansion, which came in the summer of 2017. Construction was completed in February and our grand re-opening was held April 11, 2018. This expansion was a huge “win” and a demonstration of support for our mission. Looking forward, with the significant investment made by the company, we must continue to demonstrate our value to the organization. I see this as a huge opportunity, because I have a great team and our employees are so engaged in the work we’re doing.

RS: What is the favorite part of your job?

First, I love working with my archives team. I can’t imagine working with people more passionate about their work and Nationwide’s heritage than Mandy and Sadie. Second, I really enjoy meeting with associates and telling them stories about our history. Whether I’m leading tours or giving talks at team meetings, I enjoy engaging associates with stories about our heritage. And finally, I like diving into our history to answer research questions that connect our past successes to business decisions today.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

Asserting the Archivist, no. 3

This post was authored by guest contributor Samantha Norling, Digital Collections Manager at Newfields and member of SAA’s Committee on Public Awareness (COPA).  This is the third post in our “Asserting the Archivist” series on the importance of highlighting archivists and archival work in outreach efforts, rather than just focusing on the collections themselves.

Too often, archivists and archival repositories can get stuck in the loop of sharing only THE STUFF, especially as those posts get a positive response and many interactions. But those collection-centric posts that help to extend our reach to every conceivable interest group on the web provide us with a valuable opportunity to highlight the work, knowledge, and skills of archivists to a nearly unlimited variety of audiences–“Asserting the Archivist” in outreach for our institutions.

Last week this this tweet from Susie Cummings, a member of NPR’s Research, Archives & Data Strategy team (RAD) caught my attention:

Assuming that NPR RAD’s #TechTuesday Instagram initiative would be an exciting new example of Asserting the Archivist, I went straight over to IG to check out the story–and I was not disappointed! While the main goal of these posts is to share the technologies that make preservation of audio collections possible, the stories make it clear that the staff are integral to this process, bringing essential professional expertise to the table.

Apart from these #TechTuesday postings, the @npr_rad IG account features their staff on a regular basis, sharing interesting details about their work while associating the real people (including their faces, personalities, and background stories) behind job titles such as “Deputy RAD Chief” and “audio reformatting intern.”

We #nprRADsters spend our time researching and reformatting the stories of others, but we also have our own stories to tell! In honor of #AsianPacificAmericanHeritageMonth we’re sharing a bit about our family, food, language, and identity. 👉 Hi! My name is Susie Cummings. Here at #nprRAD my key areas of work are research, training, and audio reformatting. I was born in South Korea and lived there in a foster home until the stork picked me up and delivered me 🐣to my adopted family in Washington State! Despite what most people think when they see me, I was raised with Norwegian traditions and carry on my grandma’s recipe for #lefse – one of the only people in my family that can make it 🇳🇴. In my early years, my parents explained to me that I was adopted from South Korea. I appreciated that they wanted to make me aware, but I had no idea what that meant until I went to kindergarten and was told that I looked different. It was the first time that I really understood that I was asian. I call this period of my life, the enlightenment💡! Throughout the years, I have been fortunate to meet many wonderful Korean people who have introduced me to my South Korean heritage. Most importantly, they taught me about the FOOD! Japchae-4-Life! 🇰🇷🇺🇸 #nprlife #radAPAHMstories #APAHM #koreanpride #norwegianpride #asianamerican #koreanadoptees #japchae #APAHMstories

A post shared by RAD (@npr_rad) on

NPR RAD’s enthusiasm for sharing their work and the people who make up their team has helped to gain them broader attention, both within the larger NPR organization and outside. Coverage has included an Inside NPR post titled “Preserving the Past,” and an article in Current, “How NPR’s Research, Archives & Data Strategy team is saving sounds of the past for the future.”

If I haven’t convinced you yet, I strongly encourage you to check out and follow the NPR RAD Instagram and Twitter accounts–not just for the #TechTuesday stories, but for all of their great archives- and, more importantly, archivists-related content!

Did I mention that they are active participants in #AskAnArchivist Day?

Do you have a favorite example of archival repositories or organizations/businesses that “assert the archivist” in their outreach efforts? Or would you like to share your experience incorporating archival work into your outreach? Please share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be a guest contributor to ArchivesAWARE!

Getting It Together: Launching #WeRateArchives

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This post was authored by guest contributor Jeannine Roe, Electronic Records Specialist, Indiana Archives and Records Administration and Communications Committee Member, Society of Indiana Archivists.

 

For Preservation Week 2018, the Society of Indiana Archivists (SIA) Communications Committee members tested the boundaries of archival humor and good taste with the #WeRateArchives initiative. The committee is made up of six professionals from different institutions around the state, has been working to promote the programs and events of Indiana archives, libraries, and museums via social media. Our inspiration for the hashtag was the success of #rateaspecies, where zoos gave their animals amusing Amazon.com-like ratings, and @TheMERL’s brilliant response after a tweet went viral and launched a major educational win for their museum. We sat back and thought, “Archives can do that.” With limited time to devote to social media throughout the week due to our regular job duties, we had one modest goal in mind – to bring some positive attention to archives and highlight preservation challenges by sharing items from our collections in a new and interesting way.

The process:

There are two inherent barriers for archives when it comes to promotion via social media. Firstly, we aren’t providing a product that the general public would regularly search for on the internet. As such, we need to “sell” archives in a different way. Secondly, we lack the “cute factor” that made it so easy for #rateaspecies and the absolute unit to gain instant fame. There is, sadly, a distinct lack of adorable otters and fluffy sheep in most archives. To help overcome these limitations, our approach involved something archivists are generally good at – finding humor in the objects and circumstances we find ourselves interacting with every day.

An appealing Twitter post can take on many forms, but we have tried to incorporate the following three elements into our tweets:

  1. A recognizable or relatable object and/or situation
  2. An educational component
  3. A “twist”

These components can be combined any number of ways to make a funny tweet. Sometimes a little set-up is needed ahead of time, but the results are worth it:

This tweet from SIA Communications Committee member Julie Motyka is a great example, because the image provides instantaneous recognition – any person familiar with Hungry Hungry Hippos will see the resemblance right away. It also leaves the door wide open for questions regarding the objects in the image (what are they, what are they made of, etc.), or for commenters to share their own images or experiences relating to the objects.

Another way to go is the ever-popular pun, perhaps paired with some other tags and/or mentions:

There are also many opportunities for those who deal with legacy AV and electronic materials to get in a few shots:

In these examples, the “twist” lies in approaching a format that many of us grew up with from the perspective of someone who has never seen or used such a device. The popularity of these jokes is undeniable – this post from @michianamemory is currently one of the top tweets:

 

How we have found success thus far:

  1. Involving a layperson. As the lead on this venture, I cannot emphasize enough the benefits of getting input from my husband, who does not use Twitter, prior to kicking off the hashtag. As someone from outside the archival field, his comments prompted us to reevaluate some of our original ideas and fine-tune the humor for a more polished presentation.
  2. “Seeding” the tag. Several days before the start of Preservation Week, we emailed a small number of Indiana institutions we knew were regularly on Twitter and Facebook with an invitation to join the initiative, including a few example tweets to get the creativity flowing.
  3. Losing the jargon. We purposely chose not to use field-specific words such as “accession” in order to make the hashtag as widely accessible as possible.
  4. Incorporating our personal accounts. This was a simple and obvious way to reach followers who may be less familiar with archives.
  5. Quadruple-checking spelling before publishing any posts. Autocorrect is not your friend, especially in regards to acronyms!

 

How we hope to use this hashtag to promote archives:

As a committee we chose to kick off #WeRateArchives during Preservation Week because strange and sometimes distressingly uncared-for materials pop up in archives everywhere, and it seemed logical to celebrate the event by showcasing these objects alongside our mad archival wit. The hashtag itself has a wider appeal, however. Archives receive unusual materials all the time that can potentially be used to create teaching moments online. Twitter also provides a forum that encourages people to share their archival stories – or just vent a bit – via the tag.

#WeRateArchives can also spark interesting reactions, new conversations, and the sharing of tools and ideas. The tweet below from @enmiller94 did just that:

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One additional benefit to using a common hashtag is that it brings institutional Twitter accounts to the attention of other archives, libraries, and museums. There is a LOT of competition for visibility on any given day, so it takes something extra to stand out and gain people’s awareness. When institutions follow each other and retweet posts, we can reach a significantly wider audience with minimal effort. One image, one quote, one hashtag, one share – it can be just as easy as that!

SIA would like to encourage anyone interested to participate in this initiative, now and going forward. #WeRateArchives encourages dialogue (and hopefully, a few laughs) around archival issues, while providing an opportunity to show off some of the valuable, information, fun, and funky things in our repositories. We’ve been getting some great feedback so far, and we hope it will continue! As a way to engage with your collections and followers on social media, we give it 5 stars out of 5.

Follow us @INarchivist + https://www.facebook.com/INarchivist/

The Great Society Congress: A Collaborative Approach to Digital Exhibits and Outreach

Staff members at the Wise Library pose for photographs in front of books January 4th, 2018. Photo Brian Persinger Wyatt Jay

This post was authored by guest contributors Danielle Emerling, Assistant Curator, Congressional and Political Papers Archivist, West Virginia University Libraries, and Jay Wyatt, Director of Programs and Research, Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education.

 

Introduction

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Congressional records are held in repositories around the country. Here, records from three repositories document the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 1. Petition for Cloture Motion, May, 21, 1965, “Cloture Petition” folder, Unanimous Consent to Resignations, Box 3, Secretary of the Senate, 89th Congress, Records the U.S. Senate, RG 46, National Archives. 2. Photograph of the Voting Rights Act signing, The Claude Pepper Papers, Florida State University Libraries. 3. Correspondence between the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Carl Albert, with enclosure, Carl Albert Congressional Papers, Legislative Series, Box 89, Folder 87, Carl Albert Center Congressional Archives, University of Oklahoma.

The archives that document the United States Congress reside in repositories throughout the country. How to bring them together in a meaningful and thematic way is a question congressional archivists and historians often ponder. About four years ago we started planning a project that would do just that – use materials from several archives to explore the numerous pieces of legislation that make up the “Great Society” and discover the Congress that passed them.

The digital exhibit, “The Great Society Congress,” is a collaborative project of the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (ACSC). The ACSC is an association of organizations that promotes the study of the United States Congress. Many ACSC member organizations maintain archival collections of current and former members of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The online exhibit features more than 400 items from 18 member institutions. While our energy initially was focused on creating the exhibit, the exhibit has turned into a great vehicle for new partnerships and outreach.

How We Did the Project

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One section of the exhibit focuses on the key legislation passed by the 89th Congress.

Telling the story of Congress is difficult. It’s a large, complex institution with more than 500 members who bring different interests, points of view, and ways of working to a body that needs to make policy for the entire country. Our approach was to focus on the key legislation, the leadership and procedures that shaped this particular Congress, and some of the larger events unfolding at the time, such as the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement.

With so many different components, we chose to develop the exhibit over the course of two years, releasing pieces of it to coincide with different legislative anniversaries. This made the project more manageable for our all-volunteer exhibit task force.

We were unsure at first how many ACSC member institutions would contribute to the project because participation largely depended on what members were able to find in their collections. We were pleasantly surprised by the response, though.  By the time we completed the site build, we had incorporated over 400 primary source documents from almost 20 different ACSC member organizations.

We also received a wider variety of materials focusing on a broader array of topics than we initially anticipated, and so both the size and scope of the exhibit expanded as the project proceeded.  For example, the W.R. Poage Legislative Library at Baylor University and the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas submitted materials documenting a Food for Peace delegation trip to India led by then-Congressman Dole and Congressman W.R. “Bob” Poage.  The highlight of this submission was the discovery that silent film footage of the trip held at the Poage Legislative Library matched up with audio held at the Dole Institute, and archivists Debbie Davendonis (Poage) and Sarah D’Antonio Gard (Dole) were able to reconstruct this rare source. The submission encouraged us to consider the additional work that Congress does, and as a result we developed “The Political Environment” section of the exhibit, which eventually grew to include features on civil rights and the war in Vietnam.

We brought all of these materials together in an Omeka exhibit, hosted by the University of Delaware Library. With the assistance of the Web Services and Digital Humanities Librarian, we were able to create a special template for the site that blends contemporary design and easy navigability.

NARA Lesson Plan

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The ACSC exhibit task force partnered with the Center for Legislative Archives at NARA to create the “Congress, the Great Society in the 1960s, and today” lesson plan.

After creating the site’s content, we received some anecdotal evidence that college faculty were using the site for instruction, but we hoped that educators teaching at various levels would use the site in the classroom. We also knew educators have a tremendous workload and would likely want something ready-made and flexible to use.

So, we partnered with the Center for Legislative Archives (CLA) at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to create a lesson plan. The CLA is the part of NARA that preserves and makes available the official records of Congress, and as a longtime ACSC member, it had already contributed a great deal of expertise and documents to the exhibit. The CLA has extensive experience developing educational resources, including lesson plans, e-books, and mobile apps, for K-12 educators.   Charles Flanagan, Outreach Supervisor at the CLA, guided us through the lesson plan creation and showed us how to structure a lesson so students build on their knowledge from one day to the next.

The resulting lesson plan, “Congress, the Great Society in the 1960s, and today,” asks students in grades 9-12 to summarize President Lyndon Johnson’s vision for a “Great Society,” place the vision in historical context, and detail the ways in which Congress responded.

Our partnership with the CLA has been invaluable.  Charlie and the CLA’s educational specialists use the “Great Society” lesson plan in many of the outreach activities they conduct with teachers across the country each year, and that has helped make people more aware of the exhibit and encouraged greater interaction with the materials. It has, in many ways, helped keep the exhibit relevant, as we’ve moved on from the 50th anniversary of the Great Society.

National History Day Article

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Our article, “Congress Constructs the Great Society Through Conflict and Compromise,” appeared in the 2018 National History Day theme book.

In addition to instruction, we wanted to entice students to use the site for their research. One of the members of the exhibit team had worked with National History Day (NHD) in the past, and we contacted NHD about writing an article for the 2018 theme book. Each year, the NHD theme book consists of articles relating to the year’s theme, and it is unveiled at the national competition. They print approximately 12,000-15,000 copies, but most people access it online. The theme book usually receives approximately 300,000 page views.

Our article, “Congress Constructs the Great Society Through Conflict and Compromise,” provides an overview of the exhibit. By pulling out specific documents, photographs, and audio files available in the exhibit, we sought to highlight the numerous ways students could connect Congress’ role in passing legislation with the theme of “Conflict and Compromise.” Following the theme book’s publication in fall 2017, we saw a significant increase in traffic to the exhibit website.   Approximately 7,000 new users have tallied near 18,000 page views on the exhibit over the past eight months.  This represents more than a quarter of the 26,000 users who have visited the exhibit since its launch in April 2015. Like the lesson plan, the outreach that we’ve done to promote the exhibit via the NHD theme book has paid major dividends.

Lessons Learned and the Future of the Exhibit

Through collaboration among member institutions to build the site and partnerships to develop instruction and student research resources, “The Great Society Congress” digital exhibit successfully highlighted congressional archives for new audiences. If we did the exhibit over again, we would consider applying for a grant, particularly so we could help member institutions with costs associated with researching topics, digitizing materials, and creating metadata. Although we will not be adding content to the exhibit, we’ll continue to look for outreach opportunities (like this blog!) to help get more people interested in the exhibit.  We believe it will continue to be relevant for instructors teaching the history of the 1960s at various levels and a fantastic resource for anyone interested in learning more about the Great Society.

There’s an Archivist for That! Interview with Colleen McFarland Rademaker of the Corning Museum of Glass

The There’s an Archivist for That! series features examples of archivists working in places you might not expect. COPA member Anna Trammell, Archival Operations and Reference Specialist at the University of Illinois Archives Research Center/Student Life and Culture Archives, brings you an interview with Colleen McFarland Rademaker, Associate Librarian, Special Collections at the Corning Museum of Glass Rakow Research Library.

Colleen McFarland Rademaker in her office at the Rakow Research Library, Corning Museum of Glass (Courtesy of Colleen McFarland Rademaker)

Colleen McFarland Rademaker currently serves as associate librarian, special collections at the Rakow Research Library, The Corning Museum of Glass. Previously she was head archivist for the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth (2015-2017), director of archives and records management (2012-2015) and archivist (2010-2012) for the Mennonite Church USA in Goshen, Ind., and head of special collections & university archivist at the University of Wisconsin — Eau Claire (2006-2010). She serves on the Society of American Archivists Publications Board (2014-2020) and is certified as an interpretive guide by the National Association for Interpretation. Colleen received a B.A. in German and history from the College of Wooster, an M.A. in history from Cornell University, and an M.L.I.S. from the University of Wisconsin — Milwaukee.

AT: How did you get your gig?

CMR: After working in academic archives for six years and religious archives for seven years, I took what may not look like a logical “next step” by seeking a position in a museum archives. However, the Corning Museum of Glass is not just any museum, and neither is it an archival program. I was immediately drawn to the institution’s interdisciplinary mission to document and promote the art, history, science, and technology of glass. Few repositories offer the opportunity to work both broadly and deeply across disciplines, and I embraced the challenge of serving patrons who bring expertise from incredibly diverse backgrounds to the research process. Having an interdisciplinary academic background myself, I recognized that this position might be a great fit for me.

As for the mechanics of getting the job, I confess that I applied for a different position than the one I currently hold. A very strong internal candidate was offered the position I originally applied for. In delivering that news to me, the chief librarian asked whether I might be interested in a different position in the organization. My answer was obviously an enthusiastic yes!

AT: Tell us about your organization.

CMR: The Corning Museum of Glass was founded in 1951. Corning Incorporated (then Corning Glass Works) gave the museum to the nation as a gift on the company’s 100th anniversary. The museum tells the world about glass by hosting over 400,000 visitors annually in its glass collection galleries, innovation center, glassmaking school, and center for glass scholarship, the Rakow Research Library. Guest artists frequently work and teach at the museum, and the museum takes glass demonstrations on the road with a hot glass roadshow mobile unit.

The museum’s commitment to glass scholarship is evident in the fact that the library is one its largest components. The library hosts researchers from around the globe, and library staff answered over 4,400 reference questions last year. The newly-formed special collections department provides leadership in managing all unique materials, but especially 20th and 21st century manuscript collections created by glass artists and manufacturers.

Rakow Research Library Reading Room (Courtesy of Colleen McFarland Rademaker)

AT: Describe your collections.

CMR: The Rakow Research Library holds the world’s most comprehensive collection on glass making. Its special collections include everything from a 12th century Mappae Clavicula (a medieval Latin text containing material formulas) to digital video capturing contemporary glass artists at work.  While special collections includes rare books, trade catalogs, works of art on paper, and archival collections, I’ll focus only on the archival collections here.

The library functions primarily as a collecting institution and has acquired over 200 manuscripts documenting the work of glass artists, glass factories, stained glass firms, glass researchers, and glass collectors. Some of our most significant and heavily-used collections are those documenting the local glass industry. While Corning Incorporated maintains its own corporate archives, the records of the cut glass manufacturer T. G. Hawkes and Co., and the art glass producer Steuben Glass Works are among our most beloved holdings. These records not only provide an important glimpse into the economic and social history of the region, but also support the provenance research of glass collectors. These records also complement the records of glass firms outside of the region, such as the recently-acquired records of Fenton Art Glass Company.

Among the personal papers in our holdings, glass artists’ papers have great significance because they document all phases of the creative process, from inspiration to execution. Glass recipe books, called “batch books,” are invaluable not only to glass researchers, but also to glass artists today who continue to experiment with glass formulas. And while the museum curators collect representative pieces from glass artists, the artists’ papers contextualize those pieces in photographs of and writing about the broader body of work.

The museum’s institutional archives also reside among the archival holdings. As the Corning Museum of Glass approaches its 75th anniversary (2026), its historic records are more important than ever. As the memories of long-tenured retired staff members begin to fail, current museum staff have increasing need to consult the institutional archives.

AT: What are some challenges unique to your collections?

CMR: The museum suffered a devastating flood in 1972, and none of the collections were spared. A selection of images of the flood damage and subsequent conservation work may be seen here. That the museum reopened just six weeks after the flood seems nothing short of a miracle! Significant resources were invested to conserve the collections, and the museum contracted with experts, including book conservator Carolyn Horton. However, the institution’s own records were not fully conserved, and original order was lost during salvage operations. Individual documents were chemically treated, dried, and repacked into dozens of records cartons. Some hold related caches of documents, while others do not. Imposing an arrangement on the museum’s early records presents a significant challenge because of the time it will require.  Sadly, MPLP is not an option for this project.

We are also in the midst of documenting the first generation of Studio Glass artists. Art glass production began to move from factories to small studios in the early 1960s, where artists could collaborate, experiment, and make one-of-a-kind objects. The pioneers of the Studio Glass movement are now considering their legacies, and many wish to make their papers available to future generations of glass artists and researchers. The volume of papers and the narrow timeframe for collecting pose a formidable task.

AT: What is your favorite part of your job?

CMR: I have the privilege of working with tremendously knowledgeable and dedicated people! Having worked as a lone arranger for most of my career, I am enjoying the company and expertise of others who share my sense of mission and passion for the collection.  I also appreciate the enthusiasm and intellectual generosity of the glass community – the artists, collectors, and scholars who create and use the records under my care.

Stay tuned for future posts in the “There’s an Archivist for That!” series, featuring stories on archivists working in places you might not expect. If you know of an archivist who fits this description or are yourself an archivist who fits this description, the editors would love to hear from you—share in the comments below or contact archivesaware@archivists.org to be interviewed for ArchivesAWARE!

Archives + Audiences: Journalist David Grann on “Killers of the Flower Moon”

David Grann, author, Lost City of Z

This post is part of our new Archives + Audiences series, which features the perspectives of archival audiences – scholars, journalists, filmmakers, artists, activists, and more – for whom archives have been an important part of their life and work.

In this Archives + Audiences entry, we bring you an interview with David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (Doubleday, 2017), on the centrality of archival research to the writing of this important yet little-known chapter in American history.  Just released in paperback on April 3rd, Killers of the Flower Moon has garnered a mass of critical acclaim and was a National Book Award finalist.

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the bestselling author of The Devil and Sherlock Holmes and The Lost City of Z, which has been translated into more than twenty languages. His stories have appeared in many anthologies of the best American writing, and he has written for The New York Times MagazineThe AtlanticThe Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal, and The New Republic.

ArchivesAWARE: What archival collections did you use for research while writing Killers of the Flower Moon?

Cover of “Killers of the Flower Moon” by David Grann (Doubleday, 2017)

Grann: I drew on records from so many archives. They included the National Archives, Library of Congress, Oklahoma Historical Society, Osage Nation Museum, Oklahoma State Archives and Records Management, Texas State Library and Archives Commission, and University of Oklahoma Western History Collections.

ArchivesAWARE: Were there any collections that you’d single out as being most essential to the writing of the book?  Why?  How did you come to discover those collections?

Grann: A branch of the National Archives in Fort Worth, Texas, was an essential repository for my research. Many federal records concerning Oklahoma—including documents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the judicial system—are stored there. Among the unexpected documents I found in a box here was the secret grand jury testimony from the prosecution of some of the murderers of the Osage. This testimony proved invaluable in telling the history of what happened and being able to record the voices of many of the participants. It’s why I think it’s important when doing archival research to look through boxes that may not be precisely catalogued, because you don’t know what you might turn up.

ArchivesAWARE: Did anything in the collections surprise you or spark an “a-ha!” moment?

Grann: At the archives in Fort Worth, I also came across a tattered logbook, which contained the names of white guardians. Because of extraordinary racism, the U.S. Congress had passed legislation requiring many Osage to have white guardians to oversee their wealth. The logbook listed the Osage who had been assigned to each guardian, and if one of these Osage had passed away under the guardianship system, a single word was usually scrawled by his or her name: Dead. I noticed that one guardian was assigned to five Osages, and all five of their names were followed by that word. Another guardian had thirteen wards, more than half of whom had been listed as deceased. And so it went. The numbers were staggering and clearly defied a natural death rate. I began to get a sense of the breadth of the systematic murder campaign against the Osage.

ArchivesAWARE: Was there something you were hoping to find but didn’t?

Grann: In research, especially historical research, there are always some gaps of information, which gnaw at you.

ArchivesAWARE: Did you encounter many barriers to accessing or using any collections?

Grann: No, I was fortunate. Not only did institutions share with me their collections, but many Osage who had kept letters and court records and photos also did.

ArchivesAWARE: How would you describe the overall impact of archival collections on the writing of the book?

Grann: This book is born out of archives. It could not have been written without the benefit of these collections, and the many archivists who kindly guided me to hidden troves.

ArchivesAWARE: Is there anything else you would like to share about your archival research experience in connection with Killers of the Flower Moon?

Grann: Perhaps the most remarkable discovery happened when I told a librarian at the New York City Public Library about my research. To my astonishment, he told me that some members of his family were from Oklahoma and were related to several of the victims and the murderers I was writing about. He put me in touch with them, which led to a wealth of information.