Archive for March, 2014

The Beginner’s Guide to the Professional Book Review

This is the last reblog, for a while, anyway, I promise. I’m not too lazy to write something original, this post is just really good! Time to start really brushing up on my book review skills because this sounds like fun.

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Editor’s Note: In need of inspiration? You are in luck! Hack Library School plans to bring back reviews to the blog – on books, technology, and other resources in the LIS field – and will even consider guest reviews! You can check out previous books reviews on the blog here.

By now you’ve probably noticed that here at Hack Library School we are really big on a little thing called professional involvement. Just recently, we’ve covered professional organizations, conferences, committee work, and more. It’s an excellent way to develop important skills, learn about issues and conversations in the field, meet people, and demonstrate to prospective employers that you’re proactive and engaged. Book reviews are one important (and fun) avenue of professional involvement that many students aren’t aware of. HLS alumna Annie Pho first suggested book reviewing to me, and I’m so glad she did. Now that I…

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Deliberate Starvation of Peasants

This is another project I’m working on. It’s a little more interdisciplinary, which is why I like it so much. This is where the activist in me can come out and play so I thought I’d introduce it here.

The Next Social Construct

This blog is about race and genocide but I deliberately chose the banner at the top for the implied message–that genocide is deliberate and that should be the most important qualifying factor in determining whether or not an act was genocide or mass killing. The comparison seems trivial to me and the reasons for not wanting any association to the word genocide are obvious. Is it any wonder that Soviets were always in attendance and ready with the “self-serving argument… that social and political groups were too fluid and too difficult to define for them to be included,” at U.N. committees on the subject. (Norman Naimark, pp. 37)

Nineteen thirty-two marked the end of Joseph Stalin’s Five Year Plan and in 1933 began a year of famine in the Ukraine which was the direct result of Soviet policy at Stalin’s discretion. (Timothy Snyder, pp. 23) Stalin was too smart to…

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Confirmation in a Coffee Shop; or, When I Almost Hugged My Laptop

So, I had to reblog this because it gives me so much hope as I stumble along my own path to graduate school. I get anxious and dejected at times, too, but then I have those little flashes of brilliance that totally make up for that. And they always come after I’ve been stressed out the most. I guess the secret to success in the History field is hitting a wall… and then finding a loose brick.

Adventures in Research

It’s no secret, at least on this blog, that I’ve been feeling stuck and a little dejected about my progress on my dissertation. Despite moments of real progress (several pages written!), I end up tempering them (they still need footnotes!) so I don’t really feel the joy fully. I know it’s a sign of burnout, or at least a sign of burnout for me. It’s long past time to reduce stress and anxiety and find a way to reenergize myself. While my stress load gets lower every month, my exhaustion with my sources doesn’t.

I’m going to be presenting an aspect of my research this week at a conference. It’s taking the article I wrote and advancing the argument. But the problem with the article was the small sample size I had to work with. I ended up doing a lot of extrapolation. I have realized the Marine Corps chapter…

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A Rookie’s Review of the “Marxists Internet Archive: History Archive”

What the Marxists Internet Archive lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in the quantity of information it makes accessible to the public. This site offers a tremendous amount of primary documents organized several ways including by country, time period, or worker’s organization, and a tiny bit of narrative. All the categories are clearly laid out on the home page and with the click of a mouse a visitor to the site can browse through government documents from the Soviet Union, letters to Juan Peron through the Argentina link, historical resources about Capitalism or a number of other data and information. This site is in every way, shape, and form an archive, with the exception of that tiny little complaint from professional archivists that Daniel Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig point out in their website, Digital History: A Guide to Gathering, Preserving, and Presenting the Past on the Web, about provenance.

Provenance is “a firm history of the custody of a coherent body of materials since their origin.” (Daniel Cohen, Digital History) When a person, group, or entity wants to make information accessible to the public on the web, provenance can be an issue since, the person, group, or entity does not actually have to have the document in custody to be able to make it accessible to the public. What an internet archive provides is access to the document, with the proper permissions and citations, of course, and not necessarily a historical line of succession. The Marxists Internet Archive does just that in a simple to read and easy to access format.

In keeping with the practicality of Marxism this website keeps it, well, practical. The home page lists out all the categories which have been hyper-linked to their own respective archives. For example, when one clicks on the U.S.A.  category, one is taken to a site with a similar setup where categories are hyper-linked either to documents or entire archives on that topic. Different categories offer different types of information, mostly consisting of primary documents, but some categories, such as Algeria, for example, offer a bit of narrative to fill in the gaps and provide context. For added ease, this site provides on its home page a Google search engine that can search through the archives contained within it for certain terms or phrases. This archive certainly takes advantage of the digital platform by offering what Cohen and Rosenzweig call the “two intrinsic advantages of the digital medium: accessibility and searchability.” (Daniel Cohen, Digital History)

This site has already amassed such a great quantity of information it is difficult to perceive that there should be any limitations at all, but there are. Although this is an online archive, there must be a human at the back-end of it to find, research, transcribe, format, organize, digitize, upload, and maintain all of the information that is so readily accessible at my fingertips. The evidence for this somewhat minor detail is at the bottom of the home page of this site where the administrator is calling for volunteers to help with the research and upkeep of the site. On the positive side, this archive may survive several generations of volunteers without the worry of documents being physically destroyed or a fire consuming the entire collection. On the negative side, there is always that pesky delete button to worry about.

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HTML Practice

So here is the document I have encoded below. I have no idea why all the metadata that I put into html is visible now. It’s metadata. I shouldn’t see it. Also, all my tags have disappeared when I switch over to the text tab.

F.W. Gunsaulus to Frank L. Wood, 22 Jan. 1921. Frank L. Wood Scrapbooks, 1864-1944.
F.W. Gunsaulus

Princeton University Library
Princeton, New Jersey
1921

This is the editorial declaration

Armour Institute of Technology Chicago.
F.W. Gunsaulus, President

January 22, 1921

Mr. Frank L. Wood,
327 S. Campbell Ave.,
Chicago.

Dear Frank Wood:
I have a new set of slides made, so that you can keep those which you have; and when you are through with them, you can put them into safe hands. It would be wrong to use them in any public or money making scheme and would certainly get the user into legal difficulties. It is entirely proper and legal for you and me to do as we will with respect to the matter. I would advise you to go to the Art Institute of Chicago and ask to see, in my name if necessary,the great William Bode volumes, where you can get the descriptions of the colors of these paintings.

I thank you very much for the extract you have sent me from that

    fine souled woman,

who certainly has the essential thing of Christianity in her mind and heart.

Faithfully yours,
F.W. GunsaulusF.W. Gunsaulus

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Digital Historiography with Google Ngram Viewer

According to Franco Moretti, graphs, maps, and trees are the way to go when researching a historical question. Moretti claims that mapping genres and the literary output of specific countries can be invaluable to any historian. So, I tried it out with my own question of Stalin and genocide in the Ukraine during the 1930’s. I can’t really tell what exactly this says about Stalin and genocide, but I can see that he was certainly more popular than genocide, the Ukraine, or the class, kulak, which he invented so he could essentially get away with genocide.

The Google Ngram Viewer seems like it might prove useful to research if you know already know exactly what to look for, and also, if you know in advance the connections you are looking for. I can see it adding another dimension to research–it certainly is thinking outside the box and it offers an interdisciplinary approach to historical questions. I like that.

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The Historical Collage

Recently I had to write an essay describing my scholarly interest and include it in my application to grad school. I had been putting it off because I honestly had no idea what my scholarly interest was. I just knew that I liked history and philosophy. The deadline for the application was closing in on me so I couldn’t put it off any longer. I banged it out, finally, but it did offer me a bit of clarity. The following paragraph is from my essay and I think I might actually be on to something:

The Modern Era encompasses the bulk of my historical interest. From the conquest of the New World to colonization to globalization to the World Wars and beyond—this is the broad timeline in history that really interests me. It is difficult to be too specific as to the actual events within this period that interest me because as I learn of new happenings in history, it is easy to make connections. I look at this period as a big picture made up of several snap-shots—each requiring extensive analysis, but each one being the cause or consequence of some other event or “snap-shot”—so that the big picture is essentially a collage. These snap-shots overlap and connect in various ways and it is these “various ways” that I find so interesting.

That was as precise and focused as I could get. However, my collage analogy got me thinking about the smaller connections that are made everyday with plain ‘ole, regular people. Like how most people tend to accept the societal structures imposed upon them. They might not like them, and they might complain about them often enough, but they accept them, none-the-less. For example, in sixteenth to nineteenth century Mexico, Spaniards developed the racial classification system sistema de castas according to how much Spanish blood a person was perceived to have. The darker and poorer one was the lower in the hierarchy they fell. This system was dismantled after the revolutions in Latin America in the 1810’s-20’s, but, the pertaining societal structure remained and still exists today in Mexico and among Mexicans as one’s “darkness” is still very much an issue. “Darkness” in Mexican culture is associated with shame and guilt. In my collage example, this is where two snap-shots have overlapped. A system that was created by the elite and imposed upon the poor and disenfranchised five hundred years ago still holds sway today. I wonder why? So, my description of scholarly interest must not be so vague, after all.

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PROGRESSIVE YOUTH ORGANIZATION - KC

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Christopher D. Cantwell, Ph.D.

Assistant Director, Dr. William M. Scholl Center for American History & Culture at the Newberry Library

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