Saturday, October 22, 2016

Images of America: Nebraska City by Tammy Partsch (2015)

As an archivist, I'm a fan of Arcadia Press and their local history publications -- always heavy on photographs and focused on a niche location or topic, they do just what they intend and also spread the love of archival photographs (AND they were also a sponsor of the Austin Archives Bazaar, so they deserve lots of love!).

As a Nebraskan, I'm also a fan of Nebraska City, where my dad grew up and my grandparents lived for many years. Put those two loves together, and I'm the natural market for Images of America: Nebraska City by Tammy Partsch (2015). My aunt picked this up when she was back in Nebraska City for a reunion and I'm so glad she did. Having grown up with frequent visits to the city, I never really knew much about its history and, as one of the oldest cities in Nebraska, its history is very rich.

Partsch divides the photographs in the book up by topic, with big sections focusing on the Morton family / Arbor Lodge, as well as the local orchards and the legacy of firefighting in the town.

While the topic may be a little narrow for the general reader, if you have any attachment to Nebraska, Arbor Day, or the settlement of early towns in the west, this is a worthwhile read.

I may be a little biased, but my favorite picture in the book was this group of kindergartners from 1956 in the "Daily Life" section, since it also happens to feature my grandmother, Lilly Sorensen. Love you Bemor!

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Teaching With Primary Sources, edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (2016)

The Society of American Archivists is running a One Book, One Profession nationwide book club this fall, and their selection is Teaching With Primary Sources, edited by Christopher J. Prom and Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe (2016). A group of Austin-area archivists decided to read the book and get together during October (which just happens to be Archives Month!) to discuss it. I'm really glad I jumped on board with this event because this is a book that I might not have ordinarily read, and I'm glad I had a chance to check it out.

The book consists of three independently-written modules, which move generally from the more theoretical to the more practical: "Contextualizing Archival Literacy" by Elizabeth Yakel and Doris Malkmus; "Teaching With Archives - A Guide for Archivists, Librarians, and Educators" by Sammie L. Morris, Tamar Chute, and Ellen Swain; "Connecting Students and Primary Sources - Cases and Examples" by Tamar Chute, Ellen Swain, and Sammie L. Morris. Sammie is a friend of mine and I was so excited to see that she contributed to two of the three modules in the book, building on the articles I'd read about her research in identifying core skills in using archives for history students.

I found all three modules to be applicable to my work as an archivist, even though I don't do that much traditional teaching in a day-to-day context. I do spend some time every semester doing more formal library instruction, which sometimes involves the archives, and I also do a lot of one-on-one archival instruction and advocacy, both with students and faculty (and members of the general public). The pedagogical framework as well as the concrete case studies and sample activities all help to put this important and often ignored work more to the front of what archivists do. While some of the teaching scenarios were way more involved than I'd ever see as a lone arranger in a small school, reading about the successes and mis-steps in these case studies will help me with my own smaller teaching experiments.

Certainly not a light read or something that everyone is going to want to pick up, but if you are an archivist, an historian, or a teacher of any subject, I think there's a lot to dig into here. Nice work, archivists!

Saturday, October 01, 2016

These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories by Luke Mogelson (2016)

"next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's early my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more. what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?"

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

e.e. cummings

The title of Luke Mogelson's debut short story collection, These Heroic, Happy Dead (2016) comes from e.e. cummings' poem "next to of course god america i," and the irony in both works is that the experience of these veterans is often merely symbolic to those on the home front and very rarely heroic or happy to the ones experiencing it. In Mogelson's stories of servicemen at war and back at home, even if you aren't one of the dead, the impact of your service is tough to wrap around a civilian lifestyle.

These stories are well crafted with a pleasing diversity of structures and topics, while maintaining a constant focus on character, tight observations, and a good sense of dialogue. Small threads connect the stories in the book, making the collection tie together nicely as a discrete work, but without being too gimmicky or novelistic. While the characters and focus are overwhelmingly male, these are not overly-masculine stories and Mogelson gives us a lot more than the (sadly true) but overly familiar post-combat cliches. These are short stories that take every advantage of the form, and if you are a short story fan, this one is going to be a treat.