Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I've Been Reading Online

A couple items from various places:

My friend and colleague Anne Ackerson has started a new blog, Leading by Design. She's one of the most thoughtful thinkers about museums and leadership I know, and her blog will share her reflections on a wide range of issues relating to museums and organizational development.

I heard a story on NPR about Cornerstones, a project exploring the history of New Orleans through place. As they put it, less "Andrew Jackson slept here," and more "this is the last mom and pop store in the neighborhood." Their site has a registry with a map and a nomination form. A new book, already in its second printing, shares the information in a different format. Places of note: The House of Dance and Feathers, Deutches Haus, and the Sportsmen's Corner Bar.

From the Cornerstones site, I linked to The Neighborhood Story Project. Their tag line? "Our Stories Told by Us." It's a project in collaboration with the University of New Orleans and their work has already resulted in seven books and numerous programs. Those books include: (descriptions from their website)

by Nine Times Social and Pleasure Club
Beginning with their own childhoods in the Desire Housing Project, Nine Times take the reader on a journey through their world: Motown Sound at Carver games, DJ's in the courts, and sandlot football. Written by the members during the year after Katrina, Nine Times writes about their lives, their parades, the storm, and the rebuilding process. Through interviews, photographs, and writing, Nine Times brings readers into their world of second lines, brass bands, Magee's Lounge, and the ties that bind.

Arlet and Sam Wylie

In their book Between Piety and Desire, brother and sister team Arlet and Sam Wylie talk about their regular and irregular life living above a neighborhood store. They interview the people who hang out on the block, weaving the history of the street through their own history living upstairs.

These New Orleans projects are great examples of what local historical societies could and should be doing. It would be nice if more local history organizations stopped trying to own a building, just because it's there, stopped collecting objects just because someone donates them, and tried harder to really document and share the history of a place.

And by the way, in my own corner (more or less) of the world, Traditional Arts of Upstate New York (TAUNY) has a Register of Very Special Places in New York State's North Country, including locations such as Clare and Carl's, home of the "michigan" hot dog and the Italian American Civic Association in Massena. Citylore, a folk arts organization in New York City partners with the Municipal Art Society for Place Matters, a project designed to uncover places that "evoke associations with history, memory, and tradition."

In all these efforts, the decisions about what to document, share and register, is made by community members, with open nomination forms, a process that opens up a community's history to everyone.

Above: New Orleans Street Scene, 1935, by Walker Evans, FSA/OWI Collection, Library of Congress

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