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Public archives: more relevant today than ever

Policy Opinions PolitiquesJennifer Anderson

“Public archives represent a democratic vision where all are welcome, ideas circulate, and information is analyzed and diffused for educational purposes. There has been a lot of noise recently about information distortion and its effects on democracy. So what better time to raise the importance of historical literacy and public archives? In gathering and promoting primary source material, archives play an essential role in modelling literacy skills and critical thinking. In analyzing this material and producing modest, reasonable conclusions, researchers aim to understand complex issues and to engage the public in the discussion. These skills are crucial tools in a democracy. For too long archives have been hidden and archivists overlooked. All sorts of unflattering stories have circulated about archives, as if to keep the general public out. Witness the way popular culture has painted the picture: dust, disorder and darkness.

Historical thinking – Archives are considerably more nuanced than most people realize. The researchers who use public archives, as well as the staff, have a wide range of backgrounds and interests. Diversity is valued for the fresh ideas it fosters. Pluralism brings new perspectives and new questions to the sources. Working with archives is an exercise in historical thinking where questions about sources, context and cause are central. (Consider the work of the Historical Thinking Project, an educational initiative organized around the questions historians pose of primary sources, aimed at promoting media and information literacy.) Solid archival research requires sources to be validated, corroborated and referenced, so that peers can follow the line of reasoning and further the arguments. As critical thinkers engaged in creating interrelated information pathways, archivists are allergic to binary thinking. They worry about gaps in collections and how to mitigate bias, both historical and contemporary. Behind the scenes, archivists query one another on acquisitions, evaluations and descriptions of archival collections to ensure that the documentary heritage preserved today will enable future generations to understand their own past…”

Revealing Data: Why We Need Humans to Curate Web Collections

Circulating Now – NIH – “In this Revealing Data series we explore data in historical medical collections, and how preserving this data helps to ensure that generations of researchers can reexamine it, reveal new stories, and make new discoveries. Future researchers will likely want to examine the data of the web archive collections, collected and… Continue Reading

Browser plug-in organizes and contextualizes big news stories for readers

MIT newsroom: “The explosion of digital content has made it hard to navigate news today. This startup’s plug-in will cut down on time and browser tabs, while readers search for information. Acciyo’s name might draw from fiction, but the purpose of the search engine extension is firmly rooted in fact. “When I was first figuring… Continue Reading

So you want to comment on a regulation? Here’s how

How to effectively comment on regulations. August 2018. Adam Looney, Director, Center on Regulation and Markets, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution. “The Trump administration has made its deregulatory agenda clear since inauguration day. The administration’s actions have ranged from sweeping rollbacks of major rules that have garnered media attention, to smaller orders and guidance withdrawals… Continue Reading

The Cautious Path to Strategic Advantage: How Militaries Should Plan for AI

EFF White Paper: “In June, Google executives announced that the company would be backing away from its provision of AI services to the U.S. military drone program, and would not continue that work after the Project Maven contract is completed. This was in response to a campaign from Google’s own employees, with thousands calling on… Continue Reading

The Weight of Numbers: Air Pollution and PM2.5

Undark: “Emanating from smokestacks, vehicle engines, construction projects, and fires large and small, airborne pollution – sometimes smaller than the width of a human hair, and very often the product of human activity – is not just contributing to climate change. It is a leading driver of heart disease and stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory… Continue Reading

The Olmsted Papers You Didn’t Know You Needed

CityLab: “Frederick Law Olmsted might be best known for New York’s Central Park and Washington’s U.S. Capitol grounds, but his role in shaping modern America spans far more than a few famous sites, as the Library of Congress’ newly digitized collection of Olmsted’s writings and personal records makes abundantly clear. The materials, including drafts of… Continue Reading

How Enslaved Chefs Helped Shape American Cuisine

Smithsonian – Black cooks created the feasts that gave the South its reputation for hospitality “…Black cooks were bound to the fire, 24 hours a day. They lived in the kitchen, sleeping upstairs above the hearth during the winters, and outside come summertime. Up every day before dawn, they baked bread for the mornings, cooked… Continue Reading

What percentage of people are part of each generation in each state?

Overflow Data – Visualization: What percentage of people are part of each generation in each state? Source: Tabulated from 2017 US Census Bureau Population Estimates Tool: Tableau Age Groups: Generation Z, 0 to 19 years Millennials, 20 to 39 years Generation X, 40 to 54 years Baby Boomers, 55 to 69 years Silent Generation, 70… Continue Reading

Seeking justice for Justice the horse

Washington Post:  Can a neglected animal sue? – “Justice is an 8-year-old American quarter horse who used to be named Shadow. And when he was named Shadow, he suffered. At a veterinarian’s exam last year, he was 300 pounds underweight, his black coat lice-ridden, his skin scabbed and his genitals so frostbitten that they might… Continue Reading

LegalTech By The Numbers: In-House Lawyers Share Wants, Needs And Pain Points

Above the Law: “Since Xakia launched the Legal Operations Health Check, in-house counsel on five continents have completed the online assessment. Two months later, their responses provide a quantitative look at the real state of legal operations in departments of all sizes. When it comes to technology, there are clear desires and stressors – and a… Continue Reading

GAO – Focusing on “Just Facts” with new tweets

WASHINGTON, DC (August 13, 2018) – “The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues nearly one thousand reports, testimonies and legal decisions each year, all based on non-partisan, fact-based work. And while the headlines quickly fade in today’s fast-paced news cycle, there are still hundreds of thousands of facts buried in GAO’s body of work. So… Continue Reading