The UX of Virtual/VR Tour of Museum

By Elise Fu

Virtual tour of museums has been around for a while, but it is far from being widespread and popular, which I found it is a pity because it can really benefit a lot of people if we do it right. It is also a perfect category for the recent hottest tech – VR to implement. After browsing some virtual tour project of museums, I found some common issues and drawbacks and a few shining points. As a UX designer, I would like to try on analyzing these projects from a user experience perspective. Below are the key factors I found that matter the most for a good experience of virtual/VR tour of museums.

Smithsonian Museum Virtual Tour

(Typical setting of virtual tour: map, arrow, controller)

To clarify, a virtual tour is a simulation of an existing location, often composed of a sequence of videos or still images that are panorama. If it is still images, users often have the control of the pace and location where they “stand” and look at, the drawbacks are the scene is static and most of the projects are difficult-to-control. If it is video, then the location will be filmed at a walking pace while moving continuously from one point to another, where users have to follow the sequence and won’t have free control.

Virtual reality tours are the virtual tours that can be viewed and experienced by a VR viewer (headset). They are more immersive and have different controllers compared with viewing on a computer, tablet or phone, depending on which headset or app users use.

virtual-reality-museum-tour

3D vs 2D

There are two ways these virtual tours present the work in the museum – 2D photos or 3D model.

The most common way is using 2D still photos where users can only see the work from a certain angle, which presents the same scene with the physical museum but the experience is incomplete, such as the one from Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

(2D Virtual Tour – Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History)

While some project use 3D model to rebuild a virtual museum, where each object is independent, so users can select, zoom in, and rotate to observe closely, such as the project of Ancient Sculptures of Vietnam.

3dSculpture-horse

(3D Virtual Tour – Ancient Sculptures of Vietnam)

From the user experience perspective, the experience of 3D is much better than the 2D one, because users can interact with objects. It also has the advantage of better storytelling, since the narrative or commentary can pair with each object, and be presented only when users select the object. Sketchfab, a 3D models platform, also has some exquisite 3D models in different categories including one for cultural heritage & history.

Sketchfab- Cultural Heritage & History

(Sketchfab.com)

User-control and Interaction

Another issue I found when experiencing the virtual tours is the awkward user-control.

In the most common 2D virtual tour, users can only stand in one location at a scene. The only interactions are rotating the viewing angle and zoom in/out. Since users can’t move horizontally, they can’t see the objects placed in the longest distance clearly. It means what users can see in the virtual tour is partial. The only movement users can take is to move the next scene by clicking the “large arrow” on the ground where the transition isn’t smooth and continuous either. I think the poor performace of user interaction is the most important reason why the virtual tours are not real enough so far.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History2

 

Narrative and Commentary

The accessibility and convenience of narrative or commentary should be the advantage of a virtual tour because users already have a device anyway. However, I can’t find the well-presented narrative or commentary in most of the cases. This is tied to the issues of 2D photos which can’t separate the objects within it.

For cultural heritage like the work in museums, the stories behind them are too important to neglect. On the app or website of Met (Metropolitan Museum of Art), there are great introductions and audio commentary for each work. While in its virtual tour, the narratives are still missing. Since this kind of narrative and commentary resources is already there, I would say adding them to the virtual tour should be the next step to improve the experience.

Met App

(App of The Met)

Searchability and Shareability

Other features that should be the advantages of the digital tour while missing are the searchability and shareability. When people are consuming information, search and share are the two vital parts of their behaviors. (Wilson, T. D., 2000). One happens at the beginning (of information behavior), and one happens in the end.

In the physical museum, people use a map to search and locate the information they want, and they take photos or write notes to share with others. While in the virtual tour, the map (often located on the top right corner of view) is majorly for switching location. There is no search bar or menu as other digital products, and the map is not listing enough details for users to easily locate the things they want.

Virtual Museum Tour Map

(2D Virtual Tour – Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History)

In terms of the shareability, if users experience the tours on the computer, tablet or phone, they may be able to take screenshots, although it is not convenient and personalized. If they watch with a VR headset, then there is no way for them to keep a record and share with others. Without the shareability, the virtual tours just lost the free yet powerful marketing opportunities – word-of-mouth.

I believe the virtual tours has great potential because it makes the best work and cultural heritage of the world more accessible to anyone. It has unique advantages compared with physical tour while there are still some gaps it needs to catch with the experience of the physical tour. Hopefully, it will happen soon as the evolvement of virtual reality and 3D modeling.

 

References:

[1] Dalbello, M. (2009). “Digital cultural heritage: concepts, projects, and emerging constructions of heritage,” Proceedings of the Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA Conference, 25-30 May, 2009

[2] Wilson, T. D. (2000). “Human information behavior.” InformingScience3(2): 49–56. http://ptarpp2.uitm.edu.my/ptarpprack/silibus/is772/HumanInfoBehavior.pdf.

[3] Virtual tour, Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_tour

[4] How VR Is Changing UX: From Prototyping To Device Design https://uxplanet.org/how-vr-is-changing-ux-from-prototyping-to-device-design-a75e6b45e5f8

[5] Smithsonian Nation Museum of Natural History http://naturalhistory.si.edu/VT3/NMNH/z_NMNH-016.html

[6] First 3D Virtual Museum with 3D scans of ancient relics – Ancient sculptures of Vietnam, http://vr3d.vn/trienlam/virtual-3d-museum-ancient-sculptures-of-vietnam

FACETS Un-Conference on Art & Artificial Intelligence

By Matt Bishop

 

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On Saturday, October 28, 2017, the Goethe-Institut in New York City hosted the FACETS Un-Conference on Art & Artificial Intelligence. This year’s topics ranged from ethical machine learning to human-AI communication to data security. I attended the keynote panel discussions on (1) the future of AI research and practice and (2) current issues at the intersection of AI and data security. What I found from these discussions is that there exists a lack of regulation over those who profit from the work of technologists and a general overconfidence in the information that an intelligent machine produces. This brief report will explore the issues raised in these panel discussions in relation to ongoing conversations in the field of information science.

 

What is FACETS?

FACETS is an “interdisciplinary creative coding, interactive art, and videogames un-conference” that focuses on underrepresented individuals in STEM fields and art (http://www.facets-con.com/). This year’s theme was on Art and AI. I attended the keynote panel discussions, “A (Realistic) Future of AI – What Can/Is AI Research Really Aiming for in the Near Future?” and “AI and Data Security.” The first of these discussions was moderated by Kenric McDowell (head of the Art + Machine Intelligence group at Google Research) and accompanied by Ida Momennejad (postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University who uses AI to research human neuropsychology) and Madeleine Elish (cultural anthropology researcher at the Data and Society Institute who focuses on cultural responses to automation and AI). The next discussion was moderated by Caroline Sinders (machine-learning designer and digital anthropologist at WikiMedia who focuses on online harassment) and accompanied by Kate Crawford (co-founder/director of the AI Now Research Institute and 2016 co-chair of the Obama White House symposium on the impacts of AI), Jer Thorp (former Data Artist in Residence at the New York Times and co-founder of The Office for Creative Research), and Chelsea Manning (former intelligence analyst in the U.S. Army who exposed human rights violations committed by the U.S. military in Iraq). The range of voices included in these two discussions led to intriguing conversations between diverse perspectives on the current and near future states of AI.

 

A (Realistic) Future of AI – What Can/Is AI Research Really Aiming for in the Near Future?

This panel discussion started with a series of short presentations followed by an open discussion. Presentations covered AI-produced poetry and images, forms of human-like memory and agency in AI models, and potential moral crises of virtually autonomous AI (e.g. self-driving cars). The discussion that followed focused primarily on the concept of human-centrism in technology since the rise of agriculture and who owns (i.e. has a copyright) or is responsible for the actions of seemingly autonomous AI.

While the discussion on human-centrism in technology was interesting, it reached a fairly quick consensus: human-centrism may be useful to keep technology in check, but what we define as human is often discriminatory within our own species (e.g. racism and sexism), so an alternative focus on the results of agency may be more beneficial to the work of ethical technologists. The discussion on the moral ownership of AI actions was a bit more novel since it centered on what may be called the “moral crumple zone” (phrase mentioned by Madeleine Elish during her presentation), which exists when the behavior of an artificial intelligence defies the predictions of its creators because they do not understand all of the possible outcomes of the machine-learning algorithms that they have created. Current legislation firmly places the blame of AI actions on humans, i.e. either the creator or the user (through a contract, such as agreeing to terms and conditions). The moral crumple zone, however, is becoming more apparent as AI becomes increasing prevalent in our contemporary military and consumer landscapes, while life and death decisions are places in the “hands” of technology that even their creators do not fully understand. The panelists expressed some fear and uncertainty about what new legislation could form in the U.S. under the current presidential administration due to the pressures of business and military awareness of the moral crumple zone.

 

AI and Data Security

The panel discussion on AI and Data Security remained solely a discussion – no presentations were needed to dive right into the pressing issues. Through the curiosity of the other panelists and the moderator, and after the panelists’ introductions, Chelsea Manning started off the discussion by running through her top concerns about uses of AI in the military. She illustrated how machine learning used in the field is largely inaccurate: 50% probabilities are usually enough, and even 20% is considered enough in an actual war-zone. However, even more disturbing than these inaccuracies is how predictions in feedback loops are often interpreted in ways to fit a specific narrative. Intelligence analysts might focus on specific predictions that would impress their commanders or create stories or connections between predictions where none exist (this can also be done by the commanders themselves). A breakdown of a prediction of a potentially hostile target, in Manning’s case, was often misunderstood by commanders: explaining to a commander how a target predicted by an AI is simply formed from a specific, and low, degree of certainty based on potentially faulty training sets and field tests is likely to be ignored when another analyst can simple point out a target to the same commander. This point was expanded on by other panelists who expressed concern over how mass media outlets are currently reporting on studies that utilize AI. One example was the recent virality of a study on “AI gaydar,” which has been reported to determine if someone is “gay or straight” by only utilizing facial recognition technology. The panelists were frustrated by how few articles failed to stress the experimental design of the study, which used a limited pool of images from a dating site and was constricted to the site’s inadequate dichotomy of human sexuality. Furthermore, the timeliness of these images made the algorithms rely on visual stereotypes – a problem in facial recognition software that could help to preserve a status quo that would otherwise change, while also boldly assuming that physical traits can reliably expose interiority.

It seems that there is an increasing drive to trust unreliable conclusions of AI in our current economic and political climate, especially when so few regulations and standards are placed on AI research and on businesses and military agencies that utilize this technology. Panelists also expressed concern over the proliferation of black box algorithms (i.e. algorithms who’s inputs and outputs are considered without an understanding of their internal working) in public agencies since they are at odds with due process.

The panelists explored some solutions to their concerns:

  1. Temperature checks during coding to gauge the impact of work, especially for those that work in media sharing (e.g. Facebook timeline engineers) and search engines.
  2. Culture/education change for AI creators so that they are less separated from the real-world consequences of their work.
  3. Paying closer attention to the quality of training sets used in machine learning and putting a greater emphasis on communicating the quality of these training sets when sharing results.
  4. More regulation (through legislation) on AI research in private and public sectors.
  5. More restrictions on what data can be collected and stored by businesses and hold businesses accountable for this data’s security (note: Equifax data breech).
  6. Promote mass concern about the use of AI, especially in business – with regards to personal data – and in the military.

 

What’s Next?

The FACETS Un-Conference on Art & Artificial Intelligence exposed a lot of dire issues that are present in the use and creation of contemporary artificial intelligence. However, all of the panelists’ potential solutions for their concerns during the discussion periods of both panels were quite classic. The critical examination of information as it is collected, reconfigured, and then molded into new information should not be taken for granted in our current era of machine-learning technology. While all of the panelists shared how novel these situations are because of the incredible power of the new technologies that they have worked with, their solutions (such as paying close attention to training set data and expressing results clearly and accurately) are very typical to those in traditional information science professions. There exists a divide between some technologists and those in the humanities and traditional information professions that allows for creators and users of AI to skip the critical steps necessary to ensure a safe, secure, and accurate method of archiving, producing, and sharing information. The panelists at FACETS did an exemplary job at exposing and exploring this divide, and so I recommend that readers of this post who are interested in the intersection of technology, information, and art to check out their next event when it is announced. What I learned from this event makes the mission of Pratt’s School of Information seem even more urgent and timely: we need more information professionals who can critically examine how new technologies change our information landscape in order to better prepare us for the challenges that are already arriving.

 

Works Cited

FACETS. http://www.facets-con.com/. Accessed 28 Oct. 2017.

McDowell, Kenric, et al. “A (Realistic) Future of AI – What Can/Is AI Research Really Aiming for in the Near Future?” FACETS Un-Conference on Art & Artificial Intelligence, 28 Oct. 2017, Goethe-Institut, New York, NY. Keynote Panel Discussion.

Sinders, Caroline, et al. “AI and Data Security.” FACETS Un-Conference on Art & Artificial Intelligence, 28 Oct. 2017, Goethe-Institut, New York, NY. Keynote Panel Discussion.

Archives Week: Franklin Furnace

By swarga

When does a book become a danger to itself? Franklin Furnace Archive deals with this question on a regular basis. Their growing archive consists of artists’ books that are made from a plethora of materials and take on many forms – making preservation difficult. On October 23rd I attended the Archive’s open house to see for myself what these “books” look like and how they are stored.

The head archivist, Michael Katchen, opened with a brief history of the archive. Franklin Furnace Archive was founded by Martha Wilson in 1976, focusing on the collection of artists’ books and performances. In 1993, MoMA acquired their collection – contingent on certain terms, and in 1997 they transformed from a “physical exhibition space into an Internet-based one”1. In 2014, the archive moved to its current home on the 2nd floor of the former building of Pratt’s School of Information.

The terms agreed upon in this 1993 acquisition are incredibly interesting: whatever books are accepted into the Franklin Furnace in the future have to be accepted into MoMA’s archives as well,becoming part of their permanent collection. So, what are the criteria for a book to be accepted? Michael says that as long as the artist believes that what they are submitting is a book, then it is so. This means that I could submit two copies of a work, in any form whatsoever, and finally get my work into MoMA.2

Michael went on to explain technical details about the archive; how items are preserved, and how items are accessed. The nature of the collection means preservation is challenging. Books in the collection may not resemble books at all, and their materials can degrade easily. Books that fit into certain dimensions are kept in phase box enclosures, others are kept in whatever containers they were sent in. An example of a more unorthodox enclosure were two “books” that Michael accepted into the archive last year. He walked over to a shelf and pulled down two plastic white paint buckets, opened them, and removed two paint-dipped tomes. They were more form than text, and totally unreadable, but they push what the boundaries of what an artists’ book can be.

Many of the older books and book forms have accompanying video documentation from related performances by artists, which are accessible through their online event archives3. The physical items from the early days of the archive have time-based media documentation attached to them. To preserve those films, Franklin Furnace has a digitizing workstation to produce preservation copies and DVD’s.

 

Image result for ed ruscha every building on the sunset strip

Edward Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966

Anyone can go to the archive and experience the books. The only requirement: a clean set of hands, and the whole archive is at your disposal. I was able to touch and flip through Ed Ruscha’s original 1966 work, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, which is a 25-foot long accordion-folded book. Michael’s estimate of the work: around $20,000 or so. It was an empowering experience to be in such close contact with the works at Franklin Furnace, and I appreciated how much access they grant to the public.

1Franklin Furnace. “History & Collections.” Accessed October 25, 2017. http://http://franklinfurnace.org/research/index.php

2“Franklin Furnace Artists’ Books Collection.” Accessed October 25, 2017. http://franklinfurnace.org/research/moma-FF-artist_book_collection.php.

3Franklin Furnace. “Event Archives.” Accessed October 26, 2017. http://franklinfurnace.org/online_event_archives/index.php.

Observation of the Objects Conservation Lab at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

By Kcalnan

Below the strategically designed exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) lies a conservation student’s paradise: the Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation. I had the privilege of taking a personal tour of the objects conservation lab with Associate Conservator Anne Grady on October 28th, 2017. As a prospective conservator, the inside look at the conservation lab was both exciting and enlightening. Each work station had a unique object in the process of being conserved. Objects ranged from an antique piano, to a Buddha statue, to stained glass windows, to a sarcophagus, to British couches and chairs. The stained glass window had been disassembled for cleaning and repair. The sarcophagus was being analyzed in order to reinforce weak areas and subsequently be returned to the Egyptian Wing for display. The furniture was being cleaned and prepared for display in the new British exhibit, which is set to open in 2019.

Ms. Grady was extremely knowledgeable and willing to share her personal stories and passion for conservation. She began the tour by discussing the broad history of conservation and how she became a conservator. Ms. Grady graciously shared an enlightening story from her fellowship time at the Met. She spent one year analyzing and conserving an 8’x4’ piece of wrought iron art that had previously been in storage. During the first two months, she analyzed the paint. She took cross-sections of the paint and determined that there were eight layers of paint. Before she could proceed with the conservation, she and a group of conservators and curators gathered to determine an appropriate course of action. As a group, they had to determine which color paint they preferred on the surface for the exhibit. They had to consider the context in which the object would be shown and they had to acknowledge that each paint color represented a piece of that object’s history. Each decision regarding the conservation of an object involves an ethical decision, especially when the work to be done is irreversible. Is it better to conserve an object and extend its life or let it decay as the artist had anticipated?

During the tour, Ms. Grady also mentioned how the conservators manage “difficult heritage” objects. She personally had not worked with any objects from indigenous peoples. She did mention that the conservator assigned to indigenous peoples’ objects consults the respective indigenous peoples whenever possible. This process ensures that appropriate conservation methods are utilized. When Ms. Grady mentioned consulting with indigenous peoples, I recalled a story that I previously shared on Twitter about the Smithsonian Institution collaborating with the Alaskan Tlingit tribe to create a replica of their sacred killer whale hat. It was comforting to know that the MMA takes appropriate measures when conserving indigenous peoples’ objects. Ms. Grady compared it to contacting an artist when they conserve that artist’s piece since their insight is extremely valuable to the conservation process. The most surprising element of my observation was when Ms. Grady informed the group that the Native American art had only recently been moved into the American Wing of the MMA. It had previously been displayed in the Art of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas Wing. The transition seemed a bit overdue and made me ponder as to why it had not always been displayed in the American Wing. I recalled the article “Is ‘Difficult Heritage’ Still ‘Difficult’?” where Sharon Macdonald discussed how museum exhibits can shape public memory of past atrocities. Macdonald stated that the “relatively durable physical crystallizations of particular ways of regarding the past provide a lens into what is deemed worthy of such effort” (2015, 7).  Exhibiting Native American art in any wing other than the American Wing of the MMA is denying that Native American culture is American. Macdonald considered the acknowledgement of difficult heritage as progress for aggressor countries. Therefore, I believe that Macdonald would view the recent relocation of the Native American art as a positive development in United States history.

I thoroughly enjoyed my tour of the objects conservation lab and aspire to return as a conservator in the future. The observation reinforced my desire to become a conservator and afforded me the opportunity to see the type of setting in which I could feasibly pursue my career. Ms. Grady also mentioned that the majority of conservators currently working at the MMA are white females from the northeast. Much like the libraries studied in Jennifer Vinopal’s article “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action,” the conservation department at the MMA lacks diversity (2016). Fortunately, this fuels my pursuit of a career as a conservator and only inspires me to continue my quest.

 

Macdonald, Sharon. 2015. “Is ‘difficult heritage’ still difficult?” Museum International 67: 6-22.

Solly, Meilan. 2017. “This Replica of a Tlingit Killer Whale Hat Is Spurring Dialogue About Digitization.” Smithsonian.com. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/replica-tlingit-killer-whale-hat-spurring-dialogue-about-digitization-180964483/.

Vinopal, Jennifer. 2016. “The Quest for Diversity in Library Staffing: From Awareness to Action.” Lead Pipe. http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2016/quest-for-diversity.

ICP Collection at Mana Contemporary

By Micaela Walker

I have been going to ICP, the International Center of Photography, since I was a teenager in the 1990’s.  A friend was taking black and white photography classes there and I would sneak in with her to use their darkrooms, which were housed the basement of the Willard D. Straight house on the upper east side of Manhattan.  I was excited to see their new collection facility at Mana Contemporary, where they moved to in 2015.

I met with Claarkje Van Dijk, the Assistant curator of collections, who graciously walked me through the facility and answered my litany of questions (although this was an observation, I couldn’t help my curiosity).  She detailed the history of how the collection ended up at Mana Contemporary, a behemoth 19th century former tobacco factory in Jersey City.

Entrance of Mana Contemporary

Founded in 1974 by photographer Cornell Capa as the Foundation for Concerned Photography, ICP’s mission is to promote photography as an instrument of social change, primarily through documentary photography.  The image collection started as a way to archive and house Cornell’s work as well as his late brother Robert Capa’s canon of images, which cover some of the most significant documentation of war in the 20th century, including his iconic D Day images.  Notably, ICP does not like to use the word “photojournalism”, perhaps because they do not see their collection as “neutral”.  Their selection “Images of Social Change” exemplifies ICP’s depictions of the brutality of war, racism, and poverty. Over the next two decades ICP grew to encompass a school, museum and library that also pursue photography as an instrument of progress.

"American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France" by Robert Capa © Cornell Capa

“American troops landing on Omaha Beach, D-Day, Normandy, France” by Robert Capa
© Cornell Capa

From 2000 until 2015 all of ICPs departments were housed together in several midtown buildings, in part thanks to a sweetheart deal of $1 in rent per year courtesy of the Durst Realty corporation (yes that Durst family).  During this time the archive grew exponentially to nearly 200,000, items from around the world spanning the nearly 200 year history of photography. They have a daguerrotype from the 1840s through to work that was produced this year.  This includes images in various formats – negatives, contact sheets, prints, magazines, and framed work encompasses every style and genre of photography. One thing I found extremely interesting is that ICP wouldn’t consider digital work that did not have a physical form until 2009 or 2010.  They have only really begun collecting “solely digital” work in earnest in the last two years.

Unidentified photographer and subject C 1842-3 Purchase, with funds provided by Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz, 2007

Unidentified photographer and subjects
circa 1842-3. Purchase, with funds provided by Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz, 2007

With the expansion of the collection arose the inevitable space issue of all collections. The cost of keeping the archives in Manhattan made little sense, so when the museum was relocated to the Bowery (near the New Museum), the collection moved to Mana. It was chosen because of it’s considerable size and accessibility to Manhattan by the PATH train.  They are in good company at Mana; other tenants include Magnum, the storied photo agency founded by Herni Cartier-Bresson – Magnum and ICP share copyright requests on the Capa brothers’ images, and on the famed street photographer Weegee’s images – and The NY Historical Society.

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The space is on the 6th floor of the building, which can only be reached by a single, imposing freight-style elevator that creeps along nervously.  The ICP office, however, has the modern open-air-meets-brick-wall style of a SOHO loft.  The collection is housed in an enormous windowless room with glass on one side overlooking a conference room and offices. The entire room is filled with row after row of industrial racks that nearly reach the ceiling.  The print collection is mostly stored flat in traditional gray and beige archival boxes stacked neatly on shelves and arranged mostly by last name of photographer. Larger framed images are stored vertically in bays at the back. As with most archives, cataloging of the material is in a perpetual state of updating and revision.

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Rows of racks of boxes or photos

Rows of racks of boxes of photos

The process of digitizing the entire archive is also ongoing.  They have a digital archivist whose sole job is scanning the collection and entering it in the database in basic form.  Additional details and keywords are added later by other staff and interns. They use The Museum System as their management software and currently they have over 90,000 images digitized in hi res, stored on remote servers, and available to the public in low res on their website for educational purposes. Considering the caliber of photographers they represent and the iconic nature of many of the images it is remarkable to me that they have un-watermarked images online, even in low resolution.  When I mentioned this to Claartje she said ICPs mission of public education  and access pushed them to make the collection digitally accessible at the risk of losing complete control.

I was curious how ICP decided, in this age of unlimited imagery, what to add to its collection moving forward.  Three times a year the curatorial staff have acquisition meetings where they propose works to a secret committee.  While the collection’s holdings were focused primarily on documentary photography from the 1940’s – 1970’s for many years it gradually expanded to include street photography, fashion, fine art, color, abstract works, and even some illustration. The chief curator, Brian Wallis, has made a point of looking to fill niches that are not collected elsewhere – a recent acquisition is a series of Soviet picture magazines.

Another is a collection of more than two thousand vernacular photography items, including postcards, cartes-de-visites, and portraits collected by Daniel Cowin depicting African American life from 1880 through the 1930. Nearly all of the subjects’ identities are unknown in a collection like this and were more than likely taken without any consideration of an afterlife in a museum collection.

Unidentified photographer and subjects. Gift of Daniel Cowin, 1990

Unidentified photographer and subjects. Gift of Daniel Cowin, 1990

This is an issue of particular complicating ethics in photography.  As in the discussion of consent in “The Ethics of Fieldwork” regarding research subjects, a willing participant is entrusting a piece of their identity with the photographer. An unwilling (or unaware) subject is entirely without control so the value of what the person depicts or represents must be weighed with consideration to any violation of privacy or personhood. Whomever possesses the photograph will make decisions with consequences for the subjects of that image, and there is often no clear answer as to what is “more ethical” in documentary photography . This photograph by Nick Ut, included in ICPs database, exemplifies to me the tension between exposing history and exposing individual people.

Children fleeing South Vietnamese napalm strike near Trang Bang, Vietnam. By Nick Ut. @The Life Magazine Collection, 2005

“Children fleeing South Vietnamese napalm strike near Trang Bang, Vietnam” By Nick Ut. The Life Magazine Collection, 2005

ICP seems to be acutely aware of the ethical responsibility their collection entails and indeed sees the context in which it represents their images as crucial to remaining mindful of the images subjects. In a time of infinite imagery, a curated perspective such as this seems all the more needed.

Prominent Medical Libraries in New York City Observation

By chinos

On October 20th 2017, I had the opportunity along with others from Pratt Institute to visit the Kim Barrett Memorial Library at the Hospital for Special Surgery(HSS) in New York. The tour was given for information profession students to observe the roles, responsibility and functions of Medical Information librarians and centers. During the visit there was a gracious warm introduction by Rie Goto, Medical Librarian, at Kim Barrett Memorial Library in Hospital for Special Surgery. The Tour was also  preceded by a short Pre-tour talk by Terrie R. Wheeler, AMLS, Director, Samuel J. Wood Library and C.V. Starr Biomedical Information Center. In her brief tour introduction, Terrie talked about the role of information Librarians specifically in the medical field and the important role they play and the value they bring to the medical field. She gave insight to unforeseen things like grant writing and data retrieval speciality positions that information librarians have played over the years and are still growing into. The Medical Information tour then proceeded with us visiting the 3 other prominent information centres neighbouring the Kim Barrett Memorial Library for further observation. The other Information Libraries visited were Myra Mahon Patient Resource Centre, Weil Cornell Medical Samuel J Wood Library and The Rita and Frits Markus Library, Rockefeller University.  

The tour of the Myra Mahon Library, was facilitated by the Information Librarian who gave us a recap of the responsibilities of librarians at the center. The responsibilities as we observed during our visit ranged from answering the phone for inquiries from patients and their families on Medical information to guiding patients that come into the Information center on how to retrieve information from archives that are now digitally stored. While we were there we observed in realtime patients retrieving information for themselves.  After our Myra Mahon visit, we also visited the Weil Cornell and Rockefeller Libraries were we also observed the patients retrieving information before returning to the Kim Barrett Library at HSS.

On our return back to the Kim Barrett Medical Library, the Librarian continued the session with showing us remodeled spaces that had once been areas for stored hard copy papers, books and Journals that had now been digitized. We were then led into the Kim Barrett Library where we were shown the Labs where the Medical students and doctors retrieve information on the database and from book shelves. Surprisingly, there were not a vast amount of hard copy books in the book cases as Rie Goto, Medical Librarian, attested to and confirmed most information had been digitized. Rie explained the digitization of the medical documents had helped increase accessibility and reduced time to deliver the information of the Library materials.

 

Archived documents 5

 

 

Rie, also presented archived medical documents going back all the way to the early years of the hospital, which was interesting to see the way information was archived in the past.

Archived documents 2

She also presented physical artifacts, medical tools that had been used in the earlier years that had now been archived and only used for historical reference.

 

Archived documents 1

We were able to observe students use the Medical Library to retrieve data from the database while we were there. Rie had also explained the role Medical Librarians currently play in the Hospital.  She mentioned how the Librarians assisted in conducting systematic reviews of data and information and were consulted by doctors at times for literature for their patience or the children. One of the challenges Rie talked about that Librarians had faced in the past and were still facing to a degree was the challenge in some cases of no way to retrieve institutional history that was not properly archived in the past, to identify documented people in old pictures on files.  One of the interesting stories Rie told behind the importance of proper documentation of pictures for the information medical centers, comes from the actual story of how the Medical Library got its name. She explained that on August 3, 1947  there was a fire and the library was almost destroyed. The Librarian on staff was a female named Ms.Barrett. After the fire the story has it that she, Ms. Barrett, single-handedly sifted through the burnt remains of documents like books and Journals to save what was left. Years later in 1977 after the Library had been rebuilt, the Alumni association named and dedicated the medical library in her memory.

 

Archived documents 4

However at first the process of naming the library was a little challenging task as the documented name on the file for the Librarian was not found in the records of the Hospital. After further research her proper name was discovered and the rest is history, it also turns out she was the first and only section of the library to be named after a woman. One might say her contribution led her to be a recognized pioneer of females in the information professions. Which sheds light on the ongoing topic even today of the under representation of the contribution of women in the information profession as a whole, in a public way.

In Hospitals and medical institutions, Medical information professionals also play a major role in retrieving information from databases for medical teams and doctors. They can play a key role in helping out in the design and structuring of medical databases. According to Rei there are still no general widely accepted standards to documenting data and she suggested Librarians can play an instrumental role in creating acceptable solutions since they deal with both the data and those seeking information from the databases on a regular bases.

In summary of the observation session that occurred at the medical information centers , it was evident to see as witnessed in person that the role of medical informational professionals have evolved over the years from the typical archivist to adding values in growing ways to medical information centers like training of patients to research and grant writing. The art of grant writing is a major task and huge source of  fund raising for research in medical centers and Medical information librarians are center to this as they are  knowledgable to information that can support proposal requests. With this being said, Medical Librarians and information professions have come a long way but definitely still have more to actualize and see be done in their field.

Observation: Mount Sinai Department of Human Genetics

By Valerie Saunders

The Mount Sinai Hospital of New York City has a respected and established Genetics and Genomic Sciences department. The cancer genetics area of the department counsels patients before and after they choose to undergo genetic testing. The industry of genetic testing has expanded rapidly in the past ten years as science continues to identify specific gene mutations and their impact on individuals’ health risks. It has become more common for healthy adults to undergo genetic testing as a measure to predict cancer development based on the statistics and data related to known genetic factors. Genetic mutations can have harmful, positive, or neutral implications for a person’s risk profile. Ten years ago there were seven “significant” gene mutations that were understood and could be tested for. Today there are hundreds. Regardless of your genetic mix, there is no way to change your genes and the predictions for illness are only based on percentages in the data. There is no formula whereby an individual can know how their own health story will actually play out. Inherited mutations are believed to play a role in approximately 10% of all cancers. (National Cancer Institute, 2017)

Test Positive

Because you cannot change your genetic profile, the question is whether the knowledge of being “positive” for a negative gene mutation is beneficial to one’s physical and psychological health. In some cases, having the information can allow for preventive surgeries and screenings that may reduce or eliminate the risk for certain cancers. The knowledge also has the potential to reinforce healthy lifestyle choices for those wishing to mitigate genetic risk factors through environmental or habit changes. The genetic counselor’s job is to spend time with the patient before they have testing done to assist them in determining whether the knowledge of their genetic profile will lead to a positive, healthier life (in the case of a patient who is ready and willing to take action as a result of the diagnosis) or whether the information could simply increase stress around a condition if the patient is unable or unlikely to change their situation. The counselor must also be aware of his/her own biases throughout the process to avoid leading the patient’s choice. After genetic testing is complete the counselor meets again with the patient to discuss the results and work through next steps, if medical intervention is recommended.

As with the collection of other large data sets, the collection and analysis of genetic data brings with it unintended consequences. Issues of privacy, access, and discrimination exist in this domain. “Given enough data, intelligence and power, corporations and governments can connect dots in ways that only previously existed in science fiction.” (Howard, 2012) Privacy risks involved with cancer genetic testing include discrimination by insurance companies based on higher risk of illness and pre-mature death. In 2008 the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed to protect those who have had testing from discrimination by health insurance agencies and employers. However, the law does not cover disability, life, or long-term care insurance and those entities are increasingly likely to ask potential customers whether they or anyone in their family has had genetic testing that revealed a significant mutation. Our longevity metric could land in the mix of profit-loss equations for these big businesses.

Those who are not covered with good insurance and those in poverty are far less likely to be able to get genetic testing at all, which means this trend could perpetuate discrepancies in life expectancy of wealthy vs. poor patients. Patients who can afford the testing will have more information and may be better able to make informed choices to extend their personal health and health of their family members.

The chart below maps the procedure for counseling, testing, results, and follow-up care. It is perfectly fine to decide “Not to Know” about one’s potential genetic risk profile. What the counselor seeks to avoid, is to reveal a significant mutation without doing anything with that information to mitigate the risk. Knowing can be a burden and should be used as the power to changing outcomes.

Gen testing

 

 

In order to set up the 3-hour observation, I contacted Karen Brown, Director of the Mount Sinai Cancer Genetic Counseling Program. She directed me first to speak with Volunteer Services at the hospital to meet the basic requirements for observing in any capacity at Mount Sinai. I was sent an “Observer Form” which needed to be signed by the counselor who I would shadow. I also had to provide the following:

  1. Proof of HIPAA training. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a law that applies to all healthcare industry professionals and their subcontractors and affiliates to create privacy protections around patient healthcare information (to which I would be exposed during my observation)
  2. Proof of medical clearance and toxicology screening
  3. Verification of credentials and qualifications (degree, letters of reference, CV)
  4. Flu shot
  5. Security photo ID (provided through the hospital)

 

My observation day was Friday, October 13, 2017.

First I sat with the front desk “intake” crew at the Cancer Genetics department. Calls come in at a steady pace from patients asking for genetic counseling. Most have been referred by doctors because they are exhibiting pre-cancerous symptoms at a younger-than-usual age. Others have been referred because a family member has tested positive for a known “significant” mutation and they want a diagnosis for themselves. Others call without a referral and are turned away to get a referral from their primary care doctor. If they have no clear medical reason for testing, they have the option to have testing due to “patient concern” and pay for the process out of pocket (they still must have a referral from a doctor to take this route). The cost is typically anywhere from $500 to $3000. Large insurance companies generally cover some or all of the costs for patients with family history of a known genetic mutation or if a parent or sibling has died of cancer under the age of 50 (a marker that genetics may have been at play).

Demographic information and medical history are collected over the phone after which the patient is directed to a website where they enter extensive family history information into a family tree template (specifically any history of cancer, cancer deaths, or pre-mature deaths due to illness that the patient is aware of).

Next I sat in with a cancer genetics counselor for a pre-testing appointment. I watched the interview process whereby a 42-year-old patient who has concerning symptoms learned about how the genetic test is done and what she may learn by submitting a DNA sample. The pre-cancer she has may be bad luck or it may be genetically inherited. The counselor goes through every person identified in the patient’s family tree and which relations died of cancer. All of this data will be entered into Mount Sinai’s database.

There is a specific panel of testing that the counselor highlights to this patient according to her symptoms. If the patient is found to have the suspected genetic mutation, the recommendation will be for her to undergo yearly screenings for several cancer types that she would then be known to have a high risk of getting. Surgeries may also be recommended to remove organs that are at high-risk. Many of the known significant mutations raise risk levels for more than one type of cancer. Anxiety understandably may increase with this extensive additional data. The patient is currently concerned about her stomach pre-cancer symptoms, but she may be recommended to have many more cancer screenings in the future if she is tested and the genetic result is positive. As more people have genetic testing more data is gathered to identify additional significant mutations and refine risk percentages for different conditions to which they are linked. The whole process ultimately leads to more data, more information, more screenings, more surgeries and these feed back into the system to create more data linked to each significant mutation. Logically it should reduce premature death rates. It also adds a lot of personal data into the healthcare industry and encourages many more surgeries and doctor visits going forward. The patients will hopefully live healthier and longer. The hospitals will generate more revenue as a result of the many added procedures.

The counselor walks this patient through the process while trying not to convince her of a particular direction. The woman has siblings and children and a positive diagnosis may have consequences for them as well. There are a couple of emotional moments and the patient fidgets nervously. She has a choice to “Not Know” or to possibly “Know.” If there is no genetic mutation identified in her cancer genetic test, she will need to continue looking for care answers with her primary doctor, but her family will not be directly at risk. She decides to move forward with the widest panel of testing because she believes she would rather know her complete cancer genetic profile. Consent forms are signed and the woman is brought down the hall for blood to be drawn. In four weeks she is scheduled to come back in for the results, at which point the next chapter of her care will begin.

Sources:

Alexander Howard as quoted in 2012 in Digital Disconnect by Robert W. McChesney, 2013

National Cancer Institute, https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/genetics/genetic-testing-fact-sheet, retrieved on October 12, 2017

Mount Sinai Department of Genetic and Genomic Sciences

Preserving Counter-Narratives and The Racial Imaginary Institute

By EmmaKarin

The Racial Imaginary Institute speaking at the Schomburg Center

The Racial Imaginary Institute speaking at the Schomburg Center

The lights dim in the Langston Hughes Auditorium within the Schomburg Center located on Malcolm X Boulevard. A short video entitled, “What is the Schomburg Center?” begins to roll and the voice of Shola Lynch, curator of the center’s Moving Image and Recorded Sound Division, booms, “it is the place where we come to see who we are. Not just some body’s reflection of who we are.” This is the true theme of center as well as of the evening. We are here to celebrate the launch of The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) website, a new type of art archive founded by poet and MacArthur fellow Claudia Rankine. Rankine and Dr. LeRonn P. Brooks are moderating a discussion between two artists featured in the archive, Alexandra Bell and Hank Willis Thomas. The website is one of the first steps for the institute, which will collaborate with organizations, collectives and spaces to confront the concept of race through, the activation of interdisciplinary work and a democratized exploration” (The Racial Imaginary Institute).

The first web issue focuses on “constructions, deconstructions, and visualizations of/around whiteness, white identity, white rage/fragility/violence, and white dominant structures” (The Racial Imaginary Institute). Whiteness as the first theme was ­­­­­deliberate, investigating white dominance and “America’s commitment to whiteness” says Rankine, is the first step in dismantling racism and the concept of race. The website will collect submissions throughout the year and is capable of hosting all types of media. This will allow for a variety of voices to be heard across artistic disciplines to show different manifestations of lived experience within the dominant structures of whiteness.

'Tulsa Man' by Alexandra Bell

‘Tulsa Man’ by Alexandra Bell

“I don’t think I will ever live in a post-racial society,” says Alexandra Bell. A graduate of Columbia’s Journalism school Bell professes that it mostly, “made [her] a very snobby reader.” She critiques the latent racism within journalism through creating counter-narratives by editing articles from The New York Times, enlarging them tenfold and wheat pasting them in public spaces throughout New York City, predominantly Brooklyn. Her most well-known work is “A Teenager with Promise” a commentary of the inept coverage by the paper over Michael Brown’s murder. Her pieces are diptychs with one panel featuring a redacted and edited copy of the original article noting the language choices that sustain the dominant white narrative; the second panel is her visual representation of the more accurate counter-narrative.

'Absolut Power' by Hank Willis Thomas

‘Absolut Power’ by Hank Willis Thomas

“Race is the most successful advertising campaign of all time,” Hank Willis Thomas tells the audience. Thomas is a conceptual artist whose body of work intersects on ideas of identity, commodity, and pop culture. He believes that “black identity” is fabricated, co-opted and capitalized upon by whiteness. Most known for his series B®anded consisting of manipulated photographs to explore themes of the black body as a commodity from the time of slavery to the present day. One of his most striking pieces is Absolut Power, a play on the Absolut vodka ad campaigns, filling the iconic bottle’s silhouette with the diagram of the Brooke’s slave ship.

“Through archives, the past is controlled[,]” Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook remind us, “[c]ertain stories are privileged and others marginalized” (1). The institution of the archive “represents enormous power over memory and identity, over the fundamental ways in which society seeks evidence of what its core values are and have been, where it has come from, and where it is going” (Schwartz and Cook 1). These are the exact issues the institute sets out to tackle. Racism is a social construct, it is built upon privilege and power that is either overt or subconcious. When a police officer shoots a black man his defense most often that he was afraid. But afraid of what? White dominance has controlled the narrative surrounding black bodies since we kidnapped them from their homes and enslaved them here on our soil. We have allowed this narrative to continue unchecked actively and passively in all corners of society. In archives specifically, it can be seen in the collection process. It is not uncommon to search records under the “Black History” heading only to find files filled with solely caricature advertising, gruesome accounts of lynching, or similar narratives that place people of color as the victimized other. These narrow collections focus on “Black History” from a controlled white perspective.

As a writer and scholar of African history and diaspora, Arturo Schomburg, for whom the center is dedicated, came up against many who were quick to say that people of color had no history. He went on to amass the largest collection of artifacts and records of black history to preserve the history and culture which society deemed illegitimate. He strove to preserve the range of black experiences, from excellence to exploitation, rather than focusing on the suffering and stereotypes. That to him was not African history it was the history of white dominance and oppression. Because of his legacy ­­­­we have the records that are the literal actual narrative of black experience and not just what white archivist and society have deemed the acceptable history.

The Racial Imaginary Institute seeks to expound upon the ideas of Shomburg by collecting and creating a “deep memory archive” (Brooks) of artistic manifestations of lived experience. It will serve to capture not just our history past, but also our history current. This is a pointed effort to start the conversation now rather than wait for our future historians to interpret the evidence. This is a new way of collecting and disseminating information through active community participation that will circumvent the power still held in the institution of the archive.

The Racial Imaginary Institute

The Racial Imaginary Institute

Works Referenced:“About the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.” Nypl.org, New York Public Library , www.nypl.org/about/locations/schomburg.

Charlton, Lauretta. “Claudia Rankine’s Home for the Racial Imaginary.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 19 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/claudia-rankines-home-for-the-racial-imaginary.

Félix, Doreen St. “The.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 31 July 2017, www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-radical-edits-of-alexandra-bell.

“HANK WILLIS THOMAS, BRANDED.” Jack Shainman Gallery, Jack Shainman Gallery, www.jackshainman.com/exhibitions/past/2006/thomas/. Artist page.

Rankine, Claudia, Dr. LeRonn P. Brooks, Alexandra Bell, and Hank Willis Thomas. “Artist and the Archive: Deconstructing Racial Imagination at the Schomburg” New York Public Library Schomburg Center. 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York. 26 Sept. 2017. Artist Panel Discussion. https://livestream.com/schomburgcenter/events/7642692/videos/163402668

Schwartz, Joan M, and Terry Cook. “Archives, Records and Power: The Making of Modern Memory.” Archival Science : International Journal on Recorded Information. (2002). Print.

“The Racial Imaginary Institute.” The Racial Imaginary Institute, The Racial Imaginary Institute, theracialimaginary.org/.

 

A New Kind of History Museum: The People’s Archive of Black History Through Personal Artifacts

By MiaBathke

As knowledge acquirers, we often put faith in libraries and museums to provide us with a full detail of history as it happened. We often expect that these institutions are giving us honest and unbiased accounts of history through objects and artifacts. The architecture of the buildings themselves often assist us in these conclusions as well, with grandiose columns and entryways, built above street level in gleaming white marble, an almost religious agora of information archived on pristine white pedestals. Justifiably, we expect our institutions of knowledge to provide us with knowledge.  But what happens when the history kept in these castles is biased, or incomplete? What if the full history is too troubling to admit to and never gets represented?

This problem has been addressed countless times by those in the information profession. Sharon MacDonald for example writes of difficult heritage in her article,” Is ‘Difficult Heritage’ Still ‘Difficult’?: Why Public Acknowledgment of Past Perpetration May No Longer Be So Unsettling to Collective Identities.” She writes the article in reference specifically to WWII and The Holocaust but the themes of of hidden or shameful history still apply to America and how we look at slavery.

Slavery is that difficult heritage for America. History books, museums, our culture, all talk about slavery as if it happened in a dark distant past of our timeline instead of being interspersed with the invention of the telegraph, and the post office as well as public schools. Like WWII in MacDonald’s article, American slavery is, “[past] ‘recognised as meaningful in the present but that [is] also contested and awkward for public reconciliation with a positive, self-affirming contemporary identity’” (MacDonald 1). As such, it is awkward and uncomfortable to take responsibility for a horrible and tragic part of a country’s own history while still retaining some iota of patriotism and still identifying with a troubling origin. A new museum in Washington D.C. aims to nullify the divide between African American History and White American History by by putting on display objects from our country’s troubling past.

In 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opened its doors to the public as the 19th installment of the Smithsonian museums. NMAAHC boasts a collection of over 36,000 artifacts from over as many patrons. The collection is comprised of national treasures like James Baldwin’s passport and Nat Turner’s Bible to items from the closet of the Everyman like old photographs, protest posters, and military medals. What’s best about the collection, apart from its eclectic nature, is that the entirety of said collection is catalogued online on the museum’s website that is easily searchable and requires neither a ticket nor a trip to D.C.

Preparations are finalized for the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. (Associated Press: Susan Walsh)

Preparations are finalized for the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. (Associated Press: Susan Walsh)

The museum itself structurally functions differently than the traditional history museum. The floor on which a patron starts their excursion through the exhibits is rooted in the soil of the Mall. The exhibitions flow chronologically from past to present, bottom to top, and begin with slavery poignantly buried in the soil of America’s capital, literally and metaphorically laying the foundation for the rest of history to come (Cotter 1). The artifacts range from a child-sized set of iron cuffs to a full sized slave cabin, traumatic and real, the museum also employs rest areas and counselors to speak with, should the presentation of this history become too much. Later in the New York Times article about the museum, Holland Cotter explains, “Its second level, “The Segregation Era,” gives valuable attention to the topic of black entrepreneurship, about which many Americans probably know little. But what stops you in your tracks is the sight of a white satin Ku Klux Klan hood, shimmery and soiled, sitting in a case with photographs of lynchings on display nearby.” The exhibits through formatting and acquisition are carefully curated to not tip the scales of pitied tragedy one way or ignorant optimism the other. The museum director and curators lay out the exhibitions in such a way that they present fully the hardships and successes of black people in America again without falling too far one way or another. Part of what makes this balance possible is the means by which they acquire their artifacts. Prior to the opening of the museum, objects were collected through an antiques roadshow-esque trek around the country. Michele Norris describes the excursion, “They began their work a decade ago believing that many of the artifacts, documents, and treasures that would reveal the story of African Americans were secreted in basements, attics, garages, and storage trunks. Items with high monetary value might be in the hands of collectors, but the curators had a hunch that many with great significance were still undiscovered, because many museums have overlooked black history.” (Norris).

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography

Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture Architectural Photrography

Joan M. Schwartz and Terry Cook address the problem Norris points out of black history being overlooked by museums in their, “Archives, Records, and Power: The Making of Modern Memory” article. “Archives are social constructs. Their origins lie in the information needs and social values of the rulers, governments, businesses, associations, and individuals who establish and maintain them” (3) Like archives, a museum’s content is structured by the establishment that maintains it. Materials are acquired via wealthy donors or notable patrons. The NMAAHC decided to create an updated collective memory of American history by forgoing traditional acquisition and asking regular people to submit objects that they felt held historical significance. Again, Michele Norris says it best,  “At their best, museums help us understand and interpret our complex world by illuminating history and influencing attitudes. That becomes a challenge when we must examine our darkest episodes. Any society scarred by war, genocide, famine, displacement, or slavery must decide what to remember and how to remember. Individual memory is one thing, but collective memory stretches across generations and helps define a nation’s character” (Norris).

The NMAAHC contributes to a wider cultural collective memory of America’s history by calling upon African American people to submit their own bits of history, items that may have otherwise been overlooked as historically significant. The museum puts the control of representation back into the hands of the common people while at the same time giving African American history a platform usually reserved for White America. In doing so, they address America’s most difficult heritage in a way that is informative, has a wide scope, is real, and is not as influenced by what archives or wealthy donors already have. The museum created a new archive of our history that is completely accessible and completely legible even without the trip to Washington. And in enlisting the help of the public to submit artifacts, the museum truly did acquire treasures in the archives of family homes both in the physical form and in the form of a well- rounded knowledge of a difficult past.

References

Macdonald, Sharon. “Is ‘Difficult Heritage’ Still ‘Difficult’?” Museum International, vol. 67, no. 1-4, 2015, pp. 6–22., doi:10.1111/muse.12078.
 All Artifacts from the Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, et al. “Black America’s Story, Told Like Never Before.” National Geographic, 15 Sept. 2016, www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/10/african-american-history-national-museum-smithsonian/. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.
 Cotter, Holland. “Review: The Smithsonian African American Museum Is Here at Last. And It Uplifts and Upsets.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2016, www.nytimes.com/2016/09/22/arts/design/smithsonian-african-american-museum-review.html?_r=0. Accessed 25 Sept. 2017.
 Schwartz, Joan M., and Terry Cook. “Archives, records, and power: The making of modern memory.” Archival Science, vol. 2, no. 1-2, 2002, pp. 1–19., doi:10.1007/bf02435628.
Times, The New York. “The National Museum of African American History and Culture.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Sept. 2016, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/09/15/arts/design/national-museum-of-african-american-history-and-culture.html?mcubz=3. Accessed 26 Sept. 2017.

Protected: A Night in the UN Global Pulse Data Playground

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