Mission, ethics and open media


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Talk given as part of "Problem of Open Media" session at Association of Moving Image Archivists conference, St. Louis, November 7, 2009.

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  • Hello, my name is Suzanne and I’m a a historian. I’m a curator at a large history museum; I work with material culture, not moving images. I’m here to give you a view from the rest of the LAMiverse (libraries, archives and museums) and my goal is to show you that, whatever the new tools, they are only a means to our mission, which is facilitating access to collections and, more broadly, to knowledge. I say we because you all and I are part of the same collective enterprise as stewards of cultural memory, and I encourage you to think of yourself as part of this community of service.
  • Just to start I wanted to tell you a little about my institution. Our mission is to provide unique educational experiences based on authentic stories lives and objects of American traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation. [about THF] Have any of you been there? So what we are is a public history institution. How many of you are familiar with the term public history? PH is the practice of history, it’s helping people to make meaning from the past; more mundanely, it’s doing history in museums, historic sites, national parks, historic house museums and yes archives; it’s history outside of the classroom. I encourage you to think about this equation: public history is to history museums as [what?] is to moving image archives. What is your guiding philosophy?
  • As a community and a profession, organized (loosely) around a mission, we have a code of ethics, foundational principles that guide our practice [read 1 st line]. So open access is part of our ethics. How many of you are members of SAA? SAA has a similar code of ethics: “archivists recognize their responsibility to promote the use of records as a fundamental purpose of the keeping of archives.”
  • And here’s AAM’s ethics code. AAM’s original code, written when the organization was founded in 1925, included this phrase: “The life of a museum worker is essentially one of service.” So from the beginnings of our professionalization, the idea of a public mission, of being a public trust, has been important. One of the folks who founded the AAM was a great advocate for the usefulness and accessibility of museum and library collections: John Cotton Dana.
  • JCD was a pioneering librarian and founder of the Newark Museum. He was an advocate for access to collections: if objects cannot be seen, he said, they are not of use. He also famously suggested dept stores as models for museums [etc]. He also collected contemporary objects and argued for their value as emotional connections to help folks understand other objects. His selected works were recently republished, highly recommended, also available online.
  • Another of my Heroes of the LAMiverse is Gratia Countryman, also a Progressive Era library/museum person, is Gratia. She was the director of the (Mpls) Hennepin County library system during the Depression. She opened branches in hospitals, prisons, factories—anywhere people needed access to information. She also organized the library’s art and natural history artifacts to be available for circulation. For JCD and Gratia, cultural heritage objects and information were a key part of building citizenship, and democracy and access were deeply linked.
  • So now I want to show a few examples of public history stewardship and facilitation principles in action using new tools. A return to open media principles has been facilitated by new tools. [Flickr Commons, Powerhouse, why it’s awesome.]
  • Another example of open access in action—not just access to collections but to metadata—and this is institutional metadata. Being open means opening up our policies and procedures too. Radical transparency Also, 2 years old. Happy birthday to the dashboard!
  • I thought I would show you something film-related from my institution—so here’s our YouTube page. That’s Geo Washington Carver in Greenfield Village.
  • And to end with a reminder: open media, access, and public history and archival practice is about people. Advocating for collections, being on the side of collections, means being on the side of users. They’re the same side. And this is the only metric that matters. If we’re not reaching users, we’re doing it wrong.
  • Mission, ethics and open media

    1. 1. Mission, ethics and open media AMIA Conference Sat, Nov 7, 2009 St Louis Suzanne Fischer Curator of Technology The Henry Ford Dearborn, MI [email_address] @publichistorian
    2. 2. thf <ul><li>Henry Ford Museum </li></ul><ul><li>Greenfield Village </li></ul><ul><li>Benson Ford Research Center </li></ul><ul><li>Ford Rouge Factory Tour </li></ul><ul><li>Henry Ford Academy </li></ul><ul><li>~26 million items </li></ul>Photo by gruntzooki on flickr
    3. 3. National Council for Public History Code of Ethics <ul><li>1. Public historians should serve as advocates for the preservation, care, and accessibility of historical records and resources of all kinds, including intangible cultural resources. </li></ul><ul><li>2. Public historians should carry out historical research and present historical evidence with integrity. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Public historians should strive to be culturally inclusive in the practice of history and in the presentation of history. </li></ul><ul><li>4. Public historians should be fully cognizant of the purpose or purposes for which their work is intended, recognizing that research-based decisions and actions may have long-term consequences. </li></ul><ul><li>5. Public historians should maintain a conscious regard for the interpersonal dynamics inherent in historical practice. </li></ul><ul><li>http://ncph.org/AbouttheCouncil/BylawsandEthics/tabid/291/language/enUS/Default.aspx </li></ul>
    4. 4. American Association of Museums Code of Ethics <ul><li>“ Museums in the United States are…organized as public trusts, holding their collections and information as a benefit for those they were established to serve …. </li></ul><ul><li>“ The distinctive character of museum ethics derives from the ownership, care, and use of objects, specimens, and living collections representing the world's natural and cultural common wealth. This stewardship of collections entails the highest public trust and carries with it the presumption of rightful ownership, permanence, care, documentation, accessibility, and responsible disposal .” </li></ul><ul><li>http://aam-us.org/museumresources/ethics/coe.cfm </li></ul>
    5. 5. John Cotton Dana <ul><li>“ Surely the function of the public…museum is the making of life more interesting, joyful and wholesome...” </li></ul><ul><li>The Gloom of the Museum , 1917 </li></ul>LOC
    6. 6. Gratia Countryman <ul><li>“Schools and libraries [and museums and archives] are not luxuries in a democracy.” </li></ul>Minnesota Historical Society
    7. 7. <ul><li>Powerhouse photos </li></ul>Link
    8. 8. dashboard Link
    9. 9. Something thf is doing Link
    10. 10. It’s about users/visitors
    11. 11. <ul><li>Slides and notes from this presentation will be available at </li></ul><ul><li>http://www.slideshare.net/publichistorian </li></ul><ul><li>Thanks! </li></ul>
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