I will no longer stay quiet.

I generally do not engage in political talk on this blog. First and foremost, I simply do not like talking about politics; it stresses me out. But secondly, I like keeping the peace. I remember learning something in political science class during my freshman year of college that will always stick with me. The TA dropped a little wisdom on us and said that if you’re ever with a group of people you don’t know very well, stay away from discussing money, religion, and politics. Because this blog is a space open to everyone, I would hate for someone to feel attacked or unwelcome by a post simply because he or she holds certain political views.  Hence, my idea of a politically neutral blog has been totally sufficient for almost two years.

But there are times when you just cannot stay quiet. Right now, we are in one of these times. A few days ago, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, and his administration released their proposed budget for fiscal year 2018. This proposal sent archivists, librarians, scholars, educators, museum curators, students and all those who care about cultural heritage into a complete shock. In this proposal, Trump and his administration desire to eliminate funding for the following programs related to archives and libraries:

  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • National Heritage Areas program at the National Park Service. There are currently 49 Heritage Areas nationwide.
  • Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
  • Twenty individual grant programs at the Department of Education are eliminated. The proposal specifically mentions international education which includes Title VI/Fulbright-Hays.
  • The Department of Interior’s budget is cut 12%.

In my mind, this is nothing less than a tragedy. Even though this is just a proposal and it is highly unlikely that this will have any chance of making it through Congress, I call this tragic because it shows us that the President of the United States simply does not value what we value. Apparently, he does not see value in funding archives, libraries, and the countless other cultural heritage institutions that document the human experience. This proposal has once again forced me to confront the question, “why do archives matter?” I found my answer to this question many years ago, and it still has not changed. Archives matter because humans matter. Archives matter because the human condition matters, and our collective experiences, stories, victories, challenges, and legacies matter on this planet. Does President Trump value the human experience? Does he value human expression? Does he value the culture and rich traditions that we all share as members of the human race? According to this budget proposal, the answer is no, and that, my friends, angers me.

On an even more intense level, I must add that this budget proposal personally offends me. I cannot even begin to explain the incredible impact that programs like the NEH, IMLS, and National Heritage Area programs have had on my life. In 2015, I was awarded a ARL/SAA Mosaic Fellowship, which paid for the last year of my graduate schooling and provided me with a paid internship so I could gain experience in my field and enter the job force after graduation. Yeah, the IMLS did that!! Do you all remember my work with the Flat Rock Archives? The Flat Rock Archives is a small community archives in Lithonia, GA that documents the history of African Americans in the area. The Flat Rock Archives survives on two grants per year, and one of these grants is provided by the National Heritage Area program. Without this grant, the archives would cease to exist. As for the NEH, where do I even begin? The NEH and the IMLS partially fund almost every conference I attend as an archives professional. The NEH provides the entire cultural heritage profession with preservation grants, outreach grants, research grants, and more. Eliminating the NEH would be completely catastrophic for the development of the humanities in this country.

I want to raise my future children in a country that values their thoughts, expressions, and stories, and history. I want to live in a country that sees value in its people and their ideas. Right now, I am sick with grief over the current administration’s death sentence toward so many things that I hold true to my heart. But I will not give up hope!! There are too many of us to let this go down without a fight. I believe that through solidarity, activism, prayer, and grit, America will push back against this assault on its cultural heritage.

Who’s with me??

For more information about the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/16/politics/trump-budget-cuts/

To see the Society of American Archivists’ most recent analysis of the Trump FY 18 Budget Proposal, visit http://www2.archivists.org/news/2017/trump-administration%E2%80%99s-proposed-fy-18-budget-slashes-neh-nea-imls

 

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Out of Sight, Out of History??

Fun fact about JoyEllen: I LOVE Amish fiction. For those of you who are reading this post and already raising your eyebrows, yes, Amish fiction is actually a thing. See below…

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These are just a few of the Amish books I’ve enjoyed since my obsession began just a few summers ago. And just in case you are wondering, I am not making this genre up; you can go to Barnes and Noble and find an entire section labeled “Amish fiction.”  For some reason, I am fascinated by the Amish lifestyle and belief system, particularly since there are so many different types of Amish people. While my Amish fiction books make wonderful stories, the archivist in me keeps wondering about the real stories of Amish people that we can only find through their archives. How do Amish people preserve their history? Are there archivists within the Amish community? Are there academic institutions that collaborate with the Amish? This kind of goes along with my general interest in community archives and the hidden collections and stories of people mainstream society often lets slip through the cracks. This whole situation is a little difference when it comes to Amish folk, though. In many ways, they choose to separate themselves from mainstream society and its “fancy” culture, as they say. I completely understand and respect this choice; however, just because we may not see and interact with them as much doesn’t mean they are not a part of history. As archivists, how do we preserve and document the history of a people who, for the most part, would rather be left alone? This is an issue that comes up in other communities as well, such as the Native American community. In 2007, a collaborative group of Native American and non-Native American archivists and librarians got together and drafted the “Protocols for Native American Archival Materials.” Although this document was not officially accepted by the Society of American Archivists, it did establish some ethical and respectful standards for the historical representation of indigenous people. If archivists were to spend more time documenting the Amish, would a similar document be necessary?

I genuinely do not know the answers to these tough questions. After all, this is a matter of ethics just as much as it is a matter of preservation. I decided to explore what some archival literature has to say about it. But. . . after some quick online searches, I could hardly find anything related to the Amish and their archives. I did a keyword searches in The American Archivist and hardly found anything. The same goes for Archivaria, Archival Science, and Archival Issues. These are just a few journals off the top of my head. I definitely have more to survey. In addition, I may need to reach out to some archivists in states that have large concentrations of Amish people (Pennsylvania, Ohio, etc.) to see if they have any insight on the archives of the Amish. If anyone has any insight into this, please leave a comment! An inquiring mind (aka me) would love to know!