Friday, December 30, 2011

The Internet Archive and the Beauties of Spokane

So I was playing around on the Internet Archive and discovered a few things. The Internet Archive is "a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an Internet library. Its purposes include offering permanent access for researchers, historians, scholars, people with disabilities, and the general public to historical collections that exist in digital format." It is a fabulous and growing resource. I have used items from the Internet Archive to post about the Grand Coulee Dam and an 1950s educational film about Lewis and Clark.

So what's new? First, there seems to be a lot more content, at least concerning Spokane, than a year or two ago. This includes a substantial number of volumes that are not on Google Books, such as the 1895 booklet The Beauties of Spokane (see below).

Second, there is something odd going on with images at the Internet Archive and Google Books. Take for example Durham's 1911 History of the City of Spokane. The Google Books version has the images that were included in the text, such as this Birdseye View of Spokane on page 3. Yet the image is missing from the Internet Archive scan of the same page. Why is that? I smell a copyright dispute...

Third, Internet Archive now has the very best tools for online reading and sharing of scanned print books of anyone. Check this out--an 1895 book, The Beauties of Spokane. The volume itself is quite rare--Google Books not only lacks a scan, it doesn't even know about the book. And the volume is a treasure trove of high-quality images of Spokane buildings, many now lost.  Check it out below:


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Recovering Memory in Joplin

From the Flickr group Lost Photos of Joplin
I taught in Joplin, Missouri for 12 years, from 1996 to 2008, and the town has been much on my mind this year since the devastating tornado on May 21st.  The loss of life and property were terrible, with 160 dead and in excess of $2 billion in property damage. The tornado tore a gash across the center of town, destroying 7000 homes and many of the people inside of them.

Lost Photos of Joplin
The tornado was also destructive to the history of Joplin. The twister missed the historic downtown and the local history museum, but it tore up many historic buildings (particularly residences). More damagingly, it destroyed the personal history of many of who survived. The tornado ripped the roofs off of houses and scattered possessions over miles, newspapers stories were full of tales of personal photographs, birth certificates, and family heirlooms being found in yards and fields for weeks. And the area was hit by drenching rains for days after the tornado, destroying the personal libraries and documents left unprotected in those shattered roofless homes.

Now an interesting virtual effort to reunite tornado survivors to their lost photographs has been launched a Facebook named Lost Photos of Joplin, MO Tornado. The idea is to use the social networking power of Facebook to allow volunteers to post photographs they found after the storm with the owners. There is also a website, Joplin Rescued Photos, and a Flickr group. Here is a Joplin newspaper story and an American Public Media radio piece about the effort. Photographs that were damaged in the storm can even be restored by the volunteers at Operation Photo Rescue.

What is most interesting to me is the decentralized but highly effective nature of the effort, made possible by social networking tools, the proliferation of scanners, and existing networks such as area churches and genealogical societies. The process will probably play out over years, and many of the photographs will never find their owners, but it is hard to imagine such an effort even taking place just a few years ago.

Don't Mind the Mess

I am playing around with the template, so this site may go through quite a few different looks before I settle on something. Wish I had saved the old one before I started!

Meanwhile, courtesy of my employer the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives, here is a mysterious 1888 death certificate from the frontier town of Spokane Falls, Washington Territory. Because I know you like that sort of thing:

I cannot find out anything more about this case online--there are no digitized newspapers for this period online. If you know anything, post it below!

Update: You guys are fast. A tip from the excellent Charles Hansen showed me that there are digitized newspapers from this period and I found an article about this case. Hansen writes the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society Blog, which often has valuable research tips for local and regional history.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Teaching American History Program Emergency

Today I received the following alarming message from the NCHE. The TAH program is on the verge of extinction.  Please call your representatives RIGHT NOW.

Dear Advocacy Team,

We need your help right away. The first report on the federal omnibus spending bill was released today and TAH funding for 2012 has been completely eliminated!

As you know, the House had already voted to defund the entire TAH program as part of Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R. California) Setting New Priorities in Education Spending Act. Now, the Senate has decided that insofar as $46 million (the amount funded for 2011) would not fund all the 2012 continuation grants, that they would agree to eliminate the program!

The timing is extremely limited to get to our Senators and House members to fight for this. Congress will need to pass the compromise bill, or a short-term extension measure, by tomorrow to avoid a government shutdown. But, even though Democrats and Republicans have agreed to these numbers, the measure could face a rocky road because of political factors that have little to do with education spending.

So…. please act today.

1) Call your House and Senate members and ask them to restore funding for TAH in the omnibus compromise-spending bill. If you do not know their phone number, email me for that information or check

2) Email your House and Senate members and ask them to restore funding. Make sure to emphasize the impact of TAH not only upon teachers and students BUT also the economic impact to your state’s economy.


Spread the word! Let folks know that the future of TAH is at stake. To lose the funding will make it that much more difficult, if not impossible, to secure funding in the future of any history education professional development.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Beguiling History of the World via Paper Cutouts

Kalle Mattson - Thick As Thieves (Official Video) from Kevin Parry on Vimeo.
An arts and crafts history of the world.

Forgotten Highways and Historic Preservation

The Spokesman-Review recently had an interesting story and accompanying photo essay about attempts to revive interest in the the historic Three Flags Highway. Later known as US 395, this "Mother Road of the West" was first laid out in the 1920s and connected Canada to Mexico via eastern Washington, Oregon and California. The route was heavily promoted in the early days of auto tourism, particularly in California, with the saying "three countries one road." Today, according to the Spokesman, "historians in southern California are trying to revive the name as part of an effort to reclaim the motoring past."

The story got me thinking about how many economic revitalization schemes depend on history, and the role that historic highways can play in the process. As little towns across America look for some way to brand themselves and establish a public identity, they often reach into their past and heritage tourism. And there are so many historic highways that can be promoted. We all know about Route 66 but that route was a relative latecomer compared to the Lincoln Highway (see above, the first automobile route across America, established in 1913), the Jefferson Highway (Winnipeg to New Orleans, 1919), the Dixie Highway (Chicago to Miami, 1915) and a host of others.

Coordinating the interpretation of a historic highway is necessarily a difficult feat, involving hundreds of communities and their small museums and historic societies, multiple state historic societies, and city and state tourism offices. For the same reasons it makes a good grass roots public history project--markers, displays and commemorations can come into being one community at a time, with or without any broad formal plan.

Writing this post reminded me of a visit a few years ago to the surprisingly excellent Great Platte River Road Archway Museum in Nebraska. The innovative museum covers the history of transportation and travel along the river corridor from pre-contact times to the present.  The exhibit I liked best was a section depicting an auto campground along the Lincoln Highway in the 1920s. I wish I had taken more pictures:

This aspect of American history--life and travel along the early pre-war highways--seems relatively under-interpreted to me. I don't know of a major museum or museum exhibit on this fascinating era.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Simpsons on Graduate School

I promise this is the last post on this topic for a while, but this is too good not to share: