Light a Candle: Equity, Hope and Charity

The power of the web.  And reminders of human spirit and ways we connect.  The old one from the email subscription Listserv, Archives & Archivists.  The new one from Archivesnext–of course!  Where else would I go for creative approaches and fresh, innovative thinking!

The smart and insightful Alex Howard, @digiphile, tweeted a link to a publicly available Facebook post recently in which he looked at the question, “is Social Media a profession?”  Of course, he concluded that it is not.  Social Media is a tool for communications.

Howard looked back at the telephone and email, which also are tools, not professions.  And linked to something he had written about how Social Media are used.  He concluded, “In that context, as in others, social media is simply one tool of many methods of communication that people now use. Any[one] who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something that went stale three years ago.”

Communications and how people connect interest me.  How we represent matters.  When I started out working in the fields of archives and history, there weren’t many ways to reach out and network, we largely did it face to face, through private correspondence, on the telephone.  So much has changed since then.  Today I’d like to highlight some bright spots.

Your mileage may vary.  Here’s what made me smile this week.

Sonny Carter has built up equity on the Archives & Archivists Listserv over the years.  An expert photographer, he provides pro tips on photo issues.  He also posts “Friday Flowers” to the list.  As with any forum that draws a diverse membership, some people enjoy them, others say they would rather do without any Off Topic messages to the List.  Over the years, we’ve had occasional discussions about what it is subscribers seek.  Yes, I’ve mentioned Star Trek’s IDIC–Infinite Diversity, Infinite Combinations.  I like a broad range, but then, I’m in a job that can be intellectually isolated at times.  I enjoy seeing  what others are thinking and doing.  It keeps me in touch with a wider world than where I work.

What people seek from the professional listserv varies so much, it would be impossible to please everyone.  I’ve made some mistakes, no doubt about it. I definitely set a record for length of postings before I started my blog.  I grin and nod when I occasionally see others refer to slightly long postings on that and other listservs as “approaching Maarja length.”  I’m glad I started my blog, it’s a much better place for my essays than is a listserv.  I enjoy Twitter very much but long form writing definitely appeals to me.  That I so like Timothy Burke’s Easily Distracted tells you a lot!

To me, the most important issues for A&A and any other similar forum are (1) manner in which professional inquiries are handled and (2) creation and maintenance of a sense of inclusion, with emphasis on welcoming a wide range of people who want to engage.

This past week, Sonny posted an OT message, “Buddy the Kat has Passed.” He noted briefly,

“Over the years he became photo star with perfect  mackerel tabby markings, and some  funny antics.

We’ll miss the old guy.”

bud_port__sonny carter photo from website

Twelve people, I among them, posted gentle notes in reply.  I did it because I have enjoyed photos of Buddy and other cats on Sonny’s site.  And also because Sonny had built up so much good equity with me on the List.   He has brightened it up!

I like the vibe of knowing the technical side of photography issues so well and willingness to share beautiful and funny pictures with us.   But then, I’m someone who laughed and nodded at recommendations by archival leaders that people should work hard but also bring fun and even a little weirdness in to the workplace.  I’ve definitely brought both to all the places I have worked over the years!   We’re all different.  I can say that a little playfulness — ahem, thinking back to what I’ve done recently, maybe a lot at times — enables me to reboot the brain.

P2130814 Sonny Carter photo from website

At week’s end, Kate Theimer put up a post about year end donations to archival and historical causes.  “Adopt a wax cylinder for Christmas & other ways you can help archives before the tax year ends.”  I liked it a lot.  I applauded the way she thought up the idea of a Spontaneous Scholarship initiative last year to assist students who wanted to attend the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists.  I donated to the fund and encouraged others to do so, too, last year (“Flashcash“) and this year (“Pay it forward!”).  It didn’t surprise me that Kate’s holiday post focused on adopt a programs in archives and history.

There are many ways we can support Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums.  We can give of our time and if we are able, we can give money.  Time given should involve educating ourselves about deep needs and improving our situational awareness.  The “Pay it forward!” post to which I just linked wasn’t just about money, it was about how reading blogs by students, new archivists and veterans has taught me so much.  So time means engaging with and interacting with each other, in conversation and informally and formally as mentors.  Equity.  It matters!  We’re stewards.  And we should pay it forward.  So I’d like to add my voice to the call for charitable contributions to professions and institutions we support or cherish.

Time, smart attention, money.  All are needed!

Estonian Christmas card from 1935

Find a way to light a candle.   The photo is of a 1935 postcard sent at Christmas time in Estonia.  I keep the original on display on a bookcase (you know I have many!) in my house.

Give what you can.

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