Monthly Archives: March 2014

Our Intern Shares History

DianeBergHi, I’m Diane Berg. I’m a library science student from North Carolina Central University and am an intern for the Office of Archives and History, Education & Outreach Branch [of which C2C is also a part]. While I’m here, I’m working on two main projects. One is checking and updating information in the North Carolina cultural heritage institution directory on the NC ECHO database. The other is working to compile a comprehensive list of WWI materials from the private collections in the archives. This involves defining what type of WWI materials and an estimate of the number of items that are contained in the collections.

1915letterI was looking through some of the correspondence in the Walter Clark papers when I came across a 1915 letter from William M. Wilson, a Charlotte attorney. The first part of the letter was about placing a woman in the office of Notary Public. I was almost going to continue on with the letters when the last paragraph caught my eye and piqued my interest. It was about children engaging in a debate about women’s suffrage. What interested me about this is that most of the letters and lectures I had previously come across were from an adult’s view on the subject. This little excerpt seemed an interesting find. It reads as follows:

“I was in Rock Hill yesterday and my sister was telling me of a debate on ‘Woman Suffrage’, that the school children had there last week. All of the little girls were loaded up on facts furnished by the National Suffrage League; the little boys’ arguments were originally drawn from the Bible, and their arguments kept the audience in a continuous roar. One little boy said that Eve had gotten man into trouble at the start and that man didn’t intend to give them any more chances; another one that the Lord said ‘Let woman obey man in all things’, and that as far as he was concerned they were going to keep on obeying. Needless to say the girls got the decision.”

Thanks to Diane for her guest post, on this last day of Women’s History Month, and for all her hard work and contributions to the 2 projects she has described.

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Exploring Online Collaborations

Learn NC Director, Andy Mink, encouraged meeting participants to BYOD (device).

Learn NC Director, Andy Mink, encouraged meeting participants to BYOD (device).

Last month, North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources Education & Outreach Branch, which includes our C2C team, hosted a meeting for history field service agents across the country. Members of the Field Services Alliance, an affinity group of AASLH (American Association of State and Local History), do what we do in their respective states and regions. They reach out to staff (both paid and volunteer) at state and local history organizations with training opportunities, technical assistance, and other support services. This year’s meeting focused on online collaborations to support our work. Because the nature of field services involves travel time, which in turn costs money, our group was eager to learn about ways that online interactions could help us serve our constituents.

Have you ever signed onto a webinar with a particular question in mind? Did you have to wait long for an answer, if you were ever able to ask in the first place? Webinars are usually one-to-many presentations with limited opportunities for audience participation. We’ve experienced webinars that scheduled brief question & answer sessions at the very end, when most participants were beginning to sign off. Learning from other participants’ questions and responses can be the best part of group training, but the typical webinar format often limits this potential enrichment.

Several of our cohorts in other states offer training sessions for the non-profit boards that govern history organizations. What would be the best way to engage these constituents online, to encourage collaboration? We need something easy and, in most cases, free or low-cost. Other field services offices have important statewide networks that need to meet regularly for planning and updates, like CREST here in NC. A feasible online solution would be a welcome alternative to conference calls, where everyone who is able to join live tends to stare at the spider-looking thing in the center of the conference table, and speakers have to lean in and talk loudly to be heard.

Two guest speakers at the meeting discussed online collaboration options, including state-of-the-art budget-busters and a great learning platform (though not always collaborative), developed by UNC, Learn NC.  The solution with the most promise for our field service applications, however, is one which some FSA members are already using. Google Hangout is free for up to 20 users and has $19/ month fees for up to 100.  Newly developed applications even allow Hangouts to incorporate slide share, whiteboard, and scoot&doodle.

To participate in a Google Hangout, you need a computer (or mobile phone) with a webcam and speakers, and you have to set up a (free) Google+ account. The executive director of Learn NC warned us during our meeting that online collaborations can never replace the value of face-to-face interactions. But these methods have promise to assist in building professional learning communities more effectively and efficiently. Does Google Hangout sound like a group communication method that would be helpful to you, either as a way to participate in professional training or networking or as a way to engage interest groups for your own site?

Time to Join or Renew

March marks the time to join colleagues around the state in professional organizations committed to preserving North Carolina artifacts and history institutions. The three we recommend are our partner organizations: North Carolina Museums Council (NCMC), Federation of NC Historical Societies, and North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC)

Here are the membership costs and primary benefits of each one:

  • NCMC: $20 allows you to attend the low-cost annual conference (coming up March 23-24), which brings together not only those working in history museums but also allows sharing between various types of museums, such as children’s, science, and art. Regular email and newsletter updates help you become familiar with institutions around the state.
  • Federation  : An institutional membership is $25; there is no individual level. Membership connects you to a network of historical organizations that are often mostly volunteer-run and supports high school history day, building bridges to community youth through local history. In addition to an informative quarterly newsletter, interest-free loans to support your organization’s publications and events are available as another benefit of membership. 
  • NCPC: This group focuses on artifact preservation and the $25 membership fee supports a network of professionals across museums, libraries, and conservation firms. NCPC has scheduled a particularly robust slate of workshops this spring, so joining now will entitle you to register for any day-long workshop at the rate of $50.00  The other great thing about NCPC is that it has long been the only statewide source for grants to fund conservation projects or upgrades to storage environments and systems.

Ideally, the institutions for which we work would all join these organizations, and we as individual employees would be able to reap the benefits of membership without having to pay dues out of our own wallets. The reality, however, is that most cultural heritage institutions are strapped for cash and often have to discontinue any expense that does not relate directly to keeping the doors open, lights on, and toilets flushing. There are many history/ museum causes that compete for your attention and dollars, and in a field that usually provides modest compensation at best, individuals need to conduct careful cost-benefit analyses before selecting those to support.

Why consider supporting statewide organizations over regional or even national ones?

  • Lower cost: individual membership in the Southeastern Museums Conference (SEMC) costs $45.00 . Joining the American Association of State and Local History (AASLH) costs $70.00 . Individual membership in the American Alliance of Museums costs $90.00. In addition, statewide organizations’ events involve less travel time and money and the fees for in-person workshops and conferences are much lower.
  • Networking: Statewide organizations make regular efforts to schedule events in various regions of the state. The result of the combined geographic convenience and lower cost is that you are much more likely to collaborate with folks having similar interests and/or institutions from your own region. In addition to increased camaraderie, local networking events can lead to building a readily accessible support system for supplies and skills sharing and/or disaster recovery.
  • Requirements: Several programs at the national level require that institutions be open to the public for 180 days/ year to qualify for participation. Statewide programs, such as NCMC’s free on-site consultation service or NCPC’s preservation mini-grants are more accessible for smaller institutions.
  • Quality: Committed and knowledgeable professionals are behind each of these recommended statewide organizations and can steer you in the right direction as you navigate professional standards.
  • Shared Mission: These organizations exist to promote North Carolina history and artifact preservation. Isn’t that what you’re working for everyday too?

Don’t forget to connect with our C2C team at NCMC in New Bern next week!

CREST Reactivated!

Remnants of ice surround one of several felled cedar trees on the groungs of the CHB Museum.

Remnants of ice surround one of several felled cedar trees on the grounds of the CHB Museum.

Remember last week’s blog post announcing Severe Weather Preparedness Week? Well, this year the recognition and warning happened to coincide with actual severe weather. An estimated 3 inches of snow and ice fell in Guilford County on Friday, March 7. The combination of an icy coating and high winds caused many trees to split, or even fall, resulting in widespread power outages. The Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Sedalia suffered a small-scale disaster when melting ice leaked into the roof of its collections storage building.

Aside from tilting trees, the building's exterior did not hint and the damaged interior.

Aside from tilting trees, the building’s exterior did not hint at the damaged interior.

Saturday morning, knowing that power was out at the site, staff members arrived and to begin inspecting each of the site’s several buildings. Frachele Scott and Kara Deadmon, the site manager and assistant manager, quickly noticed water leaking in several places  in the structure that housed collections. They contacted Martha Battle Jackson, Chief Curator for NC State Historic Sites and a CREST member, who quickly called us. Since the site is fairly close to Raleigh (over 1 hour’s driving time), and since we believed the scope of recovery was manageable for a small group, we limited the CREST activation to those 4 Raleigh-based members, loaded up with our cache of recovery supplies, and headed west.

A nylon window screen made a useful surface to air dry a dampened pennant and ledger book.

By the time we arrived in the early afternoon, Deadmon had made great progress sorting collections and had already moved boxes that she knew had been affected by water out into the Visitor Center building that was dry and naturally well-lit. Once there, some CREST members prepared a recovery space on a large, screened-in side porch and began the air-drying process for dampened artifacts and books. Beginning to dry items that day was crucial, since mold begins to grow within 48 hours of damp conditions, and we knew that leaks may have started as much as 24 hours previously. (Above: a nylon window screen made a useful surface for air-drying a dampened felt pennant ad a ledger book.) Meanwhile, other CREST members continued the process of loading vans with collection storage boxes and relocating them to the Visitor Center. 

CREST members and site staff discuss loose ends before bringing artifacts inside and calling it a day. (L - R: Adrienne Berney, Frachele Scott, Kara Deadmon, Lyn Triplett, Martha Battle Jackson)

CREST members and site staff discuss loose ends before bringing artifacts inside and calling it a day. (L – R: Adrienne Berney, Frachele Scott, Kara Deadmon, Lyn Triplett, Martha Battle Jackson)

By the end of the afternoon, damp items had been drying for several hours and nearly all the stored collections had been relocated. We moved the air-drying-area from the screened porch into the building for the night and left, confident in the collections’ safety. Such an incident, at a museum with a small staff, highlights the importance of CREST as a resource for helping hands, useful supplies, artifact recovery knowledge, and moral support in the wake of a disaster.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week

March 2-7, 2014 = National Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Aftermath of a 1933 storm in Dare County NC: H.1961.79.75

Aftermath of a 1933 storm in Dare County NC: H.1961.79.75

It seems odd here in Raleigh, during the first week of March, that the Library & Archives Building is scheduled to have a tornado drill.  That in itself is not odd – but the footnote – added to the memo was most unusual.  It read: “unless snow and ice keep us from being at work.”  We have certainly had a true winter here in the Triangle area this winter of 2014.  It is not unusual for this area to have all of the trees blooming, flowers popping out and the forsythia long past full bloom by Valentine’s Day. However, this year, we are just slogging through to the spring like everyone else.

Let National Severe Weather Preparedness Week serve as a reminder that preparations for possible severe weather are paramount for every cultural site in the state.  Even if ice in March is not the normal state of the climate, it can cause damages to structures, people, landscapes and visitors.  The same is true for heavy winds, torrential rain, tornados, fire and hurricanes. Take this week to inspect your site, review your disaster plan, make a cake for the fire chief, or just take a walk around your property to look for potential areas of damage.

If you are scheduling a drill, having a meeting with your board about the disaster plan, or even getting tree limbs cut, let us know what you are doing to prepare and prevent as much damages as possible. Stay safe and stay warm and be careful.

–Lyn Triplett, C2C Disaster Preparedness Coordinator