Now, THAT’S Digital Humanities!

Using the British Library’s collection of maps, a student team from De Monfort University in Leicester, UK created a 3D video game environment of 17th Century London.

Look at it, in all its porcine goodness.

Look at it, in all its porcine goodness.

The group — aptly named Pudding Lane Productions — referenced numerous maps within the British Library’s collection and brought the city to life using Crytek’s CRYENGINE software to produce rich, vibrant landscapes that capture the twisting turns of the roads and alleys and the towering figure of the London Bridge. Go ahead and take a look:

This is a truly innovative approach to the use of archival materials. By promoting the collaborative engagement of historians and video game designers, the British Library has offered the world an entirely new set of eyes with which to see their collections. As librarians and archivists, we need to continually search for ways in which we too can foster innovative use of our holdings. Who knows what might be next?

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Food brings people together

Written by Justine Rothbart

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“Thanksgiving cheer distributed for men in service…ca. 1918.”

Food, archives, and social media. What better way to start my internship at the National Archives? I started as the Social Media Intern at the National Archives in September of 2011. This was when the exhibit, “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?”, was located in the O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. It featured documents from the National Archives related to the government’s effect on food in the United States. Items included WWI and WWII posters, such as “Scuttlebutt Sam says, ‘Nobody likes to see good food go to waste’ do your share to save it!” The exhibit also featured nutrition charts in which one included “butter and fortified margarine” as an entire category. As you walked around the exhibit you could see the progression of food fads and nutritional “facts” of the time. You could see how national events shaped food and vice versa.

My job was to promote this exhibit on the National Archives exhibit’s Tumblr page. This was my first exposure to the new social media tool. I quickly began to realize how beneficial and influential social media is to cultural heritage institutions. It is not only a way to promote an exhibit, but it is also a great tool to connect with people who could otherwise not physically visit this exhibit. Anyway, what’s a better way to connect with people than with food? At first, I was intimidated by the number of viewers that could possibly see these posts and I began with simple captions. As I became more comfortable, I understood the tone of voice widely used on Tumblr. I also began to know my audience. I catered to their interests. As I saw the number of “liked” and “rebloged” posts rise, I began to find my voice. We had repeated themes such as “Frugal Friday” and “Wednesday Lunch Breaks.” I saw the number of “likes” and “rebloged” start with under five and it rose to over 300!

The post on Thanksgiving Day was one of the most popular. This featured WWI servicemen in 1918 eating turkey on Thanksgiving Day. This might have been popular because of the great photograph, or because Barack Obama’s Tumblr reblogged it! That was a very exciting day. Writing posts for this exhibit was one of my first experiences in using social media in a cultural heritage setting. And it was certainly not my last!

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend jumping on the social media bandwagon with your cultural heritage institution. And hey, you never know who will reblog your post!

Check out a few of my favorite posts I wrote for the “What’s Cooking Uncle Sam?” Tumblr page:

You better watch out. I am the meanest, toughest wheat harvester this side of the Mississippi. 

The cows go marching one by one, Hurrah, Hurrah,

Wednesday Lunch Break

Frugal Friday

Click here to see all the posts.

So, what can we do about it?

As I’m sure many have seen, this story is floating around the news-o-sphere which indicates that American adults lag behind countries like Japan, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Sweden in terms of literacy, math skills, and computer skills. A truly sad record of the state of education in this country, this should be a call to action for all educators (administrators, classroom teachers, and such). But what role should librarians play in solving this issue? Clearly, depending on your institutional type and individual role, issues of literacy and math might not be within your purview. But certainly technological skill sets are a part of every library, regardless of focus. So, maybe these are some ways in which we can help promote American education:

  • Recognize that information technologies are an unavoidable element of learning and professional performance (and try to convince others of same)
  • Promote life-long learning through face-to-face training tutorials, free online asynchronous training resources for everything from basic math to advanced computing
  • Build relationships with social welfare organizations in order to adequately assess the need of under-served segments of society and work collaboratively to provide the needed services, training, materials, etc.
  • Advocate for education reform and for the increased presence of librarians in classrooms K-12. Not only can librarians promote information literacy (a huge part of continued technical and informational proficiency), but they can also help to identify information needs and locate much-needed resources for teachers and students that do not have the time or motivation to seek it out themselves
  • Advocate for the increased presence of librarians in all professional capacities. Embedded librarians in professional organizations can help to identify gaps in professional competencies and can provide access to helpful resources that will educate individuals on needed skills, benefiting both the individual and the business for which he/she works

Of course, these are just speculations. Regardless, the findings of the above mentioned story should be a call to action for every professional. Considering our role as librarians, we are positioned to provide help in many different capacities. What form it will ultimately take is unforeseeable, but we can bring our knowledge and skills to the issue to hopefully benefit our patrons, our institutions, and our country.

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A good video about the college education in America.