The introductory story about how the author of a textbook about Virginia incorporated false information she found on the web is incredibly disturbing to me, especially as a librarian. Looking at a superficial level, we can see that the Sons of the Confederate Veterans have a website ending in “org” so someone may be more inclined to trust the information. However, I work with students to consider the motivation and possible biases in information sources. During class and research consultations, I ask students what they think the “purpose” of the website is and what they think the author or group is trying to accomplish. I can’t help but think if the textbook author Masoff had asked herself these questions she would never have included this misinformation. Like Wineburg points out, his early research paper required a trip to the library and a training or entry into the research process. While it is wonderful that we now have such easy access to so much information, I think we have lost some of this training by bypassing the “information keepers” so to speak.
Select a text that you wish to use in your final project and write a very brief blog post explaining why you chose it and how you might use it.
Selected text: Levine, Mark. “Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization? – The New York Times.” New York Times Magazine 17 Feb. 2012. Web. 29 June 2017.
Reasons: This article actually inspired my project topic. I knew that I wanted to focus on book arts, and handmade paper is often a part of this medium. I am personally interested in handmade paper as well and have taken classes on the topic. This article ties the art and craft of papermaking to our cultural history. This history (in both Eastern and Western countries) can easily incorporate teaching opportunities and help students to ask “historian’s questions.” This article serves as a jumping off point to other texts, including lesson plans and papermaking tutorials. It will be part of a larger bibliography to help both teachers and student see how handmade paper fits into history. This article also speaks to the need for authority in information sources. The subject of the interview is Timothy Barrett, a papermaker and former director of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. He is an established expert in the field. Although the New York Times Magazine is not a peer-reviewed journal, it is a respected publication and accessible to a wider audience. In addition to these kinds of texts, I will include several images and videos to help explain handmade paper and the process to create it.
This image is part of the collection Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany housed in Special Collections at George Mason University. Photographers Helmut Brinkmann and Page Chichester traveled throughout East Germany photographing people and cities during the period of German re-unification when the Berlin Wall was being torn down. The image shows them taking part in what became a popular ritual–to break off part of the Berlin Wall as a souvenir.
- Read and compare the language used in the Finding Aid to the language used to promote the gallery exhibit. What differences stand out (if any)? What is the mission of each document is, and how is the language influenced by this mission?
- Looking specifically at the image above, what does it initially tell us about topics like German re-unification, the Cold War, communism, human nature, etc? Now select a book from the exhibit reading list. How does reading this book change or confirm your reading of the image?
- Examine the image above separately and in the context of the entire collection. Does your interpretation of the image change when examining it next to the other images? Do the photographs share similar purposes? Keep in mind that the image above was likely taken by a passerby and the other images were taken by the two photographers.
- What adjectives would you use to describe the images? Authentic? Sensationalized? Explain why you chose these words, keeping in mind lighting, camera angle, framing, and other photographic techniques.
- Now search for photographs of the Berlin Wall in the library database Artstor. Compare and contrast these photographs to those taken by Brinkmann and Chichester. Are there noticeable differences and similarities in the photographic techniques being used? How do all of these images compare to those in the textbook?
- Consider the images in relation to the following quotes by famous photographers:
- The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera. — Dorothea Lange, quoted in the Los Angeles Times, August 13, 1978
“When I first became interested in photography…my idea was to have it recognized as one of the fine arts. Today I don’t give a hoot about that. The mission of photography is to explain man to man and each man to himself. And that is the most complicated thing on earth and also as naïve as a tender plant.” — Edward Steichen