Sunday, February 26, 2017

Quarterly-ish update, February 2017

Probably the most important things I've written since the last time I posted a quarterly update have been regarding civic participation. As regular readers know, civic participation as an individual and as part of my responsibility as a historian and museum professional is very important to me. In these polarizing times, participating is more important than ever. There are 12 known active hate groups in my state of Massachusetts; staying out of the fray would do nothing to combat their violent messages. One of the causes I care deeply about is making sure that everyone has a chance to be involved, and in that vein, I posted an open letter last month (which I also sent to a number of news outlets) asking for more coverage of nonvoters. This past week, I had the opportunity to visit the much-publicized exhibit "the Davis. Without Immigrants," also known by its hashtag #ART-LESS, which was up over Presidents Day weekend. I reviewed it on my blog, describing my experience as a visitor but also trying to imagine what I would have thought of the exhibit if it had conveyed a political view strongly different from my own.

Also on my blog A Catalog of Curiosity, I recently posted "Some Experiences I Loved," which is a round-up of my posts about things I enthusiastically recommend and a short list of other recommendations I haven't blogged about.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Listen to the Nonvoters: An Open Letter to the Media

I am sending this to a number of my favorite media sources. I encourage you to share this verbatim with attribution, or to write your own letter with mine as a model.

I’m writing to ask for more coverage of the Americans who did not vote in the presidential election in November. Trump voters have gotten a lot of media attention, and rightly so, but their voices are disproportionately amplified. 42% of eligible voters did not cast a vote ( This proportion has become typical, and it’s a serious problem in American democracy.

This year saw new restrictions in many states, ostensibly to prevent voter fraud. How do people caught in red tape feel about the election? How do people who never vote feel? To understand our political climate, your audience needs to hear their stories.

We need coverage of people who were prevented from voting by legal or illegal, intentional or unintentional means. People whose registrations were rejected. People who were turned away at their polling places. People who worked a double shift on election day and weren't allowed to or couldn't afford to take the time off. People whose kid was sick and who couldn't find childcare. People whose wheelchairs wouldn't fit in the door of their polling place. People whose rides fell through. People whose absentee ballot never came.

We need coverage of people who were discouraged from voting. People whose polling place was too far for the amount of time they had, by the modes of transit they could take. People who felt sick at the thought of lost wages even if they could technically afford the time off. People who saw friends try and fail to register to vote. People who saw family turned away at their polling places. People with chronic pain who were told that the elevator at their polling place was only for people who “need" it. People who didn't want to walk in the door because there were police officers watching from across the street and the police in their town don't have a record of serving and protecting. People who didn't know if they could bring their kid. People who have voted before but couldn't this year, people who have never voted but wanted to this time.

It is clear these people exist. There was some coverage of these issues shortly after the election, mostly in small and alternative media, but not enough focus was on the people. As a reader, a customer, and a citizen, I ask you to find these people and interview them. Their stories shape America as much as any voters' do.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Quarterly-ish update, November 2016

Since my last update in August, I've been working on a couple of longer-term projects, so I have a bit less public-facing material to show for my work, but I'm happy with where things are going on them.

If you get a chance to stop by the Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, we recently put up an exhibit on Walter Guralnick, a retired oral surgeon who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, and on bits of the history of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at MGH. Earlier this fall we did an exhibit on Visual Thinking Strategies, which is an art education technique that's now also being used in healthcare education. A smaller version of the exhibit is still in our second-floor gallery, and we will be moving the exhibit to a case in the main lobby of the hospital sometime in the new year. We are about to mount our first exhibit specifically designed for the hospital's research buildings in the Charlestown Navy Yard, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of fMRI scanning. If you're an MGHer, check it out in building 149, otherwise, stay tuned because we'll be moving it to a public area when it "retires" from the first space. Meanwhile, we're preparing to do an exhibit on MGH's involvement in World War One.

Online at A Catalog of Curiosity, I've continued blogging my learning journey of trying 100 new things in 1000 days, all focused around history, museums, writing, and teaching. Some of my favorite posts lately have been I Guess This is a Post About Beauty in Unexpected Places about the ropewalk at Mystic Seaport, and It Ain't Simple -- The Real (?) Lessons From Sojourner Truth. The most popular post since my last quarterly update has been What's Wrong with Mixing it Up? about the Knights! exhibit at the Worcester Art Museum.

I don't normally post political content here except when it's my own writing, but I need to acknowledge that America is in a very troubling place right now. Regardless of how you feel we got here, we are seeing an appalling amount of open rhetoric and action from white nationalists/white supremacists/the alt-right, neo-nazis, the Klan, and their sympathizers and their apologists. Here's a useful roundup of resources about how to help your community, by the good folks over at Autostraddle; it's specifically anti-Trump because of some of his policies and statements, but I believe it's useful to anyone against this kind of hatred, regardless of your politics. As an American and as a human, I have to use every channel I have available to speak out, and I urge you to do the same.