History Harvest: Community Collectives

New York TimesThe January 2013 issue of the Perspectives on History highlighted a project of the students and faculty of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln called History Harvest.  The article called to me about a way to collect the information that is most often lost- that of the community in which we all live.  Everyone has those personal historical documents tucked away in a closet, attic, or basement that we think about rarely (or sometimes often).  These documents have a personal value, but also a historical value regarding culture and social of our given communities.  It’s a shame to let those documents sit, forgotten, tucked away when they could be digitized for use by historians and students.

The co-directors William G. Thomas and Patrick D. Jones started this project “to create a popular movement to democratize and open American history by utilizing digital technologies to share the experiences and artifacts of everyday people and local historical institutions.”  People from the community are invited to these harvest gatherings with their personal items and histories to have them digitized with photographs and digital stories.  Local organizations, museums, and others are also welcome to bring items to be digitized.

Students are heavily involved, creating, planning, and advertising for their harvest.  Its an excellent hands on experience for the students to learn what history means to people in their community and how everyone can contribute in some way.  It’s a fascinating project that begs for duplication in communities across the United States and the world.

Needless to say, I would be highly interested in starting my own “History Harvest” in my community with students.  If you would be too, you can contact the co-directors via the links on their names above or contacting them through their website at: http://historyharvest.unl.edu/

Posthumous Freedom

A petition of freedom from 20 slaves who were fighting in the Revolutionary War to the New Hampshire General Assembly was unearthed 30 years ago in the state archives of New Hampshire by Valerie Cunningham, a historian and preservationist from Portsmouth.  The argument and irony of the petition has become well known to historians of the era and up to the Civil War that the colonists were fighting so hard for their own freedom from Great Britian yet were unable to see the plight of their slaves who wanted their own.  Their petition was ignored as it was deemed not the right time to free them.  Later, only 6 slaves were granted their freedom.

Now, 233 years later, it appears that the 14 slaves who were never granted freedom may receive it from the New Hampshire government.  It is a symbolic decision, obviously.  State Senator Martha Fuller Clarke is sponsoring the Senate bill, which has already passed through the Public and Municipal Affairs Committee and is now headed for the full Senate vote.  Governor Maggie Hassan has already agreed to sign the bill upon approval by the full Legislature.

It calls attention to efforts of community organizations to protect and preserve the African burial grounds, culture, and contributions of the people.  The African Burying Ground Committee in Portsmouth has been working for the past ten years to build a memorial park in an African-American burial ground in downtown.  The funds are just not available, however, their hope is to break ground this summer with their design, including granite engravings with passages from the petition.

What do you think?  Is it too little, too late?  Or a needed gesture?

If you’d like to see more about the African Burying Ground Committee, the cause, and possibly make a donation, you can visit their website at http://www.africanburyinggroundnh.org/ .

You can read more about this petition here at the Boston Globe and see more about the memorial here at the City of Portsmouth.

Day Five: Greater Good

What’s the best way to donate money to numerous organizations at the same time?  Browsing and shopping online of course!  At the Greater Good website, with the simple single click of a button you can donate bowls of food, help sponsor a mammogram, pay for a meal for a veteran, help provide books to children, support Autism research, and help women rise out of poverty by becoming financially independent business entrepeneurs.  And you don’t have to donate a penny out of your own pocket.  Sponsors will donate a certain amount for each click on one of the 7 buttons on the sub-pages of the Great Good website individualized for each charity function.  See below for the different sub-pages: greater good

But what is the Greater Good?  CharityUSA owns and operates the Greater Good Network of stores and their mission is to heal the world (idealistic I know, but we all have to have a goal).  To date, they have given more than $26 million to charities worldwide.  Information on their organization in particular on the websites is scarce so I did some digging of my own.  Information on their organization can be found at the Washington Secretary of State Charities Program listing here but probably the best explanation of the way their organization works can be found here.  They do not sell products made by children or produced in unsafe or coercive work environments.  You can read more about them in their own words on the About Us page here.

My favorite part of the website is the shopping.  Each sub-page has a different store.  In each store are products that you quite often cannot find anywhere else and many are handcrafted.  In fact, many people that I know are receiving Christmas presents from The Hunger Site.  With a single order totalling $100 to myself, they told me that I support 650 bowls of food to the hungry.  Needless to say, I felt guilty for my $150 grocery bill that month.

Chilean Good Luck Pig

Chilean Good Luck Pig

The products that you receive are top quality and exactly as they are described on the site.  Their shipping is way over estimated.  I received my large box of goodies far before they told me I would.   So far, I have two favorite things I have purchased from the website.  They are small, but adorable.  The first is the Chilean Good Luck Pig: “This adorable handmade clay pig is a meaningful symbol in Chile’s vibrant culture, where tradition holds that three-legged pigs bring good luck to their owners. Makes a great gift for yourself or someone special… after all, who couldn’t use a bit of good fortune?”  It’s only $6.95 (and quite often goes on sale for around $5) and it really is adorable.  Everyone in my family is getting one in their stocking this year.

Sacred Mark Soaps

Sacred Mark Soaps

The second thing I love are these Sacred Mark soaps from the Global Girlfriend page: “Made by survivors, these 100% natural soaps are handcrafted by women in the red-light district of Bangladesh. These women have made a clean break from their previous lifestyle and have chosen soap making as an alternative source of income. Sacred Mark Enterprise allows these women to provide for themselves in a way which brings pride and respect to their community as well as themselves.  Packaged with love and marked with a thumb print by the courageous and inspirational women that make them.”  These soaps are only $6.  I do question whether or not the thumb print is actually of the woman who made them, but I did buy the Chai and the Lavender ones and they do have different thumb prints, but that’s not the major point of the soap.  They smell amazing and have made great presents as well.

Browse around the websites, read about their missions and fall in love with each website as I have.  They truly have unique items and an interesting way of business that, to me, is innovative.  I would love to see a followup to see what organizations have benefitted the most from the donations from this website but alas, I know some things are just not that easy.

The Greater Good: http://www.greatergood.com

Check them out!

Veteran’s Day

ImageOn the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, an armistice was signed to end the fighting on the western front of the Great War, or more commonly known as World War I.  This day is celebrate in numerous other nations but after World War II, the United States changed the name of Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day to celebrate and honor the service of every veteran who has fought for freedom of the American people and in defense of our way of thought and life.  You may not agree with some of the policies of our current president, or you may think our country is headed in the wrong direction, or even possibly that war is never the answer and we should not have a standing military.  Regardless, from the American Revolution to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, these men and woman have stepped up when asked and volunteered on their own to fight for what they feel to be right.  Their dedication to our country and its citizens even when they are at times not welcomed back at home.  Today, take a moment to thank someone that served time in our military. They have sacrificed life, limb, mental health, physical health, and time. Their service has enabled us to be able to have opinions on our country.