Archiving the Web: What is the Role of Our Museum?

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a small meeting at the Library of Congress that focused on the curatorial challenges of archiving citizen journalism. The two-day meeting, titled Citizen Journalists and Community News: Archiving for Today and Tomorrow, was hosted by the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP). The primary goals of the meeting were: 1.) to identify the long-term value of new forms of journalism, and 2.) to identify the appropriate roles and responsibilities of libraries and archives with respect to preservation and access of the materials. I had the honor of being the sole representative from the museum community to participate in the convening. I found the meeting to be both insightful and relevant to our work at the AANM. I was asked to deliver a short presentation on our museum’s collections plan and policy, as well as our interest in web archiving and preserving digital content. If you’re interested in learning more about the meeting, then head over to Dan Gilmore’s article on Salon.com for further information.

To prepare for the meeting, I spent some quality time reflecting on our institution’s collecting initiatives. We are unique in that our institution is the only museum dedicated to documenting and preserving Arab American history. We recognize the large and growing demand for accurate and reliable information on our community. Speaking to this, we strive to become the primary source for providing this information to the public. To achieve this goal, we are reassessing our collecting priorities and focusing greater attention on primary source materials and historical records.

We are just now beginning to think about the various web-based, born-digital resources that are relevant to building community history and collective memory. These historical records exist in various forms: digital photographs and videos, social media, blogs, citizen journalism websites, organizational websites, e-newsletters, political campaign websites, etc. In the future, these digital resources will be vital to understanding the Arab American community. For example, this year an estimated twenty-seven Arab Americans ran for political office. Each had a website that was rich with information on the candidate (it’s startling how much campaigning actually takes place online). We know that these websites have a specific function and are built to last for a finite period of time. If we do not work to preserve the content, the information is potentially lost forever. As Gilmore states in his article, “We need better ways to save the media we’re all creating, for our kids and for the historians of tomorrow.”

As an institution, we need to identify how web archiving fits into our collections plan and policy. Furthermore, we need to foster new partnerships with other collecting institutions to achieve our goals. I suspect the LoC is one potential partner. Additionally, I think there are some advantages to working in collaboration with the Internet Archive (its Archive-It subscription service might be a good fit).

I’m optimistic about the role our institution can play in ensuring that our ethnic community’s digital footprint is documented and preserved. We have learned that we are responsible for collecting and documenting Arab American history; if we don’t do it, no one else will. Sadly, this information will not only be lost forever, but most likely excluded from the larger American historical narrative. Speaking to this, I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

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Interview on Radio Tahrir Regarding Our #Kickstarter Project

Earlier this evening I was interviewed by Radio Tahrir, a one-hour long talk radio program hosted on Pacifica Radio, WBAI 99.5 FM in New York City. Radio Tahrir is a weekly radio magazine that focuses on documenting and presenting issues and topics that affect Arab and Muslim communities in the US. As part of tonight’s show, I was asked to explain the Museum’s current Kickstarter fundraiser campaign. Here is the interview:

Listen!

This project has garnered a fair deal of attention from the media, as articles and interviews have been featured in both local and national journalism outlets. We are now on the final leg of the project. There are 17 remaining days in the campaign. Overall, we are pleased with the way the project is progressing. I will reflect on Kickstarter in greater detail at the end of the campaign.

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Guest Blogger On Metromode (Part 2)

The second post in my two-part series as a guest blogger for Metromode was published this morning. The article is titled Striving to be a National Institution.

What does it mean to be a national museum? Whose stories do we reflect? What do we aspire to be? These are all common questions that I receive when people first learn about the Arab American National Museum (AANM). Understandably, the word “national” in the title can be a bit ambiguous. However, when understood in the context of the Museum’s history and its operations, things become much clearer. Read more…

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Guest Blogger On Metromode

I was recently asked to be a guest blogger on Metromode.com, a Website that “posts daily reports on job growth and development in Southeast Michigan.” I’m a fan of both Metromode and its sister publication, Model D, so agreeing to write a few short articles on the Arab American National Museum was a no-brainer. In my blog posts I will discuss the Museum’s history and its place in the community; its multicultural programming; and its goal of becoming a vibrant, nationally respected institution. The first post, Arab American National Museum is 1 in 17,000, was published today.

Founded on May 5, 2005, the Arab American National Museum (AANM) will soon celebrate its fifth anniversary. People are often curious about the Museum’s origins and its location. Although the Museum is still very much a startup, its roots extend back to the late 1980s. In fact, the AANM is a part of the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS). In 1987 the agency developed a cultural arts department to educate the public on Arab American culture and to provide affordable and accessible arts programming. Today, the AANM is an extension of this program and it remains a vibrant department within ACCESS. Although it is very uncommon for a museum to be part of a social service agency, ACCESS considers the arts to be just one part of a multi-component approach to providing comprehensive services for living an enriched and fulfilling life. Read more…

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Socially Awkward: Learning to Navigate Web and Social Technologies (#CASM Presentation)

The past few days have been incredibly hectic. I returned early this morning from three days of work in Washington, D.C. A colleague and I met with museums, government agencies, and members from the Arab American community to discuss new educational opportunities and a forthcoming exhibit we are developing. I departed Washington, D.C. at 3:30 a.m. to drive to Baltimore for a flight home to Detroit. My brain and body are recovering from this whirlwind trip.

Upon arriving back in Michigan, I participated in a panel presentation at the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan (CASM) 2010 Annual Meeting. The presentation, entitled Socially Awkward: Learning to Navigate Web and Social Technologies, focused on the Arab American National Museum’s approach to using social technologies and raising unrestricted funds online. We were pressed for time, so there was no opportunity for questions and answers at the end. If you’ve arrived here as a result of the presentation, please do leave a comment or question, or feel free to drop me a message vial email. Thanks for stopping by!

Devon Akmon

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“Understanding Who We Are” – A Town Hall Conversation

I’m honored and pleased to be a panelist for “Understanding Who We Are” – A town hall conversation about Detroit and Detroiters. This timely and important event will explore and discuss the diverse communities that makeup the metropolitan Detroit region. I hope you will be able to join us if you’re available on the evening of March 22. Here is the official press release for the event.

Wayne State University’s Detroit Orientation Institute (DOI) and One of Us Films are hosting a series of free town hall conversations examining Detroit’s communities – and a screening of the documentary film titled “Regional Roots: The Birth and Evolution of Detroit and its People,” produced by Carrie LeZotte of One of Us Films with the DOI. This inaugural town hall, hosted by the Task Force on Race Relations and Ethnic Diversity, will be held on Monday, March 22, 7 p.m., at The Birmingham Community House, 380 South Bates, Birmingham, Mich.

For further information and to reserve your seat, call 248-644-5832, or e-mail racerelations@communityhouse.com.

Following the screening of the 26-minute film, audience members will participate in a conversation moderated by Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley exploring why the various communities came to the Detroit area; what roles they play socially, politically and economically; what conflicts occur and what opportunities are available to work together. The audience also will learn some myths and truisms about the various communities.

Panelists from various ethnic groups in the Detroit area will be on hand including: Devon Akmon, deputy director, Arab American National Museum; Ozzie Rivera, director, Community Based Services & Family Preservations Programs, Health and Human Services, State of Michigan; Heaster Wheeler, executive director, Detroit Branch, NAACP ; and Sook Wilkinson, chairperson, Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission.

Covering 300 years of history, “Regional Roots: The Birth and Evolution of Detroit and its People,” uses the immigrant experience as an introduction to the diverse landscape of the Detroit region. From the earliest French and German settlers to today’s growing communities, the documentary illustrates how immigrants continue to shape the region.

For more information about the film, visit www.oneofusfilms.org. Regional Roots will also be shown locally at the Main Theatre on April 21 and 25 as part of a One of Us Films Showcase. And it will be shown on Detroit Public Television on Monday, April 26 at 10:30 pm.

To learn more about Wayne State University’s Detroit Orientation Institute, visit www.doi.wayne.edu.

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Devon Akmon

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